Northern Dairy Shorthorn

Northern Dairy Shorthorn cow & calf

Key Characteristics

They are long lived, fertile and maternal. Cows make good mothers, producing a good amount of milk for calves. They will produce calves at up to 14-17 years old. They are docile, easy to manage and hardy. They were bred to thrive on uplands so can outwinter and require little in the way of expensive feed.


  • The Northern Dairy Shorthorn evolved as a dual-purpose breed in the Pennines and the adjacent areas of Durham and Westmorland and was developed specifically for upland farming.
  • A breed society was formed in 1944 to register the Northern Dairy Shorthorn as separate from the Beef Shorthorn and Dairy Shorthorn.
  • At this time there were 750 bulls and 10000 cows. Numbers declined as more specialist breeds took over and in 1969 it was registered in the Coates Herd Book with the other Shorthorns.
  • A handful of breeders kept the breed pure and now there are very low numbers of purebred females. 


  • Animals are dual purpose, are so are have medium levels of muscle.
  • They can be red, white, roan or red and white.
  • They have small, upswept horns
  • Cows usually weigh around 550kg and bulls, 750kg.



Cows can give 3500-6000 litres per lactation on a forage based system with exceptional cows achieving over 7000 litres. Milk has good protein (3-3.25%) and butterfat (3.5- 4.5%) levels. Northern Dairy Shorthorns are renowned for their longevity and can last for 10 or more lactations.


Steers (castrated males) can be finished within 30 months on forage. The breed is fine-boned and can achieve high killing out percentages (>60%). 

Did you know?

Because Northern Dairy Shorthorns are so rare, an embryo transfer project was started in 2015 to help increase the number of animals by implanting embryos into surrogate mothers, as well as storing embryos in RBST's Gene Bank. 

The Rare Breeds Survival Trust is the leading national charity working to conserve and protect the United Kingdom's rare native breeds of farm animals from extinction. We rely on the support of our members, grants and donations from the public to raise the £700,000 a year needed to maintain our conservation work with rare UK native breeds of farm animals. Visit to see how you can help.

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