Six (6) Disadvantages Of Hereford Cattle.

Hereford cattle originated in Herefordshire, England as early as the 18th century. They are one of the oldest British cattle breeds and were first imported to the United States in 1817.

Herefords are known for their docile temperament, easy management, and ability to thrive on grass. They have a medium-sized frame and distinctive red bodies with white faces, undersides, and feathers. This signature red and white-face appearance has led to nicknames like “Whiteface” for the breed.

Hereford cattle played an important role in the history of the U.S. cattle industry. As America moved west and ranching territories expanded, Hereford bulls were crossed on Longhorn cows to add meatiness and a better disposition. This made herds more manageable. Over time, Herefords contributed to improving the quality of American cattle herds.

Today, Hereford cattle are raised in most countries around the world. They remain one of the most widespread and popular beef breeds globally thanks to their hardiness, foraging ability, and high-quality beef. However, there are disadvantages of Hereford cattle you need to be aware of before making decisions; these are:

Hereford Cattle

#1. Low Milk Production

The Hereford breed is beef cattle, not bred specifically for milk production. While they do produce milk to nurse their calves, Hereford cows produce far less milk than dairy cattle breeds such as Holsteins or Jerseys.

On average, Hereford cows produce about 3-4 gallons of milk per day during the peak of lactation after calving. This is only enough to raise a single calf. In contrast, dairy cows are bred to produce much higher volumes, around 10 gallons or more per day.

Herefords simply do not have genetics optimized for milk output. Their milk contains more fat and protein compared to Holsteins, but lower overall volume. As a beef breed, the priority has been selecting for efficient growth, high-quality beef, and hardiness rather than milk yield.

Farmers who want cows primarily for milk should choose a dairy breed rather than Herefords. The lower milk output is one of the disadvantages of the Hereford breed compared to dairy cattle. However, their beef characteristics offset the lower milk for producers focused on beef production.

#2. Slow Maturing

Hereford cattle are known to be slower to mature and reach slaughter weight compared to some other beef breeds like Angus or Charolais. This slower rate of weight gain means Herefords generally take longer, often an extra 60 days, to reach their ideal market weight.

There are a few key reasons behind the Herefords’ slower maturation:

– Herefords tend to deposit fat later in life and remain leaner as young cattle. While this leanness is desirable in the final beef product, it means less weight gain in those early growth phases.

– Herefords have a slightly lower feed intake compared to breeds like Angus. Their metabolism and growth patterns lead them to eat less per pound of body weight.

– The moderate frame size of Herefords compared to larger-framed breeds also contributes to their slower growth rate. Their smaller body size and muscle mass simply don’t allow for extremely rapid weight gains.

The slower gains of Hereford cattle require additional time and feed to reach the finish weight. However, their efficient conversion of feed to lean muscle still makes them a profitable beef breed. Their tasty, well-marbled beef is worth the extra patience required when raising Herefords.

#3. Limited Color Variation

The Hereford breed has very limited color variation compared to other cattle breeds. Herefords exclusively exhibit red bodies (or red-brown) with distinctive white faces, white undersides, and white sock markings on the legs.

The color selection of Herefords is due to selective breeding over many generations to fix the red and white color pattern in the breed. While the limited color range is considered attractive by some cattle ranchers, it restricts options for breeders and farmers looking for cattle in other color varieties and patterns.

Herefords only come in shades of red and white, whereas some other beef cattle breeds like Angus have solid black varieties, Charolais come in white, tan, or cream, and Gelbvieh comes in shades of golden-red with varying amounts of white.

#4. Susceptibility to Pinkeye

One potential disadvantage of Hereford cattle is their susceptibility to pinkeye, also known as infectious bovine keratoconjunctivitis. Herefords tend to be more prone to eye infections compared to some other beef cattle breeds. 

Pinkeye is a highly contagious bacterial infection spread by face flies that affects the eyes of cattle. It causes inflammation, irritation, and ulcers on the surface of the eye, resulting in pain, discharge, and potential vision impairment if left untreated.

Herefords are particularly vulnerable to pinkeye for a few reasons. Their white faces attract more face flies that spread infection. They also have non-pigmented eyelids and lack eye pigmentation, making them more susceptible to irritation and ultraviolet light exposure that can damage the eye surface.

