…And We’re Back!

Orion Herefords is back in business!  HUGE thanks to Greg Schulz of Schulz Farm in Amarillo, TX www.mini-hereford.com for managing my herd for me for the past few years.  My plate was overfull with buying property, building a house with my brother, moving, getting engaged and marrying the man of my dreams!!!  Now, I find myself in Hereford, Texas (how’s that for ironic?!) and after paring down my herd numbers drastically at the Austin Miniature Hereford Auction in March, I now have 5 cows and 4 calves: the best of the best.  I’m proud of this little bitty herd, and will be growing it in years to come.

My focus has completely changed, however.  Previously, I was mainly interested in breeding quality, old-style, Horned Classic cows.  Now that I have 3 stepdaughters…we’re breeding for the best, smallest, polled cattle anywhere.  So, I need a few years to get to the point where I can say we HAVE them…but you wait and see.

Lookout world!  Here we come!!

 

SALE! And stuff…

Many thanks to Greg Schulz, of Schulz Farm for selling two pair of cattle for me!  Probably a couple of my best, but he sold them well and I am very grateful.

Now I can finish building that fence around the front of my property.  Yep.  It’s getting deep out front – grass-wise.  Surprised?  We DO have a little grass in West Texas.  And when it’s not grazed or mowed down, it presents a significant fire threat.  If you’ve never seen a grass fire on a hot windy day, count your blessings.

On another note: my heart and prayers go out to the families affected by the recent earthquake and resulting tsunami wave.  I can’t imagine what all that must be like to deal with, and I hope I never know.  Absolutely horrific, terrible, excruciating…are there words to describe the emotions?  Probably not.

I don’t have any desire to lose my home in water OR fire, so we’re going to start grazing down the front half of the property.  Hence the fence.  Which is almost done.  Fortunately.

 

Hello world!

Okay, okay, I KNOW the little cows on this page aren’t Miniature Herefords.  But, the theme was so cute I couldn’t resist.  And my Orion Herefords site SO needed a facelift.  Is this an improvement?  Well, it’s cute.  Probably not as professional as I ought to be, but who says I can’t have fun for a few days?

~ Regena

First Calf of 2011

So, 7-397 is still doing her job.  She’s getting up there in years.  Seriously, she’s…14 years old.  Why do I keep her?  Well, she’s one unique cow.  She’s calved well in poor conditions which is why I made a point of acquiring her.

Looking at her, I always think of the same word: dumpy.  For kicks I decided to look that word up in the dictionary and here’s a set of “related” words: chunkylow-setsquatsquattystumpy.  Yeah.  That totally fits her.  Of all my cows, she’s the squattiest, stumpiest, dumpiest.  I mean that as a compliment.  She’s not the smallest cow of the bunch, but what she’s got is thick, chunky, deep and low to the ground.  Perfection?  No, but she’s got a lot of good stuff to my eye.  Of course, this photo doesn’t show her to her best, but for now it’s the best I’ve got.

Anyway, I just got a call from Greg Schulz telling me she had a bull today.  Well, it’s not a heifer but it’s alive so I’m totally not complaining!  Many thanks to Greg for taking such good care of my herd!!

Why Register?

Why should I register my calves? It’s an awful lot of paperwork!

Often I am asked for my opinion on registrations. Granted, not many of us actually like paperwork. For most Miniature Hereford breeders out there, the thought of tattoos, fancy names, filling in gigantic paper forms (or worse yet, using the online registry) is just a bit much. Is it really worth it??

The answer is a resounding YES!

Here is why.

Miniature Herefords as a group face two unique threats to their credibility. Both scenarios would require an unscrupulous or simply uninformed breeder.

The first, and most dangerous, is dwarfism. There are, even still, modern Hereford breeders who believe that Miniatures are nothing more than a whole breeding program descended from the dwarves of the 50’s. I was on the phone with a very well respected Hereford leader only recently, and he started talking about “… some guy down Texas way marketing them [dwarves] as Miniatures…” Now, whether or not I know precisely the breeder to which he was referring, I do not know, because I chose not to ask. I was annoyed enough at his assumptions and lack of facts. My response? “Real Miniature Herefords descend from bloodlines certified dwarf-FREE by the American Hereford Association.” Now, if we didn’t register our calves every year, how could we claim to have Miniatures and not dwarves?

The second reason to maintain good records and register animals is for proof of size. It would be all too easy (if one had no conscience) to starve a calf, thereby stunting its growth permanently. Sell the now “miniature” cow to someone who breeds it hoping for a miniature calf. When calving time comes around, you have a stunted cow who demonstrates small frame size, but whose genetic recipe indicates larger structure. The unborn calf, whose genetic material is half that of his mother’s but unaware momma didn’t fulfill her blueprint is going to have a very difficult time squeezing into this world. The result would likely end in a disappointed newbie to the Miniature Hereford world, one who might consider leaving before they ever really got started. With registered pedigrees, a breeder can show in simple format the linage of any animal. Include mature frame scores or heights on that pedigree, and it will be quite obvious if the animal in question is a miniature descending from long lines of miniatures, or an anomaly born to large parents.

And finally, the most obvious reason to register your calves: $$. A calf with a pedigree comes with a history and heritage. Knowledgeable buyers will pay for that linage, because it reduces risk to them. Their investment is far more secure in a pedigreed animal than it is in a commercial mutt. Why? Because the pedigree is a generalized map of genetics within the animal. An outstanding cow with a superbly bred pedigree is truly a treasure. She will produce uniformly and consistently with the quality that was bred into her. A cow with no pedigree has no history, no guarantee for uniform productivity, and an extremely limited future.

For those like me, who are on the fanatical side of bloodlines and parentage, there is also the option of DNA. While DNA is mostly used in cases of unresolved parentage, it can also be used to verify your breeding data and prove your credibility as a breeder. In “The Battle of Bull Runts” by L.P. McCann, published in 1974, the author states that an estimated 5% error exists in the pedigrees of all registered livestock. By that reckoning, one animal listed on three out of four registration certificates is incorrect (including the 3-generation pedigree). I hope that is not true today. Without the scientific advances available today, there was probably little anyone could do about the 5% error back then – besides try ever harder to keep accurate records. Today we have an objective way to prove the pedigrees in our herds, as well as our word as a breeder.

