Devon Trials


Devon cattle have been involved in many trials in many parts of the world which have collected a variety of information which makes direct comparisons to other breeds of cattle. These trials can give good indications of what performance can be expected when using Devons in particular management systems. While it would be impossible to include all results we will attempt to provide a cross section of those available. Older trial information from trials around Australia and the world have been included; even though some may be somewhat aged they still provide indicative reference material.

More breed specifically, the Devon Cattle Breeders Society of Australia is encouraging breeders to collect performance data which can then be entered into the Society's records and analysed using the BREEDPLAN technology. Comprehensive comparisons can then be made of the genetic merits of animals for any of the traits recorded. It is well recognized that there are significant differences in the performances of animals within breeds and the Society is attempting to identify and quantify these differences so that purchasers can select lines more compatible with their breeding objectives.

Devon cattle trials and dataTo date weight figures are the main ones that have been collected and the genetic results presented as DEVON GROUP BREEDPLAN. However a major effort is being made to collect carcase data, with special attention to the meat quality and yield figures that are being used in the new Meat Standards Australia program. This aims to identify superior genetics for use in the pure-bred herd and for cross breeding.

One program being developed by the Society is to congregate animals in particular situations so that very good comparative data can be obtained. As figures become available it is our intention to continually update the information on this site.


The results that have come back from cattle that were fed at Killara Feedlot at Quirindi NSW, have been extremely encouraging with nothing but praise for the animals so far processed. What was also interesting were other factors that were noted that make the feeding of Devon cattle even more profitable. All in all, even after the short time that this program has been in operation, there has been much positive feedback for the breed.

So far there have been two market specifications where drafts of pure-bred Devons have been fed for; the shortfed local trade market and the 120 day heavier trade market. In both markets the Devons have produced excellent results with all animals achieving target specifications and grading out to the top gradings possible. If they had been scored under the new MSA system they all would have graded 5 star, which is the highest possible grading.

Steers fed for the shortfed local trade animals have finished perfectly in the 70 days required for the premium grainfed market, with weight gains averaging just under 2.2 kgs a day. The meat quality measurements were 100% highest quality, as were fat colour. Dressing percentages and eye muscle areas were also provided and there were some variations that can be used to select animals with the genetics to provide even more of this top quality meat.

The feedlot manager has stated that he regarded the Devons that have been fed for this market to be some of the best cattle of any breed that he has ever fed. He said they were very quiet and easy to handle and went on to the feed straight away. He also commented that he had no sickness problems with them. All that makes feeding Devons very economical and profitable.

The Devons fed for the 120 day market also performed extremely well, once again averaging 2.2 kgs a day. Unfortunately there have been no meat quality measurements taken but straight weightgain and fat depth figures compared to cattle of other breeds put Devons as the highest performing British breed but with the lowest external fat measurements.

Purebred Devons after 70 days in Killara feedlot


Northern Australian Feedlot Trial
Results show Devons Perform!!!

The following trial conducted by Australian Meat Holdings, the county's biggest processor, not only confirms the quality of the beef Devons produce but that they also perform up there with the best in other important considerations such as weight gain and carcase yield.

A comprehensive database on feedlot performance and carcase suitability on 6340 steers representing 180 commercial herds has been compiled by the Meat Research Corporation assessing the performance of steers in a feedlot situation. Sixteen breed groups comprising 82 breeds and crosses were assessed in terms of their ability to meet the Japanese 150 day grainfed market B2 Specification requirements for meat quality and yield, as well as identify their feedlot performance. In particular Australian Meat Holdings Beef City Abattoir 'Your Choice' brand requires a minimum marbling score of 2 to align with the Japanese B2 specification.

The Results at a Glance

• 74% of pure-bred Devons marbled 2 score or better, well above the total average of 58%.
• Pure-bred Devons were the second highest straight breed and the third highest of 16 groups for marbling.
• Pure-bred Devon lots marbled at higher levels than the Devon crosses.
• Devons had the lowest P8 fat of the British breeds.
• Devons were well above trial average for daily weight gain.
• Devons outperformed pure-bred Herefords in marbling, liveweight gain, and yield of saleable meat, with a lower P8 fat cover.

Additionally, there were significant differences between the performance of the various vendor lots which will allow for greater selection in future breeding programs.

