Alvin H. Sanders on “The Dignity of the Breeder’s Calling” | Bestyet A.I Sires | Grazing Genetics from Dutch Belted and Milking Shorthorns

Above: This Dutch Belted cow was just one example of masterfully bred individuals of her time.

                Sometimes it helps revive our sense of purpose to review the broader picture, looking back at the masters of breeding who came before us. This eloquent excerpt from the writing of Alvin H. Sanders, author and editor of The Breeder’s Gazette in the early 20th century, strikes us as still quite relevant today, allowing for the perhaps extreme opinion of Sanders. Emphasis added.

                “At the outset every man who enters the fraternity that boasts so many illustrious names should ponder well the real meaning of the word breeder and endeavor to equip himself thoroughly for the intelligent manipulation of the plastic material with which he proposes to work. Is he to make an honest effort to emulate the example of the master builders of the breed, or is he to drift aimlessly upon the tide of some passing fashion, content to be a mere peddler of pedigrees?

                “Of the buying and selling of cattle as mere merchandise there is no end, but those who have left permanent impress upon the character of the breed were animated by something more than purely commercial spirit. Men who are in the business today and out of it tomorrow; men who do not maintain close contact with and who have no real affection for their cattle; men who are patrons of the breed only so long as the pathway is strewn with flowers, are not the men who have been breed-makers, breed-builders and breed-savers.

                “We have at the present day altogether too many imitators among breeders of cattle. It seems to be the proper thing to pursue the principle that is followed in a millinery shop, and everybody tries to follow in the same line. They do not all succeed, but because this color or that or this form or the other is fashionable nothing else will do on any account. Now it is a very easy thing to follow fashion pedigree, but a confessedly difficult thing to do what all the great cattle-breeders of the past have done, and produce not merely a pedigree but animals having special characteristics and the power to give these to their descendants.

                “The sculptor lures from the solid marble images of grace, beauty or strength that provoke the plaudits of the world. His contact with his work is direct. In calling from stone the creatures of his own conception the figures may be shaped at will…Compared with him who has the power to conceive an ideal animal form and call it into life through a profound knowledge of nature’s intricate and hidden laws, the sculptor is a mere mechanic. There is no higher form of art than that which deals with the intelligent manipulation of animal life; the modeling of living, breathing creatures in accordance with the will and purpose of a guiding mind…It sounds the depths of the profoundest mysteries of physical existence, verging on the borders of the Infinite itself. The world of human endeavor presents no nobler field of action, no realm of thought demanding a higher order of ability…If we could but impress this thought indelibly upon the minds of those who engage in this most fascinating pursuit there would be more noble creations and fewer wrecks along the paths of the stock breeding of the future than in the past. Failure to grasp the fundamental idea that the breeder’s calling entails duties and responsibilities which no man can conscientiously ignore lies at the bottom of failures innumerable.”

Here’s two of the many excellent cows from the herd of the great dual-purpose Shorthorn breeder L.D. May in the late 19th and early 20th century.