Registrations must be maintained each year as the calves come. It is virtually impossible to trace breeding and calving records from a 6 year old bull through his 2 year old daughter to the weanling calf you wish to sell next month. If your records aren’t adequate to register calves as they come, they certainly aren’t going to make any sense 5 years from now.  Another incentive is cost: it is much less expensive to register calves from birth to 4 months ($12, or $10 online) than it is to register a 2 year old ($50). For those of you with computer savvy, the online registry is an excellent tool (though the design is extremely “gangly” to my way of thinking). If you do not get along with plastic boxes and whizzing hard drives, use a pen and paper. Either way, GET IT DONE! The headaches you incur will be more than compensated by the animal’s increase in value as well as added credibility to you as a breeder, and to your cattle.

Why Buy Registered?

What’s the big deal about registrations; they’re just cows, aren’t they?

Yes, ultimately they are just cows. But some are COWS and some are just cows.

If you simply want a pet, and never intend to breed it: get yourself a cute steer. They should be less expensive than breeding stock and you can have years of fun with them. However, if you want to try the whole calf thing, you will need to put a little more thought into your initial purchase.

First, find yourself a reputable breeder. How will you know if he is reputable? Talk with him. Listen to him. Ask other breeders the same questions and see if you get the same answers. Use some common sense. If you’re going to breed cattle for the first time, you’re going to want to work with someone who can help you through the first few hurdles. Remember the adage: “Empty barrels make the most noise.” So just because a breeder talks a lot doesn’t necessarily mean they know a lot.

Second, go look at some cattle. Look at as many pictures as you can. See the cattle in person if possible. Do they look healthy? Study conformation and structure, and don’t hesitate to ask questions. If the breeder doesn’t answer your questions, or doesn’t know the answers to your questions, you probably don’t want to buy from him.

Third, it is extremely important to ask about breeding and registrations. This is the point I will harp on, so be prepared.

The word “breed” is defined as “A group of organisms having common ancestors and sharing certain traits that are not shared with other members of the same species. Breeds are usually produced by mating selected parents” (The American Heritage Science Dictionary); and, “A group of animals or plants presumably related by descent from common ancestors and visibly similar in most characteristics” (Merriam-Webster’s Medical Dictionary). This is to say, a breed must be unique compared to the rest of its species, but similar within itself. It is also commonly accepted that a breed must “breed true.” In other words, the offspring must demonstrate the same traits as the parents. This is, unfortunately, a somewhat subjective definition and allows for much argument. What is breeding “true”? What traits are to be considered? If you breed a cow to a cow and get a cow, isn’t that true? Some would probably say yes. Others would require predictable hair color. To me, breeding true includes conformation, structure, productivity, longevity and hardiness long before I’d list hair color. Herefords originate from a cow called Silver (you don’t think she was red with a white face, do you?) and a cow named Mottle (spots, maybe?). Requiring the Red/Whiteface coloring is a concept that became popular around 1800*, roughly 100 years after Hereford cattle came to be.

The definition of “purebred” includes a heritage aspect: “Of or belonging to a recognized strain established by breeding individuals of unmixed linage over many generations” (American Heritage Dictionary); and, “Bred from members of a recognized breed, strain, or kind without outbreeding over many generations” (Merriam-Webster’s Medical Dictionary). So, to be purebred, an animal must have “many generations” of pedigree, presumably all of which bred true. The many generations of pedigrees are recorded in a studbook, usually by an association. But how many is many? Who decides when a breed becomes purebred? In horses, the Arabian is considered to be the only true pure breed. Thoroughbred horses originate from nearly the same timeframe as Hereford cattle, but they are not generally considered purebred.

Registered purebred cattle will always be more valuable than commercial stock, and their offspring will return more on your investment. This is because they will predictably produce offspring of their own quality, and show similar traits. But just because an animal is registered doesn’t mean that it qualifies as purebred. Attempting to tap into the financial gain of the registered purebred industry, many “breeds” have been developed, associations created and registration numbers issued. This is especially prominent in miniature cattle. The result? “Registered” cattle that have none of the heritage required to be purebred; and probably not even the qualities required to be considered a true breed.

So, when you go searching for the perfect miniatures to start your own operation, give some serious thought to:

-Who they’re bred by
-How they were bred (pedigrees)
-What association they’re registered with, especially the history and credibility within that association

Of course, you’ll also want to consider the obvious aspects like conformation, size and temperament.

And for Pete’s Sake, if you just want a steer….realize it’s only a steer! Don’t pay a million bucks for it. A steer is the end of the line, folks; the only real value besides sentiment is what he’ll taste like. I received an email from some folks hoping I’d be interested in a scrappy-looking Panda/Kentshire steer they’d paid $2600 for. Panda cattle being some secretive Belted Galloway/Miniature Hereford cross and Kentshire being a Miniature Hereford/Irish Dexter cross, the thing is a bona fide registered mutt. Poor folks. That is all to say: DO YOUR HOMEWORK before you invest!

* Tom Underwood of VA shared some scans of an 1843 book entitled “Cattle: their Breeds, Management and Diseases” which contained some fascinating information about early Hereford history. It describes Herefords as “. . . usually of a darker red; some of them are brown, and yellow, and a few are brindled; but they are principally distinguished by their white faces, throats and bellies. In a few the white extends to the shoulders. The old Herefords were brown or red-brown, with not a spot of white about them. It is only within the last fifty or sixty years that it has been the fashion to breed for white faces.”

Conformation: Nose to Tail

Conformation: Nose to Tail
Conformation is a unique word referencing the form, or shape, of an animal; in this instance, a bovine.  It is a delicate balance of traits, each of which is believed to further a specific goal in the art of raising cattle, but which is completely subjective within the mind of each breeder.  No two breeders will agree on every single trait discussed; however, there are many traits that are generally agreed as beneficial by a majority of breeders and to these we will dedicate paper and ink.