Trial Details

Just over 500 Devon and Devon cross steers were involved in the trial representing 12 breeders form Northern NSW and Southern Queensland. Devon Shorthorn cross steers and pure-bred Devons were in the second and third highest breed groups for marbling with 76% and 74% attaining the AUSMEAT marbling score of 2 or better. This is a significant result when you consider that only 58% of the trial reached the minimum marbling score of 2, the single most important criteria in the 'Your Choice' market brand.

Pure-bred Devon steers also performed better than expected for P8 fat levels and average daily gain, especially when you consider the numbers of high performing European and Bos indicus crosses in the trial. Amongst their British breed peers Devons were the leanest breed and had the second highest average daily gain just behind the Shorthorns on 1.6 kilograms per day. In relation to the numerically largest breed found in districts where Devons are also prominent, that being the Hereford breed, Devons not only had better figures for marbling, P8 fat and liveweight gain traits but yield of saleable meat as well.

Of added interest was a comparison between vendors and that demonstrated that generally there were greater differences within breeds than between breeds. Essentially it is those producers that are able to identify and accelerate improvement of the commercially important traits such as marbling, growth rate and meat yield that are going to be best placed to take advantage of the premium markets being developed.

In this trial the Devon breed established that it can meet all the requirements of the premium grain fed market but it is important that genetically superior lines are identified. The Devon Breeders Society is encouraging breeders to collect as much similar data as it can so that it can use DEVON GROUP BREEDPLAN to assess the information and provide breeders with reliable figures to help in their selections.


Feed Conversion and Meat Quality

Recent US data of 1. 3 million head of cattle indicated that feed conversion efficiency (analysed in terms of cost of gain) is between 7 and 12 times more important than daily gain.

In trials conducted by the Western Australian Feedlotters Association, 156 purebred and crossbred steers representing 17 breeds needed 6.65 kilograms of feed to produce one kilogram of weight gain. Purebred Devons in the same trials used as little as 5.73 and averaged 5.8 kilogram's of feed to produce one kilo gain.

152 weaners from 15 Devon herds fed for 80 days at an AMLC accredited feedlot on the
NSW mid coast required only 5.3 kilograms of feed to produce one kilogram of gain. At the completion of the trial these steers had averaged a daily gain of 2.03 kilograms per day.

If 6.6 kilograms is accepted as an average feed intake required to produce one kilogram of gain at $200 per tonne, Devons provide between a 16 and a 26 cent advantage per kilogram of gain to the feeder. For every 100 kilograms of liveweight gain this equals an advantage of between $16 and $26 per Devon steer on feed.


Meat Quality
Devons top the surveyIn a recent survey of some 50,000 carcases from a Queensland abattior has shown that British breed cattle had far fewer "dark cutters" and lower pH levels than other breeds and that these percentages increased in line with the Bos Indicus content. Devons topped the whole survey with the best figures of any breed. Dark colour and pH levels are extremely important indicators of overall meat quality.

151 of the 152 head on the mid coast Devon feedlot trial attracted a premium price for fulfilling the Mid Coast Meat Company's high quality 'Black Box' market specifications. This included Aus Meat Chiller assessment scores of 1 for Meat Colour (on a scale of 1 light, 10 dark); O for Fat Colour (0 white, 10 yellow); and Meat Texture of 3 (1 course, 3 fine).
This clearly demonstrates that Devons produce top quality beef.



Researchers from the New Zealand Department of Agriculture stated that, "Devons have a higher natural fertility. Heifers show oestrus at an early age, cows achieve high in calf rates and bulls are active. The result is high fertility, together with their easy calving and good growth rates as shown in the following table. "

Breed In Calf % Live Calves % 500 Day Av. Calf Wt. KG Total Calf Wt. Sire KG
Devon - Devon X 91 81 570 46,170
Friesian - Friesian 78 71 630 44,730
Charolais - Charolais X 74 62 654 40,548
Simmental - Simmental X 75 64 624 39,936
Hereford - Hereford X 85 73 521 38,033
Limousin - Limousin X 63 57 532 30,324
Angus - Angus 75 73 468 29,484

One hundred yearlings of each breed were used in the trial. All cows except Friesian and Angus were crossbred from Friesian dams. Figures presented by: Dr. D. C. Dalton, Scientist, Ruakura Research Centre, New Zealand.



A paper by Dr. D.C. Dalton presented at Ruakura set out the results of these trials.

