Randall Lineback

Randall Lineback on the Homestead

By Kassie DwyerEden Farm, Athens, ME

Heritage breeds are unique, historical breeds of livestock that generally meet homestead needs more effectively.  I’d love to share with you my absolute favorite breed of heritage cattle: the Randall Lineback. 

Randall Lineback calf in MaineWhile modern breeds of cattle like the popular Angus and Holstein certainly have their place on the homestead (the majority of my own herd is purebred Angus or Angus influenced), their modern traits can leave something to be desired.  Or maybe, you don’t want a whole herd, but just a cow or two that can provide both milk and meat for your family.

You have probably heard of or seen crossbred Lineback cattle.  They cattle are often used for dairy animals and are common in both the state of Maine and across the US.  They are often crossed with Holsteins or bred on their own merit.  These mixed breeds are not considered to be true Randall Lineback.

Breed Identification

The Randall Lineback was developed in Vermont at the home farm of Everett Randall around the turn of the 20th century.  They are identified by the wide line down the top of the back, dark sides, muzzles, ears, eye rings, and dark feet.  This dark coloration is a blue-black hue that may exhibit “brocking”, which is similar to a roan pattern.  There is a recessive red gene present in the breed, resulting in the occasional animal that has red in place of the blue-black coloration.

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Randall Lineback on the Maine winter homestead
Our Randall cow, Dahlia, weathering a blizzard (by choice, she had access to shelter).

Randall cattle are exceptionally hardy, aggressive foragers.  They aren’t bothered by New England’s extreme winters, having been developed specifically for this climate.

The breed is medium in size, and naturally horned.  They exhibit many dairy breed characteristics, including a well attached mammary system, spacious udder and fine boning.  However, like most heritage animals, they are a multi-purpose breed; appropriate for not only milk production, but meat and draft applications as well.  We recently had our first Randall-influenced beef and it was amazing!

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Eating rare breed livestock can increase demand . . .

Eating these animals may seem counterproductive, as they are rare.   The American Livestock Conservancy lists their status as “critical”, and estimates that about 500 individuals remain currently.  However, creating a demand for their flavorful, tender meat will lead to an increased demand for farmers to be breeding and raising these homestead cattle.  

There are a number of websites where you can find more information on these remarkable creatures, here are a few. 

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