Different Breeds, Different Purposes
Early immigrants to America brought with them a variety of horses, cattle, sheep, and other livestock.
Carla Due, whose parents were Danish, says her mother "always had 300 laying hens, white leghorns." White leghorns are a specific breed of chicken that many farmers raised in the 1930s. White leghorn chickens, like Rhode Island reds, are known as steady and reliable egg producers.
Hollis Miller used Percheron and Belgian draft horses (breeds that came from Europe) on their farm in the 1930s. He also says they also kept Holstein cows, which produce lots of milk. Other breeds are better for producing high-quality meat.
Today, Nebraska ranchers breed beef cattle that will gain weight quickly and produce lots of lean meat on a compact body. Modern dairy farmers want cows that will produce gallons of milk every day and can be easily hooked up to automatic milking machines. But the breed of cow doesn't matter when milk and beef prices were too low to cover the costs of feeding and raising the animals.
Written by Claudia Reinhardt and Bill Ganzel, the Ganzel Group. First written and published in 2003.