An interview with The Red Angus Association of America
1. How many cattle do you have in your registration?
Red Angus is now the 4th largest breed by registration in the United States.
2. What year did your breed start accepting/ registrations or building a database?
We began registering cattle in 1954 when the Red Angus Association of America was formed by the original 8 members.
3. Tell us about the origin of your breed and how it was transported into or developed in the U.S.
Seven innovative families chose to use Red Angus in 1954 to establish the industry’s first performance registry. Throughout its history, the Red Angus Association of America has maintained this objective focus and has earned a well deserved reputation for leadership and innovation. By making the right choices over time, and ignoring the short term pressures of industry fads, demand for Red Angus genetics by the beef industry is at an all time high.
Hugh Watson of Keillor, Scotland is universally recognized as the father of the modern Aberdeen Angus breed. When he started his farming activities in 1808, he received six of the “best and blackest cows, as well as a bull” from his father’s herd. That same summer, he also visited the leading Scottish cattle markets acquiring ten heifers and a bull that showed the Angus characteristics he was striving to breed. According to H. M. Briggs, (Modern Breeds of Livestock) “the (purchased) females were of various colors, but the bull was black; Watson decided the color of his herd should be black and he started to select in that direction.” Although black became the most desired color for the breed, because red is a recessive gene, it would remain in the genepool.
The first Aberdeen Angus herdbook, published in 1862 in Scotland, entered both reds and blacks without distinction. The practice of registering red and black cattle in the same herdbook is still practiced today in Britain and every other major beef producing country in the world, except the United States. Aberdeen Angus were introduced into America in the 1870s and soon attained high popularity. The first American herdbooks, published in 1886 and 1888 respectively, made no record as to the color of individual animals. In 1890, twenty-two reds were registered in the American Aberdeen Angus Herdbook of some 2,700 individuals entered that year. In 1917, the American Aberdeen Angus Association barred the registration of the reds and other colors altogether. This severe discrimination against the red color in an effort to assure a pure black strain brought a marked decline in the number of red calves born in American herds.
That the red cattle were an untapped genetic resource was summed up well by Leon J. Cole and Sara V. H. Jones of the University of Wisconsin Agricultural Experiment Station in their 1920 publication on “The Occurrence of Red Calves in Black Breeds of Cattle:” “One more point should be emphasized, namely that the red individuals appearing in such stock (Aberdeen Angus)…are just as truly ‘purebred’ as their black relatives, and there is no reason why, in all respects save color, they should not be fully as valuable. The fact that they are discarded while the blacks are retained is simply due to the turn of fortune that black rather than red became established fashion for the Aberdeen Angus breed. Had red been the chosen color, there would never have been any trouble with the appearance of blacks as off-color individuals, since red-to-red breeds true.
4. What are two of the most unique and little known aspects of your breed?
1) Red Angus is well known for innovative leadership focusing on Red Angus commercial bull customers as RAAA stakeholders.
2) RAAA was the first breed to begin Total Herd Reporting (THR) process which is the staple of the accuracy of the data that accompanies Red Angus cattle.
5. Who is the president of your association and where is he/she from?
Tim Whitley, Horton, Ala.