Thorson’s Milking Shorthorns

Our grandmother Gina Borreson had a first cousin who continues to interest me – and elude me at the same time. In Homestead, Clara described Theodore J. Thorson as “a very successful businessman” who raised cattle “of the breed known as Shorthorns.” Apparently he had built up a fine herd by the time of his death in October 1924 at the age of 44. Some day I need to get to Whitehall to review the old news papers for more.

In the meantime, I came across (in the Google Newspaper Archive) a January 6, 1921 issue of The Blair Press with this sale notice on page 4:

Shorthorn Sale - Blair Press 6Jan1921 p4The description of these animals make it obvious that Theodore was serious about the quality of his Milking Shorthorn herd. He apparently had managed to purchase breeding stock with a superb reputation. The purchase price of $5,500 for one animal would have been huge in the early twenties.

I find it interesting, too, that he was seriously into Shorthorns of the milking variety. The Shorthorn breed was, for a long time, a dual purpose animal, meaning it could be raised for both milk production and beef. Raising such animals in 1920 would be defying the growing consensus of dairy leaders that animals had to be raised for dairy OR beef but NOT both. William D. Hoard (of Hoard’s Dairyman magazine) even blatantly called dual purpose cows “no purpose animals!” I wonder what Theodore would have thought of Hoard’s opinion.

As an addendum, I recently learned that Norwegians were partial to the colored dairy breeds – Guernseys, Jerseys, Ayrshires – because of their experience in the old country. That group likely included Shorthorns too. Only later did they get on “the Holstein bandwagon” that led to 90% of dairy cows in Wisconsin being these large black-and-whites.

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