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.