Acquired: Breeder (non-professional, hobby breeder),
Bred animal myself
Posted Sep 21, 2014
We had about 20 cattle at a time for a period of about 15 years. They started as a mix of Herefords and Angus,but eventually moved over to all Herefords due to their better temperament and the fact that we didn't need to be raising the Angus for the more "meaty" growth as we were working on a small scale for a few local clients as well as ourselves.
The meat quality from the herefords was just as superior as the angus if not better. Be sure to always have your cattle butchered at a reputable butcher. If something doesn't seem right with the meat, don't be afraid to ask! When we were still trying to find a good butcher at one point we had been using the same one a few times and then suddenly our mean looked, tasted, and even smelled significantly different. (and not in a good way.. it smelled just like corn) We contacted them immediately and told them something was wrong and that we would no longer be using them if this continued. They insisted it was on our side and they simply gave us the meat of the cattle we gave them... but... we changed butchers.. and amazingly our meat went right back to what it has been.. we later found out they had been switching our meat with another client's meat that was obviously of much lower quality as they were feeding a 100% corn diet. (another point.. feeding corn 100% to bulk up your steers will change your meat flavor.. give it a try to also feed alfalfa and other grains.. you won't regret it .. and neither will your clients!) Be sure to get recommendations from people you trust when it comes to picking your butcher... when it comes to raising beef cattle.. this is almost as important as being sure you have a large animal vet who knows cattle as well as,or better than, any other animal they care for.
The Herefords have a bit leaner body to them than some other breeds bread as beef cattle. This isn't to say they don't grow to a large, full size, but that they are more lean and tall than the stockier, shorter angus.
The Herefords we had were all rather tame and even those that were skittish or not approachable without additional assistance (shoot/ramp etc) were still some of the most tame and calm cattle I have seen. This remained true even when visiting other farms and seeing their cattle. In all 15 years we had a handful of "wild" cattle and someone would get trampled .. but these were never involving a hereford or a hereford mix. (they were often the Angus) But... with that said... there is some care involved in any animal and their temperament. Any animal can be wild or calm... it is all in how they are raised. Yes, some will naturally be more one way or the other due to their breading or personality, but it is the way you handle them or lack of handling them that will dictate your safety around your cattle.
We at times would get yearlings from other breeders that had not been handled at all with the exception of loading them up to transport them. This caused a huge amount of trauma for both the animal as well as danger for us. At any size of farm you will need to interact regularly with your animals. It is important they are as comfortable with you as you are with them. The bulls that we would purchase were always former "retired" show bulls (herefords). This was for two reasons... as the bulls are upwards of one ton in weight they can be very dangerous when moving from area to area if they are not halter trained properly.. and two... when the females are in heat even a tame, calm hereford bull is no longer that tame when he is being separated from them.... We always chose herefords for our bulls for the very reason of their temperament and added in the benefit of getting them as retired, halter trained, (practically dog like tameness) from breeders as retired show bulls. I cannot recommend this method enough! There were many many times over the years that situations arose where if our bulls had not been tame as they were with the small scale of our farm, it would have put is in danger of injury just to handle him as closely as we needed to.
All these wonderful aspects of hereford cattle unfortunately does come at a price. We never had any birthing issues with any other cattle breeds, but with our herefords, we had sill-born calfs, vet assisted births, and uterine prolapse many times over the years. We also had a handful of twin births over a 15 year time period. The twins rarely seems to both do as well, with one eventually falling ill and not surviving within the first 6 months.
To the herefords' credit, only once did we have a cow refuse to bond with her calf. They were also not aggressive, or overly protective mothers as to not allow us to give proper care to the calf. The cannot be said of any of the angus that we had.
Another issue that became apparent in the summer months was pink eye and other eye disorders. We had one calf that lost its sight completely by the end of the season even after extensive care was given. This was most likely due to it's young age when it got such a severe case. It did end up surviving for awhile and did rather well bind. Rather than becoming exceptionally skittish he got to be quite the opposite and more of even a pet than a livestock. His health still deteriorated and did not make it past 2 years.
The Hereford / Angus mixes we had and the Angus overall were easier to care for when it came to a lack of health issues and no birthing issues, but the full Herefords were much easier to deal with on a day - to - day basis as far as temperament and calf bonding.
#1 recommendation if you are getting Herefords? - get a great, highly knowledgeable large animal vet that you can call on to assist when you have any issues. Early intervention is key! (This is particularly true with pink eye.. and birthing issues!) They have wonderful, almost dog like personalities which truly does make up for any of the downfalls when it comes to the health issues in my book.