Holstein Origins - Part Three: The Association of Breeders of Thoroughbred Holstein Cattle

Updated: Jun 16

"Resolved, That it is expedient and desirable that a Holstein Herd Book be published by authority of this Association, containing the pedigrees of all animals approved by the Committee on Pedigrees."




On March 15, 1871, a group of cattle owners met at 196 State Street, Boston, Massachusetts, to hold the first meeting of an exclusive breeder's association for Holstein cattle. The Association of Breeders of Thoroughbred Holstein Cattle included Winthrop W. Chenery (President), W.A. Russell (Vice President), L.D. Trow (Vice President), C.C. Walworth (Vice President), and Charles Houghton (Secretary). These men were all owners of herds that had been established by cattle purchased from Mr. Chenery.


During that meeting, these breeders discussed several resolutions regarding the publishing of a Holstein Herd Book -


"Resolved, That this Association will deem no animal to be thoroughbred Holstein, except those large, improved black-and-white cattle imported from the provinces of North Holland, Holstein, or intermediate territory; or which cannot be traced in direct line, on the side of both sire and dam to animals of undoubted purity of blood of said importations."

The Herd Book

Fulfilling the resolution made by the Association, Mr. Cheney created the first volume of the Holstein Herd Book. The purpose of the Holstein Herd Book was to help keep a detailed account and record of the Holstein breed in the United States. The purpose of the book and the Association was to ensure that no other breed of cattle would be assigned the Holstein title that did not deserve it – for example, if the herd did not meet the specifications assigned by The Association of Breeders of Thoroughbred Holstein Cows – it didn't qualify. Most of these requirements stayed the same until the Holstein-Friesian Association was formed in 1885, which widened the territory in which imported cattle might be registered.


The Herd Book of the 21st Century

After several changes, herd registration has finally made its way to the internet. Moderated by the Holstein Association USA (formerly known as the Holstein-Friesian Association, circa 1885), the online registration allows for breeders and Holstein owners to register their herd and properly identify their cattle's lineage.


Why is there such an appeal to register Holstein cattle?


The Holstein breed dominates the dairy industry in the United States, primarily due to the superior milk production, higher income vs. feed cost, unrivaled genetic merit, and the animal's ability to adapt to environmental conditions. Like any other thoroughbred, the proper identification makes these cattle worth far more than non-identified ones.


All Holsteins are eligible for registration under the Holstein Association USA's guidelines. Each animal has a calculated, recorded, and reported percentage – Registered Holstein Ancestry (RHA). The calculation of the RHA considers the animal's parent's RHA percentage and then rounds down to the nearest whole number. Find out more about RHA and Holstein registration by visiting their website.


Shoenberg Farms’ Holstein Herd

Based on information found in the Holstein-Friesian Register (February 15, 1913, page 274), W.J. Abbott, manager of Shoenberg Memorial Farms, bought 22 heifers in Wisconsin at Lake Mills. In addition to the 22 heifers, he selected a 16-month-old bull, Western Sir Colantha 87956, and bred by the Hall Brothers of Western Holstein farm. Although the intention was to get 20 Western heifers, the long price offered was turned down because the brothers felt they could not spare them. Hence, the 22 Eastern heifers and the Western bull to head the herd. These heifers and bull called Shoenberg Farms' dairy barn their home in 1913 - two years after the initial farm dedication.


Quotes used are pulled directly from print - Prescott, Maurice Sheldon, et al., Holstein-Friesian History. Holstein-Friesian World, Inc., 1930

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