Friday, September 22, 2023

The Breed that Built the West


Northern Ag country is home to many breeds of cattle, with an environment for ranchers and their herds to thrive. There is arguably one breed that generations ago was the most popular in the region and started many of those ranches: Hereford.

The red and white cattle have been around for over 200 years in the U.S. being introduced to Kentucky in 1817 and the American Hereford Association (AHA) being established in 1881. There are Hereford cattle in all the lower 48 states with 479 Hereford ranches in Northern Ag territory, according to Certified Hereford Beef. South Dakota has the most at 197 herds, North Dakota at 103, Montana has 102, and Wyoming rounds out the region at 77. Shane Bedwell, Director of Breed Improvement for AHA, told Northern Ag’s Leif Bakken the Hereford breed has stood the test of time with some producers going into their fourth or fifth generation as Hereford breeders.


Keys to the Breed

Many cattle producers can point to the key industry highlights for their breed of cattle and like many ranchers say, “look at the cow for the major advantages of the breed.”

“The Hereford cow is unrivaled when it comes to efficiency, docility, structural correctness, longevity and the hardiness of that cow to survive in a tough environment.” Shane stated, “Whether that is a limited feed resource or a cold environment, that Hereford cow can flat get it done. On the sire side, those things still hold true. They have the ability to get out and work, travel tough country and have the drive which I think is a strong point for the breed.”

As Director of Breed Improvement, Bedwell credits AHA members with taking strong Hereford genetics the breed is known for and pairing them with genetic advancements. Some of those advancements include the ability to reduce birth weight, improve calving ease, along with post-weaning growth and end product merit. Bedwell also said the studies they’ve done have proven the efficiency of the breed with the ability to forage and do more with less.

Producers see many of these highlights in the popular F1 Cross, Hereford bulls crossbred with Angus cows, especially in maternal traits. Shane said that mating Hereford with another English breed brings that extra hybrid vigor in pounds, in direct heterosis, and health advantage.

“I think where Hereford packs a great punch is on the maternal heterosis side when you think about those great baldy females in the pasture with the ability to breed up better.” Bedwell added, “We’ve proven that over time with a seven percent pregnancy advantage when compared to their straight black counter parts and those females wean off heavier calves and they stay in the herd longer because they’re getting bred. That’s a great testament to our breed and what the membership has done to make these Hereford genetics better.”



Not only do Herefords have a reputation for their females, but their popularity is increasing because of programs that key off the breed. In 1995 AHA established Certified Hereford Beef, celebrating 25 years on the market. It is provided by retailers and food service in 42 states and distributed to six different countries. The success of the program is in the history of the breed.

“We really pride ourselves on breed integrity, continuing to improve carcass performance, and consistency,” President and Chief Executive Officer for Certified Hereford Beef Amari Seiferman said. “From a high-quality product–compound that with the history of Hereford, the history of the American Hereford Association and their members, we have a great story to tell that is rich in tradition and leaves a legacy for future generations to continue producing high quality Hereford beef.”

Seiferman said another big success for the program is flavor. She explained that with maintaining integrity they have been able to provide a product with a great flavor profile and tenderness.

Director of Commercial Programs for AHA, Trey Befort, adds that there are a growing number of Hereford cattle as producers see demand and value in the breed, therefore registration and membership continue to grow for the association.

There are other programs gaining traction with the breed as it grows. The Premium Red Baldy Program is a joint venture with the Red Angus Association to provide quality red F1 cattle. The Hereford Advantage Program, a third party verified program from IMI Global, verifies and adds value to Hereford-influenced feeder cattle covering genetics, health, and management. AHA provides many other programs for production and commercial breeders as well.

“With the Hereford Advantage and Premium Red Baldy programs if the cattle are enrolled and meet the requirements, those logos can be added in the catalog or on-screen as a value-added program in sales,” Befort said. “It brings more recognition to the breed, but also helps the producer set themselves apart by having another program to add to their arsenal.”

Hereford cattle have proven their strong history as a breed and provide advantages to the industry. The AHA has capitalized on those attributes. Some cattle producers may be thinking about reintroducing Hereford to their operation, and Shane Bedwell expressed that ranchers should contact their local Hereford seedstock producers to see if there are bulls that fit their program.

“Our slogan right now is ‘Come Home to Hereford.’ I think there’s a lot truth in that where Hereford has been the breed that has been around for a long time,” Bedwell said. “It’s the breed that built the West, in my opinion, and sometime you have to come home to find your roots.”


Leif Bakken – Northern Ag Network – 2020

American Hereford Association

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Chuck Christman

Great article Leif! You know there has been nothing but Herefords on this place for 74 years!

Mark Evans

Thanks for the story Leif. It points out qualities of an old standard breed that those of us who have held out through all the "fads" have long known and held dear. We are into the 4th generation of Hereford raisers, my Dad having been the second. He ran 100% registered Herefords. I have maintained those same bloodlines but on a much smaller scale. Good to see their time has come back around. I knew it would!

Jill Hotchkiss

Thanks for the article. Our family is going strong with Herefords and has been raising them for 102 years. We also have a Hereford newspaper, Hereford America.

Carole Custer

Why don’t I see Hereford beef on restaurant menus, in supermarket meat cases, on billboards, etc? All I see is Angus, Angus, Angus!!!!

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