Nose:

Baby calves of the Hereford breed enter this world with darling bubble-gum pink noses.  Bright pink for the first day or two after birth, the nose will eventually settle to a lighter shade as the calf grows.  Sometimes, calves will develop freckles on their nose a week or two after birth, but this is not a defect in any way.

The nose is an excellent indicator of overall health, accompanied by the ears which will be discussed shortly.  Small dew-like droplets on the animal’s nose indicates health and happiness.  When in good health, the animal will frequently clean its own nose by licking it; so you should rarely see dust, dirt or mucous of any kind.  A dry nose is not necessarily an indicator of poor health, as the animal may have just brushed or cleaned its nose moments before you chose to scrutinize its foremost appendage.  But a dry, crisp-looking and peeling nose indicates the animal has or had a fever, and mucous discharge indicates infection. Often, the nose will become darker, as if sunburned, when it is too dry and has been for some time.

Preferably on a good angle from the rest of the forehead, the nose should be of sufficient size to graze with ease and comfort.  A small, pin-nose is undesirable in any bovine, as it will inhibit feed intake per bite, and therefore, weight gain or ease of keeping.  Also undesirable is the “pug” nose, which is just as it sounds.  The pug nose is certainly not of utmost importance to avoid; but a well-shaped nose will greatly assist any bovine with the activity in which it spends the majority of each day: eating.
Teeth:

The teeth are an important point to consider when purchasing or maintaining older cattle.  An animal with no teeth will require special feed and far more care than one who has the use of its entire set of champers.  Cattle have only lower incisor teeth, accompanied by a flat, hard upper palate.  They do, however, have both upper and lower molars, which can be very sharp, so if you must be in the immediate vicinity, do be careful.

Tongue:

A bovine tongue is very long, and very raspy.  With it, a cow can groom herself with amazing dexterity.  She will also chew her cud for several hours each day, an indicator of health and contentment.  A cow that is riled or upset in any way will not chew her cud, so when you’re working with your cattle, be sure at least some of them are chewing placidly; otherwise, you are upsetting them too much.

Head:

The head should be mostly white, well-shaped and proportionate to the rest of the animal’s body.  A too large head is more common than too small, though both are undesirable.  Many “old-style” Herefords have long, plain faces, while their Miniature counterparts have a broad, sometimes dished face.  As long as the head is proportionate, either shape is acceptable.  A pretty head is an indicator of good breeding and high quality genetics.  A head that is blocky, disproportionately sized or downright ugly indicates lack of quality.

Cows should have a nicely broad, but not masculine head.  Very few cows have curly hair on their face; the tendency is toward longer, straight hair and a more feminine appearance.  A cow with an overly broad head and short, curly hair will have an undesirable masculinity. There should be no excess hide hanging down from the jaw line, it would detract from the quality features of the head.  As the cow ages, her head will appear larger in comparison to her body; this is common.

A good quality bull will have a more triangularly shaped head than cows.  Bulls have much broader, shorter faces, and the hair should be short and curly.  Long, straight hair on a bull indicates femininity, and possibly a lack of fertility.  A poorly shaped or proportioned head on a bull can also be an indicator of poor reproductive quality.
Eyes:

Eyes should be large and a soft brown in color.  The skin just surrounding the eyes should be pigmented brown, as is the bulk of the Hereford hide, but this is not absolutely necessary.  Many Herefords have pink skin around their eyes, and it is generally agreed they tend to be more prone to Pink Eye or cancer eye.  These are common maladies in Herefords, more common than they should be as they are both genetically controlled and can be prevented by a proper breeding plan.  It is possible for cattle with dark skin around their eyes to contract Pink Eye or cancer eye, but is generally agreed to be less common.  The theory being that pink skin is more prone to sunburn, which aids in the contraction of eye diseases.  Eye pigmentation is a minor trait to watch for, but should be taken into consideration when buying, breeding, culling, selling and generally working with your animals.

A healthy cow will take an interest in her surroundings, watching closely as you approach and move about her.  Cows watch you move past in an endearing, somewhat jerky fashion.  If you drive past your cow, she will watch you for a minute, then move her head slightly and watch you for a minute longer; unlike dogs or horses who are able to watch your progress in a smooth motion.

Ears:

The ears are your best gauge of an animal’s health.  Perked ears indicate health and well-being.  Especially when accompanied by alert eyes and a smooth, clean coat. An animal that is feeling a little under the weather will allow her ears to flop slightly as she walks.  Ears that hang decidedly down indicate very poor health and will probably be accompanied by a dry and crispy nose, as well as a listless look in the eyes.  Once your animal looks that poorly, you’d better call your vet.  Of course, if we were discussing Brahman or Brahman cross cattle, the ear gauge would be of little value as their ears hang even when they’re in peak condition!  But with Herefords, the ears can tell you a lot if you know how to read them.

Red ears are preferable to white, but this is not a major conformation point in any way.  Red skin is less prone to sunburn.

Horns:

If you choose to breed Horned Herefords, it would behoove you to be sure to shape the horns properly, and tip them if necessary.  Many people do not like horns at all, and many of them have very understandable reasons.  Horns can be dangerous, but then so can polled, or hornless, cattle.  If the horns are curved nicely downward, few people will object to their presence.  If, however, they are angled skyward like a pitchfork on your cow’s head, you can probably count on having difficulty interesting a potential buyer in her, regardless of her near-perfect conformation and sweet temperament.  One excellent reason for breeding cattle with horns is that it gives them the ability to protect their offspring more adequately in rangeland areas.

If you live in a wonderfully, thickly grassed area, horns would likely not be of much use to your cow.  Predators are much fewer, and human population far more dense.  You might opt to breed polled cattle.  It has been said that polled cattle tend to be more aggressive, simply making up for their lack of horns.  Herefords, though, are naturally sweet, and with a little TLC and proper handling you should be able to make a pet out of a polled Hereford.  But don’t expect that hornless cattle will never harm you.  That poll of theirs can be pretty hard if they’re of a bad temperament.

