The Saga of Meriville Peerless: Long Journey from Northumberland to the Midwest and Back Again | Bestyet A.I Sires | Grazing Genetics from Dutch Belted and Milking Shorthorns

Mericrest Kewpie, five years old in this photo, is one of many excellent Peerless daughters. She is the dam of Mericrest Picasso and full sister to Meriville Outstanding-P’s sire.

By Kenneth Hoffman

This history of one of our most influential bulls is told in the words of the late Kenneth Hoffman, our original master breeder at Meriville Farm.

Meriville Peerless was one of the top purebred bulls of the Milking Shorthorn breed worldwide 20 years ago, and he still figures into the pedigrees of many individuals.  This is especially true in our own herd where we have used line breeding of Peerless in conjunction with outcrossing to mostly native, dual-purpose sires.

Kenneth always talked about breeding Milking Shorthorns with a capital MILK, since as he was growing up, many breeders bred for bloomy (i.e. fat) show cows that did not milk as well.  This was before the “Genetic Expansion” program which has now resulted in Holstein blood in most modern Milking Shorthorns kept for dairy purposes. 

We feel the pendulum has swung too far to the extreme of selecting for milk at the expense of other traits vital to true breed character and usefulness on the diversified farm. That’s why we continue to emphasize traits such as calving ease, moderate size, sound feet and legs, freedom from metabolic disorders, fleshing ability, and reproduction.

This article originally appeared in the Milking Shorthorn Journal in 2001.

Growing up learning to breed cows

The story of Meriville Peerless is confirmation of the genetic principles I was exposed to as a farm boy growing up during one of the richest periods of agriculture and dairy cattle breeding.  Much credit goes to my dad and mother, John E. and Rosa Hoffman, who involved me from my birth.  While my dad and mom milked by hand, I was out in the barn, and at the age of five I was assigned a cow to milk by hand (an easy milker with a good udder).  I just liked the experience.

My dad read the journals and sale catalogs and I was included in his many travels to sales and meetings.  In our family album are many pictures of our family at Milking Shorthorn events.  One of the most significant is at Borg Farms, Delavan, WI, which contained the best collection of Milking Shorthorn genetics in history, including the Glenside, White Mountain, and Northwood herds.

I had been a recipient of encouragement as a young boy of the wisest breeders of dairy cattle of all time including Bill Weeks, W. Arthur Simpson, and C.H. Hinman.   At the age of fourteen, I purchased C.H. Hinman’s book, Dual Purpose Cattle, and have studied it ever since.  It has stood the test of time and even with cloning, his genetic principles are sound and will always be right. 

Sources of Meriville genetics

The Milking in Shorthorn is based on the blood of “North Country” English Dairy Shorthorns and the constant crossing with Scotch Shorthorns was always a concern of early breeders.  My effort for the last 50 years has been to select Milking Shorthorns from pure Clay Bates Northern sources.

Cotley Melody 98 is one of many beautiful Peerless daughters born in the U.K. where his genetics originated several hundred years ago.

A study of Peerless’ background reveals the highest producing and best type cows of strictly Milking or Dairy lines.  Mountain Fire Princess 4th (with 22,000 lb milk), Doris Clay, Butter Girl, Sunnyside Maid 3d (carrying Kingsdale Robin Bates out of the great Bates cow Lonewood Bates), Robin’s Red Signet (doubled up in Meriville Sumthun Else, who is doubled up in Peerless), and Lou’s Protector, to name a few. An interesting fact is that most of Peerless’ genetics were developed and derived within 50 miles of the Milking Shorthorn office, in Rock and surrounding counties of Wisconsin and Northern Illinois.

Where did we get our start on the Cissy cow family which produced Peerless?  Arnold Kohley of Lisle, IL was an acquaintance of Dad, and when I was showing Meriville Lady Lou he admired her and gave us much encouragement.  So when Arnold died in 1966, his wife called us first and offered us cows.  We went there, looked at cows, and selected Cissy and Sara, never even looking at pedigrees.  This Adbeth Roan Cissy went back to Archie Wentworth’s Peerless Cissy of Evansville, WI.  Adbeth Roan Cissy was sired by Adbeth Roan Dale, the bull that was sold to the acclaimed Mystery Farm while being shown at the National Show in Waterloo.