Outbreaks of pinkeye can negatively impact Herefords and lead to reduced weight gain and productivity. Extra precautions need to be taken with this breed such as fly control measures, prompt treatment of infected animals, and genetic selection for pigmentation.

#5. Heat Tolerance

The Hereford breed does not tolerate heat as well as some other cattle breeds. Herefords originate from the temperate regions of England and are better adapted to cooler climates. Their thick coats with red and white markings are ideal for insulating body heat in colder weather but can lead to heat stress in very hot conditions.

Compared to breeds like Brahman cattle that thrive in tropical regions, Herefords tend to become uncomfortable and have lower productivity during periods of excessive heat. As a result, Herefords will seek shade and reduce their feed intake, which causes slower weight gain and milk production.

When raising Herefords in hotter parts of the world, it’s important to provide access to shade, fans, misters, and plenty of drinking water. Their grazing time may need to be shifted to cooler parts of the day. Supplemental dietary fat can also help offset some of the negative effects of heat stress. Selective breeding programs are working to develop Hereford lines better adapted to warmer climates as well.

#6. Calving Difficulty

Hereford cattle tend to have larger birth weights compared to other beef breeds. This can pose calving risks, as the larger calf size may create difficulties during the birthing process for the cow. Hereford bulls in particular are known for siring calves with heavier birth weights.

Some key points on calving difficulty in Herefords:

– Hereford calves on average have higher birth weights than Angus calves. Hereford bulls frequently sire calves over 100 lbs at birth.

– First-calf heifers are at the greatest risk when birthing heavyweight Hereford calves. The larger calf size can cause strained labor and difficulty calving for heifers.

– Using a smaller framed Hereford bull on heifers can help reduce calving issues. Mature cows generally have an easier time calving larger Hereford calves.

– Calving difficulty is heritable in Herefords. Selecting bulls and heifers with low birth weight EPDs can reduce calving problems over time.

– Providing proper cow nutrition during gestation can help prevent excessively large birth weights in Hereford calves. Overfeeding cows leads to fast calf growth.

– Assisting during labor or caesarian section may be required if a calf is too large for the cow to birth naturally. Proper monitoring of heifers during calving is advised.

– Overall, the large calf size of Herefords must be accounted for to prevent difficult births. Careful genetic selection and nutritional management can help minimize calving risks.

Improvement of Hereford Cattle

Most of these disadvantages can be properly managed through strategies like crossbreeding to increase milk production and growth rate, providing ample shade and airflow during hot weather, and using calving aids when needed.

Their positive traits like fertility, foraging ability, marbling, and docility still make Herefords a good choice for many beef operations with the right management practices in place. Their long history and popularity also speak to the success that can be achieved in working with this breed.

Overall, while Hereford cattle have some disadvantages, they remain a top beef breed choice for cattle producers around the world. With proper management, their disadvantages can be minimized while their many positive attributes are maximized.

Hereford Docile Temperament is a Major Advantage

Hereford cattle are known for having an extremely docile and calm temperament. This makes them very easy to handle and work with. Herefords tend to be patient, mild-mannered, and cooperative. Their gentle nature allows them to be safely managed by people of all ages and experience levels.

The docility of Herefords comes from centuries of selective breeding. Early breeders intentionally chose cattle with agreeable dispositions to develop the breed. Over time, this gentleness has become an innate characteristic of the Hereford. Their placid temperament is now considered a definitive trait of the breed. 

The calm demeanor of Herefords provides many advantages for cattle producers. Their mellow behavior reduces stress and risk when handling them. Even breeding bulls can usually be worked with safely thanks to their easygoing attitude. The docility also makes Herefords suitable for operations that involve children or novice cattle handlers.

Other advantages of Hereford cattle are their hardiness and ability to utilize pasture and forage resources for quality beef and healthy growth. They are a good choice for cattle farming in temperate climates. They have good maternal qualities, making them an excellent choice for raising beef.

Overall, the exceptionally docile temperament of Hereford cattle is a major asset of the breed. Their pleasant nature allows them to be managed smoothly and creates low-stress conditions. Hereford cattle are prized for their gentle dispositions that make them a joy to be around.

Related: Download Free Cattle Breeding Pdf Manual

In conclusion,

While Hereford cattle have many advantageous traits like docility and hardiness that have made them one of the most popular beef cattle breeds, they do come with some disadvantages as well. I hope this article will positively influence your decision to purchase Hereford cattle.

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