Neck:

The neck should be nicely proportioned with the rest of the body.  Long, horsey necks do not indicate femininity in cows, and are not at all desirable in bulls.  The topline of the neck should flow smoothly into the shoulder, without any great lumps or hollows.  A bull in maturity will develop greater muscling in his neck than will any cow, this is from generations of fighting to protect his girls and to establish his superiority among other bulls.  His neck will develop a smooth arc from behind his poll to the top of his shoulder, and this is desirable as it shows his masculinity.  However, the muscling should not be disproportionate to his overall build, and should not appear bulky.  The underline of the neck should descend gracefully to the chest, and depending on the body condition (fatness or skinniness) of the animal, should be loose, soft skin, called brisket.  If the animal is fattened for showing or slaughtering, the brisket should be slightly filled with fat.  In the old days, breeders fattened their showstock to the point that the brisket was no longer soft and loose, but rather completely filled with fat stores.  This is no longer desirable today.
Chest:

The chest should be broad.  Space between the front legs will indicate more area in the heart girth – thus healthier, larger organs in the chest cavity which will result in a healthier, more easy keeping animal.

Shoulder:

Shoulders on cows should be smoothly muscled, and deep as possible to allow for proper functioning of the organs in the chest cavity, without losing proportion with the hip.  Bulls should be the same, though they should exhibit deeper, thicker muscling than a cow.

Front Legs:
These should build right into the base corners of the cow, to support her weight.  It is not desirable to have front legs attaching to the side, high up where the shoulder should be, as the weight would pressure the tendons and ligaments instead of resting solidly on the bone structure.  Cows placed solidly on top of their legs will live longer and travel with more ease through rougher pastures.

The leg itself should be thick and short.  The hooves should be large.  Small bones and hooves will not support weight as well as thick, large ones will.  For “old-style” cattle, the leg should be roughly 1/3 of the total shoulder height of the animal, the remaining 2/3 comprised of heart girth area.  The reason being that meat is found in the heart girth, whereas legs are simply soup bones and not overly desirable for consumption.

(For “modern” cattle, the ratio is more 1/2 leg and 1/2 heart girth.  To each his own, but I personally don’t like that much soup bone.  Also, I prefer a beef cow to not have so much ability to run; I’d just as soon not have to chase her at high speeds.  If their legs are long and slim, and their heart girth is shallow, the cow will be more inclined to travel at higher speeds and burn off her extra energy that could have been transformed into muscle and beef.  Short, deep cows prefer to move slowly and my personal opinion is that they are more likely to have a better, easier going temperament.  The only purpose I can fathom for long legs, is that they work like stilts over the muck in a feedlot.)

Heart Girth:

An extremely important conformational point, and all too frequently completely overlooked.  The heart girth contains and protects the primary internal organs.  Needless to say, the larger those organs are, the better they can do their job, and the healthier your animal will be.  Look for a deep heart girth!  A shallow girth will suppress those organs and limit their function.  Don’t let yourself be confused by a shallow heart girth that creates the illusion of a good-looking hip.  A real hip can line up with a deep heart girth and still look great.

Spine/Topline:

The spine should be straight and balanced.  The topline should in no circumstances sag, dip or curve downward between the shoulder and hip.  This is a fault and a weakness.

The spine should be as long as possible, as this allows more space for those wonderful Porterhouse and T-bone steaks.  But never allow a weak spine into your herd.

Stomach/Middle:
You have probably heard that a cow has four stomachs.  That is a simplified explanation, but true for the most part.  Observing from the outside, the Rumen (the first and largest of the four digestive compartments) will bulge gently from the upper left side of a cow.  The bulge should not be overly noticeable or large, as that indicates poor digestive abilities or possibly bloat.

Cows will sometimes develop a gentle bulge on the lower right side of their middle.  This is a good thing: it means she’s going to calve in the next few months!

Udder:

The udder is a very important piece of equipment for any cow hoping to make it big in your breeding program.  It should be of sufficient size to produce ample milk to support a healthy calf.  A young cow should have teats that somewhat resemble your fingers.  No longer, no larger around.  Aged cows may have slightly larger teats, and longer, from years of work.  The udder itself should hang nicely and evenly, but should never hang below the hock, now matter how old the cow is, because that would place it in harm’s way.  No extra milk is necessary or desired, as Herefords are not milk cows.  Too much milk will stress the Hereford udder and ruin the teats, but for that to happen, poor genetics must be in place.  Ruined teats usually resemble a bannana, and are too large for a small calf to work with.  If you have a cow with large teats, be sure to keep an eye on her newborn calf for a few days until you know the baby’s getting her fair share of meals.

Scrotum:

Bulls should, at maturity, be well developed for reproductive purposes.  Never use a bull that is missing one of his nuts, as he will have diminished masculinity and will pass that on to his offspring.  Preferably, the scrotum should be pigmented and not white, as they manage to sunburn themselves somehow.

Flank:

The flank is the area immediately before the hip, and doesn’t seem to be a big consideration for most breeders today.  However, it is of importance and should not be forgotten.  The flank should be deep and full.  High flanked, waspy-looking cows will be the flighty ones with poor attitudes.  Cows with deep, soft flanks are not the ones who run around like idiots all day.  The flank maintains continuity from the heart girth to the hip, and should do so well.

Hip:

Along with the heart girth, the hip is of primary importance in conformation.  Too frequently, the hip is all breeders consider – and some are fooled into thinking a cow has a huge hip when in reality she merely has a shallow heart girth.  The hip bones should be level with the spine, not angled down.  However, there are not many cows left that can boast the table-like back of their ancestors. The hip should be set widely, and should be well covered in flesh.  The thicker, the better, as the hip contains the more desirable cuts of meat.

Back legs:

The back legs on any animal are the main driving power that keeps them moving from grass clump to grass clump.  To do this properly, they must be well situated under the hip.  They must also have a nice angle in the hock.  Hind legs too straight limit motion and therefore soundness – however, “posty” legs are popular in the show ring.  This is probably the main difference between breeding cattle and show cattle.