The Cissy we got from Kohley’s had two daughters of Meriville Hot Digity, whose dam, Sunnyside Maid 56th, was out of a son of a many-years-over Jr. 3-year-old Class leader and won many shows including Best Udder at the National Show in 1966 at 10 years of age.  One of these Hot Digity daughters, Meriville Saga Cissy, was the dam of Meriville Plum Cissy 2d, double granddam of Peerless.

This photo of Meriville Plum Cissy 2d, Peerless’ double granddam, was taken almost 40 years ago.

Candle philosophy of breeding

No one person can take the credit for the merits of any great breeding animal as no one can create a single gene.  We have merely tried to keep the genetics available to future breeders. 

A gene has been compared to a flame, and a generation to a candle.  As a candle burns down, we light a new one with the flame of the old, and so the same flame burns on.  This has been going on since Creation, and so the same flames are burning now that were started burning some 6000 years ago.  (I ran across this apt illustration of genetics in one of the many old books in our archives, Dairy Cattle, by Yapp and Nevens, 1966.)  We have merely tried to keep the flame burning brightly from the best cows ever assembled in a herdbook.

Peerless’ pedigree and background

One of the people who deserves a lot credit for putting this together is my wife, Winifred.  She was very perceptive and recognized the value of what I was doing and has been a great catalyst since we first met, and has been a major factor in bringing Meriville’s life’s effort out of oblivion.  A study of Peerless’ ascent to fame begins in 1981 when she first came on the scene.

Peerless’ sire, Meriville Plumchuck, was born at the Wisconsin State Fair.  He classified Excellent, and his ¾ sister, Meriville Satin Roansy Cissy, Peerless’ dam, also classified Excellent.  We decided to use this brother/sister mating to produce Peerless and his full sister, Meriville Pansy Cissy (now at age 14 still a major brood cow in our breeding program).

The production in Meriville cows is based on very reliable data, not artificial records and fitting.  Peerless’ sire comes from the Beauty cow family (which also produced the famous Ritchie’s Robin Sunbeam and Sarge’s Sunbeam) secured from W. Arthur Simpson of Vermont, who weighed every milking of every cow for over 60 years.  I have seen and milked every female on both sides of Peerless’ pedigree for over 35 years.

Mericrest Outlaw (Kewpie’s full brother) is now working in the great Hauxwell herd of Tom Ripley (of Prince Edward Island, Canada), who hails from the Yorkshire Dales of England, hence the subtitle of my article.

These two Peerless daughters are from Tom Ripley’s herd in Canada.

Why Peerless is white

The Peerless story would not be complete without discussion of his color.  The foundation and distinction of the dairy or milking line of Shorthorns is beautiful roan, and white is the source of that.  The original Dairy Shorthorns and Bates lines were white, spotted, and roans.  Many were red with white stockings. 

During and since the 1920’s, white and spotted were and still are discriminated against.  Yet the milk production and outstanding udders are connected to this unique color.  Scotch cattle (beefy and solid red or dark roan) were used to “correct” the color problem and diluted the dairy character once again.  Many breeders early would not use Peerless because he was white.

Thanks to breeders who used Peerless

Finally, I would like credit each and every breeder, large and small, that had the confidence to use Meriville Peerless, so his genetics were revealed, which is the ultimate genetic principle that selection and pedigree have to be expressed in the offspring. 

This ad was in a 1994 Red Cow Magazine, when Peerless was offered worldwide: the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and more.

Endnote: While Peerless semen is not available today, many of our current Milking Shorthorn bulls carry him in their pedigrees, so you can reap the benefits of his breeding.

Meriville Outstanding-P is a son of Outlaw and is carefully linebred Peerless. Meriville Outer Star PP is sired by Outstanding and is linebred on his dam’s side. Mericrest Picasso is a grandson of Peerless. Meriville Rock County is out of Peerless’ full sister.

Meriville Flashback is out of a Peerless daughter. King Oscar is linebred Peerless. Lapps Joe is is heavily linebred Peerless. Meriville Matchmaker-P also has Peerless in his background.