The Farming Column with Sam Walton

Red Polls were a well-known dual purpose breed before heavy milking breeds came onto the market.
Red Polls were a well-known dual purpose breed before heavy milking breeds came onto the market.

Mentioning continental cattle breeds last month and following on from the farm visit, the next door farm to where the Limousins were, also have beef cattle but one of our 12 native breeds – the Red Poll.

They also had an open day, again with visitors and other breeders from near and far.

Normally you can tell where the different breeds originate such as Herefords, Aberdeen Angus, Lincoln Red, Ayrshire, Welsh Black, Devon, Galloway, Highland and so on. The name Red Poll does not give any clue as to its origin but I am reliably informed that it was a cross between the original Norfolk and Suffolk to create an animal without horns, hence the Poll which means hornless.

In genetics, there are several things which dominate, one is the colour black, unless mated to a white animal then you get a blue grey. Polled is usually dominant over horns.

So Suffolk is where the Red Poll originate and make up the trilogy of Suffolk Punch horses, with the well known Suffolk ram. Red Polls were a well known dual purpose breed originally but as other heavy milking breeds came onto the market, the Red Poll is now better known as a tasty beef animal but with it’s excellent milking ability, makes a great suckler cow with fast growing calves.

The animals were all outdoors grazing and the family had hired a proper visitor trailer to take interested people around the fields containing cattle. They had at least three trips and even when one trip was in operation, there still seemed to be a huge crowd gathered around the buildings and excellent hospitality.

Lunch was provided on their other farm nearby on the Wolds, where they used to have a milking herd, Red Polls of course, and now the valleys on that farm have grazing animals as a reminder of the olden days of dairy and just how versatile a breed they are.