Tailhead:

The tailhead is a small area, but has great importance.  The tail should connect squarely on the rear, after the backbone drops down.  It should never look like it’s crawling up the backbone.  Never, ever use a bull with a high tailhead, as his heifers will have the same problem and will have difficulty maintaining cleanliness.  Cows with high tailheads have a higher incidence of reproductive infections.

An interesting note, a cow who is not cycling properly will develop a unique tailhead set.  The tail’s attachment appears to grow up the backbone somewhat.  If you are considering purchasing a cow, look at her tail.

Hair Steaks?!

Face the Facts. Color you can count on. Both these slogans are being used by Hereford associations.  Namely, the American Hereford Association, and the American Black Hereford Association.  Didn’t know there was such a thing as a Black Hereford?  Now you do.  The idea is Hereford heterosis without Hereford “discounts” (meaning a red baldie).  It seems to be catching on rather well, really.  The point of both these advertising lines is to focus on color.  White, Red, Black, you name it.  What’s the big idea about hair color anyway?  I don’t know of anyone who eats hair.  Unless I’m eating my own beef, which is quite a privilege in this day and age, I don’t know what color the hair was when my steak was walking around.  I’m sure I don’t think about it during dinner.

Today, the White Face automatically says “Hereford.”  If you were to tell a Hereford breeder that some animal you owned was purebred Hereford, and it did not sport a snowy white face, you’d be considered a city slicker who didn’t know anything.  You certainly would not be allowed to register the animal.  But that wasn’t always the case.  Herefords descend from a Cow called Silver (you don’t think she was red, do you?) and two cows known as Pigeon and Mottle (spots, maybe?).  Here is an excerpt from the Hereford in America by Donald Ornduff, quoting an “eminent agricultural historian” by the name of W. H. Bustin: “Regret was at one time expressed that the Tomkinses did not exclusively adopt the red with white face colorings for their cattle, but considering that the cattle with which the elder Tomkins began were a grey, a dark red with white spots on its face and a red with a white face, he and his son had to subordinate color marks to the more essential qualities when developing a fresh type of animal from various sources.  When selecting and blending the best materials from a limited number of animals, it would have been impossible, even if desired at that time, to make the places of the color spots on the body and all-important consideration.  If they had bred exclusively from red with white face, mottle face or grey, they must have sacrificed some of their best animals and thus defeated their object.  They knew the business too well to do that, and by continually crossing their differently marked cattle to develop and fix certain characteristics they kept these color marks on the body, liquid or movable.”  This tells me that the Hereford was not originally known as the White Face, rather, the white face markings became an easily identifiable symbol of the desirable (and I believe superior) traits the Hereford cattle possessed.  The Tomkinses valued conformation over color, and so impacted the beef cattle industry for over 200 years.  Another excerpt of interest is from the 1843 book entitled “Cattle: their Breeds, Management and Diseases” which contained some fascinating information about early Hereford history.  It describes Herefords as “. . . usually of a darker red; some of them are brown, and yellow, and a few are brindled; but they are principally distinguished by their white faces, throats and bellies.  In a few the white extends to the shoulders.  The old Herefords were brown or red-brown, with not a spot of white about them.  It is only within the last fifty or sixty years that it has been the fashion to breed for white faces.”

Why, may I ask, is the White Face of the Hereford desirable today, but the remaining red hide is not?  Obviously, the White Face is taken to indicate the presence of “good” Hereford traits, but any animal with a red hide must have an extra dose of Hereford in it, and therefore inherited the “good” traits and the “bad.”  Does this make any sense at all?  There are so many people who cannot see conformation, who simply look at the color of an animal and decide whether it is good or not.  They have been told that a black animal with a white face is the best, and they believe it without question.  This is a common fallacy, and has been for centuries.  Let me present another quote from The Hereford in America: “It is unfortunate that at the time the Tomkinses were systematically transforming the Herefords from the rough, bony draught and dairy cattle into a superior beef-producing breed, that no written records were kept.  In the absence of these, the old writers took color markings as indicating what they chose to call breed.  They spoke of the white-face breed, the mottle breed, the grey breed; and they took it for granted that breed and color necessarily went together and could not be separated.  The universal acceptance of this great error led to endless disputes.”  And so the disputes continue today.  Color does NOT equal quality.

Back in the early days of the Hereford expansion into Texas, there was a horrible tick-borne disease known as Texas Fever.  Cattlemen from Texas would travel north, select 20 herd sire prospects in the hopes they would make it to their Texas spread with 5 still alive.  I’m not kidding, they lost huge numbers of cattle and yet they kept persevering.  Why?  Because they wanted white hair on their calves faces?  So the calves would be easier to find in the Texas brush?  I don’t think so!  What they wanted was the superior beef-ability on poor quality West Texas feed.  The Hereford had that trait, while the Angus and Shorthorns of the time did not.  Was it related to their hair color?  Nope.

The white face is simply an easily identifiable marker.  It is a stamp that says “Hereford” and, ordinarily, indicates the presence of Hereford traits that are more desirable and far more important than hair pigment.  These traits include a higher aptitude for survival in rugged environments as well as a greater ability to produce beef.  The Texans of 100 years ago needed more beef on their animals, and that is why they brought the Hereford bull to their vast ranches.  It was not simply for the white face.  They wanted what that white face represented.

Let me present my theory another way:  the White Face is similar to our dollar bill.  We all want a dollar bill, because it’s worth a dollar.  At one time, that dollar meant there was a dollar’s worth of gold sitting in your bank. Something of real value, not just a slip of paper. That is no longer the case, and now, my dollar is only worth what everyone agrees it’s worth.  So it is with Hereford cattle. The White Face they’re stamped with used to be backed by a load of beef, awesome hardiness, longevity and superior survival skills.  The modern Hereford today is no more than a red and white haired animal, with traits and abilities of no superiority to any other beef breed out there today.  Folks call themselves cattlemen, when really they’re just hair stylists.  They look for hair color, and automatically assume that the stuff inside is all there, or perhaps they decide true conformation is not worth bothering their heads about.  Either way, they apparently can’t see bone structure and beef producing ability.