Breed Productivity Efficiency Reproductive Merit
Friesian x Friesian 100 100 100
Devon x Friesian 113 115 108
Angus x Friesian 107 114 115
Hereford x Friesian 101 108 113
South Devon x Friesian 103 98 100
Charolais x Friesian 101 96 98
Simmental x Friesian 95 91 95
Blonde d'Aquitaine x Friesian 87 80 79
Limousin x Friesian 72 76 80

  Total number
of calves weaned
X Mean calf
weaning weight
Productivity =
  Total number of cows joined

Efficiency =
  mean cow joining weight

Reproductive Merit = Total number of calves per cow transferred

Clearly the Devon X has the highest productivity and together with the Angus X, the highest efficiency. It is also well up with the leaders in reproductive merit. The figures also support the Devon as the 'Beef per hectare' breed.

Dr. Dalton's conclusions from the trial as given in his paper were, "It can be concluded that the Devon has a considerable contribution to make to beef production as a crossing sire. Crossbred steers will grow quickly and the heifers make efficient beef dams. The Devon, as a small/medium sized cow should have considerable advantages in efficiency as measured by beef production per hectare.



In this crossbreeding trial the following results were obtained where market bulls were used in field trials over approximately in 60 cows of each breed, and the progeny killed and assessed. These cattle were all run by The Department of Lands and Survey under identical conditions. The Devon sired calves returned a significant dollar advantage.

Breed $ Rec'd Weight kg % Above Angus Control
Devon x Angus 880 264 35
Limousin x Angus 824 237 27
Simmental x Angus 803 258 23
Shorthorn x Angus 796 241 20
Hereford x Angus 744 241 14
Santa Gertrudis x Angus 714 265 10
Angus 651 220 00



In England, the Meat and Livestock Commission produced the following table in its 1978 report on various trials, commenting that "Devons grow faster and can be marketed before the second winter. "


Breed 200 day wt. Kg 400 day wt. Kg 500 day wt. Kg
Devon 264 490 569
Lincoln Red 253 480 569
Welsh Black 235 427 553
Sussex 228 464 547
Hereford 232 451 542
Beef Shorthorn 209 412 500
Aberdeen Angus 209 417 484
Galloway 163 360 468


Sire Breed Daily Gain (kg) Finishing Period (days) Total Feed (kg) Feed Gain (kg)
Angus 0.96 93 874 9.5
Charolais 1.07 158 1605 9.4
Devon 1.00 106 982 9.0
Hereford 1.00 115 1063 9.0
Simmental 1.08 160 1681 9.5
South Devon 1.06 139 1368 9.3
Sussex 1.03 126 1181 8.9


Sire Breed Daily Gain (kg) Finishing Period (days) Total Feed (kg) Feed Gain (kg)
Angus 0.77 105 826 10.3
Charolais 0.84 148 1354 10.9
Devon 0.78 122 975 10.1
Hereford 0.78 120 950 10.1
Limousin 0.78 145 1201 10.5
Simmental 0.86 145 1324 10.6
South Devon 0.77 145 1196 10.6
Sussex 0.76 140 1118 10.5

* British Meat and Livestock Commission figures February 1984.

The above trial figures support the claim of Devon breeders that their cattle are exceptionally efficient converters of feed to beef. This crossbreeding trial showed in the final analysis that Devon sired crossbred steers from both trials were equal top with the Herefords for conversion of kilograms of feed to liveweight. In both trials, the Herefords, Angus and Devon cross steers clearly were superior in their ability to fatten quickly. The Devon crosses were at their best off grass, taking less time and feed to fatten than their Hereford counterparts. Whilst the Angus sired steers were first to finish in both trials, they did not match the feed efficiency rates of the Devon or Hereford crosses.




In the U.S.A., feedlot trials demonstrated the ability of Devon/Hereford crossbred steers to
out-perform the Herefords and other crossbreds. The Devon cross featured for finishing ability
and carcase quality.

  Herefords Devon X Hereford Other Crossbred
Scale weight IN 405 Ibs 531 Ibs 507 Ibs
Scale weight OUT 1,040 Ibs 1,158 Ibs 1,123 Ibs
Days on feed 222 187 207
Net gain 494 Ibs 580 Ibs 572 Ibs
Gain per day per head 2.65 3.07 2.74
Pounds feed fed per day 19.76 Ibs 22.93 Ibs 21.39 Ibs
Carcase weight 649.8 Ibs 726.0 Ibs 705.0 Ibs
Dressing Percent:      
Choice 42% 68% 49%
Good 58% 32% 50%
Bullock 0 % 0 % 1 %
Rib eye area ( 10.95 12.49 11.95




One of the oldest breeds of the past, the universal breed of the future ... DEVON