Most people imagine that Lincoln Red cattle are a rare breed and that we are only doing our bit for conservation, not realizing that there is a whole Society dedicated to the Lincoln Red.

A lot farming folk still imagine Lincoln Red cattle as all brisket and no back end, a dual purpose breed best left back in the 40’s and 50’s.

Over 300 years ago Gervais Markson wrote of Lincolnshire cattle ‘their horns little and crooked and bodies tall long and large.

The modern Lincoln Red is a far cry from those far off days.

The Lincoln Red Society was one of the first to publish herd books. In 1822 they were included in the Coates Herd Book and known as Lincoln Shorthorns. There is a sale sheet in the office at Lincoln dated 1836, 44 Lincolns sold that day averaged £31.10s. My goodness how much would that be today. It was Thomas Turnell who bred the wholly red Lincoln Shorthorn as opposed to the multicoloured Shorthorns. They were entered in the Coated Herd under two separate identities. In 1875 the Shorthorn Society was formed, although they acquired the rights to the Coates herd book, they gradually stopped registering animals.

In 1894 Charles Tindall who was a member of the Shorthorn Society, called together a large group of gentlemen to form a breeders club, which was to be attached to the board of trade, which they did and in 1895, they became known as The Lincoln Red Shorthorn Association. Alongside the Shorthorns, Charles Tindall registered their Red Cattle of Lincolnshire or Red Shorthorns, and produced their own herd book. The foundation of our Lincoln Red Cattle Society, and in the spring of 1895, 112 members consented to join the club. Their ideas being, to breed uniformity into the reds, improve them, and register those particular cattle. Charles Tindall was also a member of the Eastern Counties Shorthorn Bull Breeders Association. This association didn’t last long, about 10 years, finishing about 1891 or 1892. They had twice yearly bull sales and by 1896 the first bull sale for the Association was held in Lincoln.

By 1926 the Lincoln Red Shorthorn was the second largest breed of pedigree cattle in England, with just under 18 thousand cattle registered in that year alone. The 26th Annual sale had 409 bulls entered, though it was quite usual to see near 400 in the annual sale most years. Our Society today still has twice yearly sales although now held at Newark Livestock Market.

In the 1940’s a very forward thinking man E L Pentecost developed, by cross breeding, a polled strain of the Lincoln Red. By using red Aberdeen Angus bulls on some of his Lincoln Red females and then back-crossing for five generations with Lincoln Red bulls he managed to breed a polled (hornless) animal. Not everyone approved, but it was the way forward. After 17 years the first Lincoln Red was accepted by the Ministry for licensing. From then on all the cattle born polled were registered in the herd book with a P in front of their herd book number to denote that they were ‘polled’ not ‘pure’ Lincoln Reds.

In 1946 all registered Lincoln Red cattle were divided into two sections; Lincoln Red dairy and Lincoln Red beef. Originally a dual purpose breed, selective breeding had resulted in the beef side of the breed taking dominance, although still retaining the milkiness and good calving traits of the dairy type of Lincoln Red.

By the 1950’s farming was changing and the arable side took over. Beef herds were disappearing as more and more land went under the plough. Fortunately the Lincoln Red, being a dual purpose breed, crossed the divide. Good suckler cows that thrived on poorer pasture, with long deep bodies enabling the cows to calve easily. The calves grew quickly and could easily finish well on poor grass. Again Pentecost’s polled animals were to come to the fore, and were definitely here to stay. From 1st January 1976 no horned animals from polled parents were allowed to be registered.

Today all Lincoln Reds are polled. Registered animals have prefixes to their herd book numbers that denote their lineage. Horned animals would only have had herd book numbers, polled animals would have ‘P’ in front of their numbers, to denote that they were polled. Today we have a variety of different letters and I will explain that in a while.

The name changed in 1960 when the word Shorthorn was dropped from the title and the Lincoln Red Cattle Society was formed.

The Lincoln Red Society was the first to introduce weight recording, performance figures for the cattle, in order to publish weight figures and gains in the sale catalogues.

In 1961 the Lincoln Red Cattle Society introduced the first independently observed Beef Recording Scheme. That scheme became the basis for what is now know as the MLC.

Time moves on and the market place dictates what the consumer requires. In the 70’s the trend began toward leaner meat. The Lincoln Red long known as having a propensity to be fat needed to move with the times.

There is once again a growing trend toward the Lincoln Reds, as during the late 70’s the breed suffered dramatically from falling numbers of cattle and members. The trend was for very lean meat, and the Lincoln Red marbling was totally out of fashion. It wasn’t just the Lincolns; it was all the native breeds.

In 1977 we advanced with the introduction of the Breed Development Scheme. A managed scheme, using some continental blood lines and then again back crossing the Lincoln bloodlines, we produced a leaner carcass for the customer whilst retaining the marbling and flavour of the Lincoln Red.

Breed Development is done on a purely blood line percentage, only attaining pedigree status when over 87.5% of Lincoln blood is present. These animals are always recognized as they will always carry the letters ‘XP’ in front of their herd book number to denote that they are the result of breed development. It is possible to track the development line as in the back of the herd book there is a separate registry of breed development animals. BDAP up to 75%, BDBP from 75% to 87.5%. As I have said, at 87.5% they attain pedigree status, although they can carry on increasing their % until nearly 100%, which of course many are today. All my cattle have come from breed development lines and the majority of my own cattle carry in excess of 95% Lincoln Red blood. The RBST only recognize what they call original population, which are the P’s. Although as I have explained even the P’s are the result of a cross.

The polling gene is now so strong in the Lincoln Red that other breeds have used Lincoln Red bloodlines to poll and upgrade their breeds. We have, unlike some other breeds, always been open about our development schemes. There are societies who register when the crossed animal achieves 85% original blood, which they consider to be full pedigree. Ours is 87.5% and still, as I have explained, following on.

The breed continues to thrive and the demand for registered Lincoln Reds is such that in 2010 the Society voted to call an end to the Development Scheme. Waiting for in vitro calves to be born, in 2012 the Breed Development Scheme was closed to new Stage A registrations. The remaining registered development scheme cattle will now progress through the scheme.

Many dairy breeders now use a Lincoln Red bull as sire to their commercial offspring, because of the polling gene, because of the docility and because of the marbling in the beef.

Some beef testing had been done in Australia, where there are a lot of Lincoln Reds. It’s been proven that grass fed Lincoln Red beef contains omega 3. Which is good news for people with heart problems as it means that they don’t have to give up their roast beef as long as they choose Lincoln Red beef.

Today the Lincoln Red is right up to date. A polled animal, good forager converter, docile, good calving and mothering traits, with its marbled beef commanding a premium.