My point?  Look inside the cow, not just at her hair!  When it all comes down to it, black hair will protect a cow from the elements just as well as red or brown hair will.  It’s the insides that count.  I breed the Whiteface, but I breed the Whiteface “type” of 50 years ago; because to me, the Classic Hereford still maintains some remnant of the Tomkinses’ genius.

Perplexing Polls

There seems to be considerable confusion as to the inheritance of horns or the lack thereof in Hereford cattle.  This is, in my opinion, due mostly to the champions of Polled Herefords who list their evidence based on the history of the Polled Hereford in America – or a version of history taken slightly out of context and made to sound somewhat feasible to the uninformed.  Their version of history goes something like this:
In winter of 1901 Warren Gammon, credited as being the father of American Polled Herefords, sent out inquiries to each of the some 2,500 members of the American Hereford Cattle Breeders Association (now simply the American Hereford Association) asking if they’d ever had a purebred Hereford calf that had failed to develop horns.  Through the replies received, Gammon located 10 hornless cows and 4 bulls.  Shortly after, Gammon located another 2 bulls, and the resulting 16 head were the foundation for Polled Herefords today.
This sounds logical at first glance.  Let me direct your attention to a few more facts, which in my opinion, shakes things up a little:
1- In “The Hereford in America” by Donald Ornduff (which, by the way, is my source for all the above information – very good reading, I recommend it highly) there is a table listing registrations and transfers for the years 1907-1956.  Unfortunately, the book does not list the registrations received in the year 1901, but for the sake of my argument 1907 is close enough.  In the year 1907: 29,089 animals were recorded (registered) in the AHA herd book while 21,350 were transferred.  29,000 animals registered in 1907!  That’s a lot.
2- In “The Battle of Bull Runts” by L.P. McCann, we learn that there is an estimated 5% degree of error in Hereford registrations.  Assume for a moment that figure is remotely accurate, and assume it was the same in 1901 as it was in the 1950′s.  Logical assumptions, right?
5% of 29,000 is 1450 head of cattle registered incorrectly in the year 1907.  So, subtract a few hundred because there were probably less Herefords in 1901.  You still have a heck of a lot more incorrectly registered animals that the measly 16 Warren Gammon started with!!
My conclusions are obvious, I’ll let you draw your own from the information I’ve put together.  Read the two books I quote.  I didn’t make that information up, and the authors of those two books were well respected within AHA for years – they knew their stuff.
All this is not to put down Polled Herefords in any way.  They are excellent animals, and a very logical choice for highly populated areas or as pets for children.  After over 100 years of breeding them as consistently as horned Herefords, there is no longer any genetic difference worth mentioning other than the lack of horns.
My point is simply this:
A HORNED HEREFORD COW MATED TO A HORNED HEREFORD BULL WILL NEVER PRODUCE A POLLED CALF.
If you get a polled calf out of a horn to horn mating, someone’s bull jumped your fence when you weren’t looking.  For further evidence, please read the scientific article below:
Inheritance of Polledness, Horns and Scurs in Beef Cattle
——————————————————————————–
B. C. Allison
——————————————————————————–
In beef cattle of European ancestry the trait of being polled or having horns is determined by one pair of genes. One gene in the pair is inherited from the dam and the other from the sire. The polled gene (P) is dominant to the horned gene (p). If an animal has two polled genes (PP), homozygous, or one polled and one horned gene (Pp), heterozygous, it will be polled. However, if it is heterozygous polled (Pp) it may pass either the polled or horned gene on to its offspring. The only situation when an animal will be horned is when it possesses two recessive horned genes (pp), homozygous horned. Table 1 illustrates the expression of polledness or horns and what genes and traits can be expected to be passed to the offspring from the various matings.
If an animal of European breeding, not of Zebu ancestry, has horns then you can determine from visual observation that it is homozygous for the recessive horned gene. However, if the animal is smooth polled or scurred it is impossible to determine from visual observation if it is genetically homozygous polled (PP) or heterozygous polled (Pp). The homozygous polled bull with two polled genes will sire only polled calves. Only through the offspring produced can the number of polled genes be determined. The best test of a bull is to mate the polled bull in question to horned cows. A polled bull bred to horned cows that produce one or more horned calves is heterozygous polled (one recessive gene for horns), regardless of how many polled calves are produced. Table 2 gives the probability of a polled bull being homozygous polled if no horned calves are produced from matings with horned cows.
Table 1. Genetic Expression of Polledness or Horns and Expected Inheritance by Offspring
Sire Dam Calves
Homozygous polled (PP) Homozygous polled (PP) 100% Homozygous polled (PP)
Homozygous polled (PP) Heterozygous polled (Pp) 50% Homozygous polled (PP)
50% Heterozygous polled (Pp)
Homozygous polled (PP) Homozygous horned (pp) 100% Heterozygous polled (Pp)
Heterozygous polled (Pp) Homozygous horned (pp) 50% Heterozygous polled (Pp)
50% Homozygous horned (pp)
Heterozygous polled (Pp) Heterozygous polled (Pp) 25% Homozygous polled (PP)
50% Heterozygous polled (Pp)
25% Homozygous horned (pp)
Table 2. Probability of a Polled Bull being Homozygous Polled if no Horned Calves are Produced
No. of Polled Calves from Horned Cows Probability of Bull being Homozygous Polled
2 75.00%
3 87.50%
4 93.75%
5 96.88%
6 98.44%
7 99.22%
8 99.61%
10 99.90%
12 99.98%
14 99.99%
There are additional genes that affect horn-like growth, scurs, on an animal’s head. Scurs are incompletely developed horns which are generally loose and movable beneath the skin, not attached to the skull. They range in size from small scab-like growths to occasionally almost as large as horns. Because the gene for scurs is transmitted separately it has no effect on the presence or absence of horns. Not all horned cattle carry the gene for scurs and not all polled cattle lack scur gene.
The gene for scurs is expressed differently from the gene for polledness/horns. The way the gene for scurs is expressed depends on the sex of the animal. In males the scur gene is dominant, meaning that if only one of the two genes is for scurs the bull will be scurred. Therefore, it is easy to detect the scur gene in the bull and eliminate it from the herd. In females the scur gene is recessive, meaning that she must posses both genes for scurs in order for the cow to be scurred. If the cow possesses only one scur gene she will not have scurs herself but has a 50 percent chance of passing the scur gene on to her calf. The smooth polled cow may have the recessive scur gene, resulting in much more difficulty in identifying/eliminating the scur gene from the herd. Table 3 depicts the scurred inheritance patterns. The presence of the scur gene is indicated by Sc and the absence of the scur gene by Sn. These gene patterns are for polled animals, as the horn growth will cover up any scurred condition if it exists.
Table 3. Scurred Inheritance Patterns
Genetic Makeup of Animal Cows Bulls
ScScPP Scurred Polled Scurred Polled
ScSnPP Smooth Polled Scurred Polled
SnSnPP Smooth Polled Smooth Polled
Another factor that complicates the inheritance of polledness/horns is that in cattle with Zebu ancestry, like Brahman, Santa Gertrudis and others there is an additional gene that affects the inheritance of horns. Inheritance of horns in Zebu-type cattle is different from that observed in the British breeds. The polled gene (P), and the scur gene (Sc) can both be present in American cattle with Zebu ancestry. However, another gene, the African horn gene (Af) also affects inheritance of horns in these animals. The absence of this gene is expressed by the symbol (An).
Geneticists are reasonably certain that the way the Af gene is expressed is dependent on the sex of the animal, much like the way scurs are expressed. In males the Af gene is dominant to the polled gene, An. This means that a single Af gene will result in a bull being horned, even if he is heterozygous or homozygous polled. In females the Af gene is recessive to the polled gene An. In heterozygous polled females two of the Af genes must be present for the animal to have horns.
In animals possessing the Af gene in addition to the polled gene (homozygous or heterozygous) the inheritance patters shown in Table 4 can be expected.
Like scurs, the presence of the African horn gene is easy to detect in males since the presence of only one Af gene results in the male having horns. Therefore, progeny testing for the Af gene in males is unnecessary. If the bull is polled he does not possess the Af gene. If he is horned when his genetic ancestry shows that he should be polled, the reason may be that he possesses an Af gene. Cattle producers should also keep in mind that a proven homozygous bull will produce some horned calves if he is bred to horned or polled cows that carry the African horn gene.
Table 4. African Horn Gene Inheritance Patterns
Genetic Makeup of Animal Cows Bulls
AfAfPP Horned Horned
AfAnPP Polled Horned
AnAnPP Polled Polled
As you can see there are ultimately three pair of genes that may determine if cattle have horn-like tissue on their head in the form of horns or scurs.
——————————————————————————–
Animal Husbandry Newsletter August 1996
Department of Animal Science, North Carolina State University
——————————————————————————–
Published by North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina
——————————————————————————–
Distributed in furtherance of the Acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914. Employment and program opportunities are offered to all people regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. North Carolina State University, North Carolina A&T State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local governments cooperating.

