What are Miniature Herefords?

History. It all started almost 250 years ago. A very dedicated family set out to develop a beef breed of cattle that could make beef efficiently from grass. The Herefords' beginning was in 1756 when that family closed their herd after years of selection for the type to accomplish that goal. Another dedicated family started the early Hereford dominace of Herefords in America when they imported Anxiety 4th(the accepted father of American Herefords) from England in 1882. The present day Miniature Herefords are descendants of Anxiety 4th.

From the turn of the century to the mid-1960's, by coming down in size and improving type, generations of Hereford breeders developed and extremely efficient beef animal. At one time, 70% of all the registered cattle in America where Herefords. The Miniature Herefords of today are the result of another family composed of 5th generation Hereford breeders, determined to return to and keep that efficient type of Hereford.

Characteristics. The Miniature Hereford is a small "typey" Hereford, just the opposite of the tall long legged show type bovine of today. Minis are thick, deep bodied, short legged, muscular and chunky in appearance. Minis are early maturing, very fertile, excellent feed converters, easy keepers and very gentle in nature. The offspring of a mating is very predictable as to type and conformation due to the strong genetic base that has been firmly established. Minis are bery hardy and adaptable to various environments including the extreme cold of Canada, the high humidity of the East, the heat of the South and the dry deserts of the Southwest.

Our History with Miniature Herefords

The first time we heard of Miniature Herefords was in 1995. Our neighbours had been approached by a friend of theirs about importing and raising Miniature Herefords in Canada. They in turn told us about it.We were intrigued because we had looked at an avenue to start farming but had not yet found what we were looking for. In the fall/winter of 1995 we saw Minis for the first time when we went to visit Marie Alexander at Starburst Ranch, in Duffield, Alberta.

We were hooked from start. These cows fully grown were just about elbow height, good temperament and producing beef. We discovered that you could raise 2-3 Minis on the same amount of feed that you raise regular cattle, and get more beef at the end. We also learned that you could flush the cows for eggs and draw semen from bulls and sell embryos to make money.

These cattle where also gentle on fences so you did not need elaborate steel corrals or 6 strands of barbwire. Electric fence was sufficient enough. Since we owned a section of raw land not fenced, this sounded like a very good opportunity to start raising our own food, without having to get it all fenced right away.

The biggest thing, like all of these venues, was of course that we were going to make lots of money because the demand was big and the market hot. One of the first Miniature Hereford bulls to be sold to Australia generated $50000.00 US. So there was lots of money to be made.

We decided that this was something for us. We got on the waiting list of Buyers and of course had to import these animals from the U.S so we had to be patient and wait. In the spring of 1996 our first 2 animals arrived. KD Ms Nugget 116 ( Squeaks) and Ls Miss Silver Mt 5 ( Missy).

We put Missy in a flushing program that year and got 4 Embryos (with Spot 9 as the sire). We then implanted the embryos in Holstein/Angus cross recipients the following year. In 1997 we put Squeaks in the flushing program and we got 2 embryos from her. In the sumer of 1998 our first homegrown Minis arrived. Four calves from Missy and Spot 9 (2 heifers/2 bulls). That year we also bought semen from Poe Brandon of Pioneer Miniature Herefords, Stony Plain, AB. We bred Squeaks, to Poe Brandon and in 1999 we got 3 calves (1bull, 2 heifers from recipients). By the time the year 2000 rolled around we had 11 Miniature Herefords. Today we have 50 head. We have been really strict in our culling and have saved only the best of the best (in our opinion).

Did we make lots of money? No.

By the time Missy came out of the Flushing Program we could not get her bred again and she drowned in our dugout in the fall of 1999. After this we decided to hold off with flushing and raise our Minis the natural way. Squeaks, lived to be 14 years old and gave us 9 calves . She wasnt the prettiest cow you'd find in the pasture but she sure was a good producer and a good mom.

The ability to raise our own food has far outweighed the quick money. Over the years we have together with other breeders developed a market for Purebred Registered Breeding Stock as well as demand for Freezer Beef or Farm Gate Beef, raised natural.

Would we do this again if we had to start over?

Yes! The benefits of raising smaller beef are many. They eat less, and produce more, less severe on their environment, easy to handle. You can easily raise your own on your acreage, with moderate fencing.

Miniature Herefords are easy keepers, most of us breeders finish them on grass - the benefit of this is that you have healtier beef.

Cuts are smaller, but lean, tender and tasty. We also find in todays market that more and more people are concious about the amount of meat they eat, smaller cuts fit right in.

Families are smaller today, so if a family wants to buy a side of beef they can, without having to find 4-5 other families to split with. One side of Mini beef weighs about 250-300 lb you get all the cuts included and eat the beef within storage time (6-12 months).

The Future?

For us here at SpruceHill Ranch we are looking forward to our next step, incorporating pastured poultry and lamb.