CATLETT, Va. — Red Devon enthusiasts from around the world came to APD Farm in Warrenton on May 23 for the Red Devon National Show.
“We’re so happy to be a part of this,” said Matt Rales, co-owner of APD Farm. “Since 2016, we’ve been working to adapt the property to a grass-fed beef operation with rotational grazing. The Red Devon cattle that we’ve gotten from the Lakota Ranch are well-adapted to the Virginia environment and allow us to efficiently finish them on pasture.”
“We are so happy to share the farm,” said Abby Fuller, co-owner. “It’s great to show that you can produce high-quality, nutritional food in an environmentally friendly way.”
Judges Bob Crawford of Australia, Henrique Ribas of Brazil and Guille Yearwood of the U.S. evaluated 24 of the top Red Devons from the U.S. The show was part of the weeklong World Devon Congress mini-tour, which included stops at three Virginia farms, two Pennsylvania farms, and one farm each in Ohio and Montana.
The three judges reviewed the animals in the morning. They followed a score sheet and the winners were the highest average score from the three officials.
Unlike traditional cattle shows, the Red Devons were judged in pasture. All cattle in the show were 100-percent grass fed and pasture raised. Entries came from Virginia, New York, Missouri and Wisconsin, and several were previous year’s show winners.
The grand champion bull was Lakota’s Red Dude A113. Grand champion female was Oak Hill CY28, owned by Oak Hill Farm.
The program at APD Farm attracted cattle breeders from around the region as well as participants in the World Devon Congress tour. The farm was a past Thoroughbred breeding farm.
There was a farm tour along with presentations on grazing and breed standards. Both the burger lunch and farm-to-table dinner featured APD Red Devon beef.
Jeremy Engh, Red Devon USA board member, explained the judging criteria and ideals of the breed. Engh used a grading card from the 1950s to explain the differences between males and females. General appearance is weighted slightly higher for males.
“It is important to remember, especially today at the show with three judges from different parts of the world, that breeders from different regions will have preferences that suit their operations, climate and customer base. Certain traits made cattle more suitable for different regions,” Engh, of Lakota Ranch in Remington, said.
He said he was pleased with attendance at both the show and mini-tour and noted that a number of smaller Mid-Atlantic based breeders were in attendance.
“Many of these breeders have a few cow-calf pairs. The Red Devon are smaller, so people can keep more on less acreage. Having the show here gives these breeders a chance to see some of the best cattle. They can see what we all are striving for,” he said.
Red Devons are a British breed originally bred to produce beef, milk and to be used as oxen. Hardy and docile, the cattle have remained true to their roots and are one of the few breeds that perform well on a grass diet.
Devon cattle marble as well on grass as most modern breeds do on corn. With the health benefits of grass-fed beef being touted, Red Devons are seeing a surge in popularity. They are also becoming popular with cattle breeders with less acreage because the smaller, more efficient animals do well on limited acres.
The breed flourishes in diverse environments and are popular in the U.S., Brazil, Australia and parts of Africa.
Another topic discussed was the idea of branding Devon beef much the way Angus breeders have branded and promoted their beef. The general consensus was that as the demand for grass-fed beef increases, having certified Devon beef will increase both visibility and sales.
APD Farm focuses on grass-fed beef production and runs 100 Red Devon cow-calf pairs and finishes purebred Red Devons, Devon crosses, and Jersey steers and heifers for sale to local restaurants, butcher shops, health food stores and individual buyers. The farm is 2,000 acres with 800 grazable acres. The remaining acreage is in woodlands.
Rales, a Maryland native, purchased the former horse farm in 2016.