There seems to be considerable confusion as to the inheritance of horns or the lack thereof in Hereford cattle.  This is, in my opinion, due mostly to the champions of Polled Herefords who list their evidence based on the history of the Polled Hereford in America – or a version of history taken slightly out of context and made to sound somewhat feasible to the uninformed.  Their version of history goes something like this:In winter of 1901 Warren Gammon, credited as being the father of American Polled Herefords, sent out inquiries to each of the some 2,500 members of the American Hereford Cattle Breeders Association (now simply the American Hereford Association) asking if they’d ever had a purebred Hereford calf that had failed to develop horns.  Through the replies received, Gammon located 10 hornless cows and 4 bulls.  Shortly after, Gammon located another 2 bulls, and the resulting 16 head were the foundation for Polled Herefords today.
This sounds logical at first glance.  Let me direct your attention to a few more facts, which in my opinion, shakes things up a little:
1- In “The Hereford in America” by Donald Ornduff (which, by the way, is my source for all the above information – very good reading, I recommend it highly) there is a table listing registrations and transfers for the years 1907-1956.  Unfortunately, the book does not list the registrations received in the year 1901, but for the sake of my argument 1907 is close enough.  In the year 1907: 29,089 animals were recorded (registered) in the AHA herd book while 21,350 were transferred.  29,000 animals registered in 1907!  That’s a lot.
2- In “The Battle of Bull Runts” by L.P. McCann, we learn that there is an estimated 5% degree of error in Hereford registrations.  Assume for a moment that figure is remotely accurate, and assume it was the same in 1901 as it was in the 1950′s.  Logical assumptions, right?
5% of 29,000 is 1450 head of cattle registered incorrectly in the year 1907.  So, subtract a few hundred because there were probably less Herefords in 1901.  You still have a heck of a lot more incorrectly registered animals that the measly 16 Warren Gammon started with!!
My conclusions are obvious, I’ll let you draw your own from the information I’ve put together.  Read the two books I quote.  I didn’t make that information up, and the authors of those two books were well respected within AHA for years – they knew their stuff.
All this is not to put down Polled Herefords in any way.  They are excellent animals, and a very logical choice for highly populated areas or as pets for children.  After over 100 years of breeding them as consistently as horned Herefords, there is no longer any genetic difference worth mentioning other than the lack of horns.
My point is simply this:
A HORNED HEREFORD COW MATED TO A HORNED HEREFORD BULL
WILL NEVER PRODUCE A POLLED CALF.
If you get a polled calf out of a horn to horn mating, someone’s bull jumped your fence when you weren’t looking.  For further evidence, please read the scientific article below:

