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Cows short on horns, not on heart

July 30, 1998

photo: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer

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Holstein ShorthornsBy JULIE E. GREENE / Staff Writer

RINGGOLD, Md. - Driving down Ringgold Pike the fields are spotted with black and white cows.

But on a farm on Misty Meadow Road, among 200 black and white Holstein cows are the only three milking shorthorn cows to be exhibited at the Washington County Ag Expo, which begins Saturday.

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The three cows - one white, one red and the third a mixture of red and white - are the only milking shorthorns registered with the Washington County 4-H Club, said Jeff Semler, of the Washington County Extension Service.

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"On the East Coast it's very rare to see one," said John Heizer, of the Mid-Maryland Dairy Veterinarians. Holsteins are the most popular milking cows because they produce more milk, he said.

Katie Herbst, 16, said she wanted a milking shorthorn because it would be different from the cows everyone else had.

"I thought they were pretty," said Herbst, who will be a junior at Smithsburg High School this fall.

She showed her milking shorthorn at last year's Ag Expo.

In April, Katie got a second milking shorthorn and her younger sister Kimberly got one of the cows, said family members at their Misty Meadow Farm.

Both will showcase their milking shorthorns at the Ag Expo next Wednesday and Friday, said their mother, Betsy.

Katie's older milking shorthorn, formally known as Expo 96, was so named because she came from the World Dairy Expo '96 in Wisconsin.

Katie got Expo after she learned that the man who won the milking shorthorn in a raffle didn't want her because of her breed.

Expo's nicknamed Shorty, short for shorthorn.

Katie said she got teased a lot when she first got Shorty because Holsteins tend to be the cow of choice.

Shorty, 23 months old, is expecting her first calf in September, said Katie's dad, David Herbst.

Katie said her two shorthorns, Shorty and Rissy, have milder tempers than her Holsteins, which tend to do the opposite of what she wants.

Kimberly, 12, said she plays with her shorthorn, Heather, at least once a week. Both girls clip and wash their shorthorns.

Since Heather, at 350 pounds, is the smallest shorthorn registered in the county, she will be featured in the petting farm at the Ag Expo, Kimberly said.

This year's expo will be the first for 4-month-old Heather and 10-month-old Rissy.

The only milking shorthorn at last year's expo, Shorty won first place and proceeded to the state competition, where she came in first in her age class for milking shorthorns, Katie said.

Milking shorthorns produce milk with a higher protein-to-fat ratio, so it's better for making ice cream or cheese, Heizer said.

The milking shorthorn comes from England where its name distinguished it from British longhorns, Semler said. Their horns aren't shorter than other U.S. dairy breeds and most cows are dehorned at a young age, he said.

The milking shorthorn, like other dairy breeds, was at one time a dual purpose animal for meat and milk, Semler said.

Shorty is an exception to most milking shorthorns, which tend to average 1,400 pounds when full grown, Heizer said. Shorty weighs about 1,200 pounds and is expected to reach 1,400 to 1,500 pounds, he said. The average adult Holstein weighs 1,500 to 1,700 pounds.

Holsteins account for 92 percent of dairy cows in the United States, Semler said.

Shorthorns are the least popular, he said. Other popular breeds are Jersey, Guernsey, Ayrshire and Brown Swiss.

The American Milking Shorthorn Society estimates there are 15,000 registered milking shorthorns in the U.S., and about 25,000 total.

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