RED & WHITE & POLLED
A History Lesson by Dr. Larry Specht
Does the Red & White breed have a higher percentage of polled animals than is found in the Black & White population? It seems that way and although actual counts arenâ€™t available, there were some early ties between the two traits. Some of the first known polled Holsteins had the gene for red coat color. One of the best examples was Pietje Ormsby Segis Burke #88771, a bull that saw heavy use in the herd of George Stevenson. Stevenson purchased the bull as a yearling in 1912 to head his newly established herd of registered polled Holsteins. He was sired by Pietje Ormsby Burke #49751, and out of the polled cow, Ormsby Segis Beets #101259. Which of his parents carried the red gene is not known. Some of the foundation females Stevenson purchased were also carriers of the red gene. Cornucopia Plum Johanna, the single most important female he bought, had a red calf late in life. Several of the original females and a bull purchased from Wisconsin were also carriers of the red trait.
Stevensonâ€™s herd was the primary source of polled animals for almost twenty years. Many males and some females were sold to breeding establishments over a wide area although primarily in the Northeast. Stevenson did not value red coat color. His original herd records show that red and white calves born on his farm from 1912 until 1930 were not raised. However, he could not eliminate entirely what he could not see and the red gene remained in his herd.
While Walter Schultz was promoting polled Holsteins from the late 1940s until the mid-1970s in Minnesota and nearby states, there was no mention in his herd records of red or red-carrier animals until the late 1960s. Some of his sires undoubtedly carried the trait and the first red animal to appear in Schultzâ€™s own herd was a red and white heifer born in 1968. Her sire was the polled bull Dakota Echo Rocket #1504314 that had been used in the South Dakota herd of Joe Reichling. Schultz bought the heifer from Reichling, possibly because the owner was unhappy when a red calf made its appearance.
Douglas Schultz took over the Schultz herd in 1974 upon the death of his father. He began to use Burket-Falls (Dave Burket) and De-Red-Polled (Eldon DeWall) sires in the late 1970s. Most of them gave him the red coat-color along with the polled trait. The large number of breeding bulls placed in other herds over a twenty-year period by Schultz certainly spread the red gene to many herds in Minnesota and nearby states.
Eldon DeWall began breeding Red & Whites in the late 1960s. He purchased several red and white cows and bred them to polled sires. He also purchased several polled cows in the 1970s and bred them to Red & White bulls. These efforts produced the first registered Red & White polled sire, De-Red-Polled Comet Rich-Red in 1976. Larry Moore of Suamico, Wisconsin purchased the bull. Moore already had an entire herd of Red & Whites (mostly of Canadian breeding) when he became interested in the polled trait. He gave DeWallâ€™s sire considerable exposure through a major advertising campaign in the Holstein-Friesian World.
Early on, Dave Burket used a number of red-carrier Canadian sires that were sons and grandsons of ABC Reflection Sovereign. Through the progeny of these bulls, the Burket-Falls herd became known for their polled Red & Whites. Numerous bulls from the Burket herd entered AI service and people interested in breeding for red-coat color often found that when using Burket-Falls bulls they sometimes got calves without horns.
T. Edwin Johnson got started with Red & White and polled Holsteins by using a number of Burket bulls and seeking out other Holstein sires that carried the red gene. Robert Feldwisch of New Knoxville, Ohio followed the same plan using Larry Moore and Burket-bred bulls while he began to build a herd that was unique for both color and their lack of horns. The Burket, Johnson and Feldwisch herds are well-known suppliers of Red & White polled bulls and contribute to the publicâ€™s perception that Red & White and polled go together.