Inheritance of Polledness, Horns and Scurs in Beef Cattle
——————————————————————————–B. C. Allison
——————————————————————————–In beef cattle of European ancestry the trait of being polled or having horns is determined by one pair of genes. One gene in the pair is inherited from the dam and the other from the sire. The polled gene (P) is dominant to the horned gene (p). If an animal has two polled genes (PP), homozygous, or one polled and one horned gene (Pp), heterozygous, it will be polled. However, if it is heterozygous polled (Pp) it may pass either the polled or horned gene on to its offspring. The only situation when an animal will be horned is when it possesses two recessive horned genes (pp), homozygous horned. Table 1 illustrates the expression of polledness or horns and what genes and traits can be expected to be passed to the offspring from the various matings.
If an animal of European breeding, not of Zebu ancestry, has horns then you can determine from visual observation that it is homozygous for the recessive horned gene. However, if the animal is smooth polled or scurred it is impossible to determine from visual observation if it is genetically homozygous polled (PP) or heterozygous polled (Pp). The homozygous polled bull with two polled genes will sire only polled calves. Only through the offspring produced can the number of polled genes be determined. The best test of a bull is to mate the polled bull in question to horned cows. A polled bull bred to horned cows that produce one or more horned calves is heterozygous polled (one recessive gene for horns), regardless of how many polled calves are produced. Table 2 gives the probability of a polled bull being homozygous polled if no horned calves are produced from matings with horned cows.
Table 1. Genetic Expression of Polledness or Horns and Expected Inheritance by Offspring Sire Dam Calves Homozygous polled (PP) Homozygous polled (PP) 100% Homozygous polled (PP) Homozygous polled (PP) Heterozygous polled (Pp) 50% Homozygous polled (PP)     50% Heterozygous polled (Pp) Homozygous polled (PP) Homozygous horned (pp) 100% Heterozygous polled (Pp) Heterozygous polled (Pp) Homozygous horned (pp) 50% Heterozygous polled (Pp)     50% Homozygous horned (pp) Heterozygous polled (Pp) Heterozygous polled (Pp) 25% Homozygous polled (PP)     50% Heterozygous polled (Pp)     25% Homozygous horned (pp)

Table 2. Probability of a Polled Bull being Homozygous Polled if no Horned Calves are Produced No. of Polled Calves from Horned Cows Probability of Bull being Homozygous Polled 2 75.00% 3 87.50% 4 93.75% 5 96.88% 6 98.44% 7 99.22% 8 99.61% 10 99.90% 12 99.98% 14 99.99%
There are additional genes that affect horn-like growth, scurs, on an animal’s head. Scurs are incompletely developed horns which are generally loose and movable beneath the skin, not attached to the skull. They range in size from small scab-like growths to occasionally almost as large as horns. Because the gene for scurs is transmitted separately it has no effect on the presence or absence of horns. Not all horned cattle carry the gene for scurs and not all polled cattle lack scur gene.
The gene for scurs is expressed differently from the gene for polledness/horns. The way the gene for scurs is expressed depends on the sex of the animal. In males the scur gene is dominant, meaning that if only one of the two genes is for scurs the bull will be scurred. Therefore, it is easy to detect the scur gene in the bull and eliminate it from the herd. In females the scur gene is recessive, meaning that she must posses both genes for scurs in order for the cow to be scurred. If the cow possesses only one scur gene she will not have scurs herself but has a 50 percent chance of passing the scur gene on to her calf. The smooth polled cow may have the recessive scur gene, resulting in much more difficulty in identifying/eliminating the scur gene from the herd. Table 3 depicts the scurred inheritance patterns. The presence of the scur gene is indicated by Sc and the absence of the scur gene by Sn. These gene patterns are for polled animals, as the horn growth will cover up any scurred condition if it exists.

Table 3. Scurred Inheritance Patterns Genetic Makeup of Animal Cows Bulls ScScPP Scurred Polled Scurred Polled ScSnPP Smooth Polled Scurred Polled SnSnPP Smooth Polled Smooth Polled
Another factor that complicates the inheritance of polledness/horns is that in cattle with Zebu ancestry, like Brahman, Santa Gertrudis and others there is an additional gene that affects the inheritance of horns. Inheritance of horns in Zebu-type cattle is different from that observed in the British breeds. The polled gene (P), and the scur gene (Sc) can both be present in American cattle with Zebu ancestry. However, another gene, the African horn gene (Af) also affects inheritance of horns in these animals. The absence of this gene is expressed by the symbol (An).
Geneticists are reasonably certain that the way the Af gene is expressed is dependent on the sex of the animal, much like the way scurs are expressed. In males the Af gene is dominant to the polled gene, An. This means that a single Af gene will result in a bull being horned, even if he is heterozygous or homozygous polled. In females the Af gene is recessive to the polled gene An. In heterozygous polled females two of the Af genes must be present for the animal to have horns.
In animals possessing the Af gene in addition to the polled gene (homozygous or heterozygous) the inheritance patters shown in Table 4 can be expected.
Like scurs, the presence of the African horn gene is easy to detect in males since the presence of only one Af gene results in the male having horns. Therefore, progeny testing for the Af gene in males is unnecessary. If the bull is polled he does not possess the Af gene. If he is horned when his genetic ancestry shows that he should be polled, the reason may be that he possesses an Af gene. Cattle producers should also keep in mind that a proven homozygous bull will produce some horned calves if he is bred to horned or polled cows that carry the African horn gene.

Table 4. African Horn Gene Inheritance Patterns Genetic Makeup of Animal Cows Bulls AfAfPP Horned Horned AfAnPP Polled Horned AnAnPP Polled Polled
As you can see there are ultimately three pair of genes that may determine if cattle have horn-like tissue on their head in the form of horns or scurs.

——————————————————————————–Animal Husbandry Newsletter August 1996Department of Animal Science, North Carolina State University ——————————————————————————–Published by North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina ——————————————————————————–Distributed in furtherance of the Acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914. Employment and program opportunities are offered to all people regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. North Carolina State University, North Carolina A&T State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local governments cooperating.