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Miniature Herefords

Riverview Minature Herefords is situated on an 8 hectare block in Tuakau, about 65Km south of Auckland central. The farm extends down to the Waikato River to the south with some good flat ground but also steep country. We also have a direct marketing business, Hunkin Garden Products Ltd that we run from the farm.

By Graham Hunkin

 

Miniature hereford 2 days oldUp until a few years ago I used to just purchase young stock, fatten them up, and then sell them either directly to the works or back at the sale yards. I ran a few sheep on the hilly country basically to keep it tidy. However this always presented a few problems. Sheep were a lot of work, foot rot, having to shear them and always the threat of fly strike over summer. Cattle were much easier to look after. Single or double electric fences kept them under control, and apart from administering the odd drench, that was about it. Things always went well until winter. When winter arrived feeding them was no problem but these huge animals used to just pound my paddocks to mud in some areas. They would stand at the gate and moo at me, and if I didn't shift them, then I am sure they just thought right, we will mess up his paddock, that will teach him. There had to be a better option. That was when I got interested in Miniature Herefords.

 
Miniature hereford 4 months oldThere were plenty of different breeds to choose from but having had some experience with all sorts of mixes of breeds the Hereford appealed. Miniature Herefords, which are a smaller chunkier version of the larger Hereford, like their larger cousins, have a good temperament, essential for a small block. They forage well and don't seem to be affected too adversely by hills and the poorer feed that grows on them. Miniatures do grow horns, (polled animals are not allowed for registration yet) but horns are easily removed when young. If you are thinking of horned animals, forget it. They may look great, but they are dangerous, and there are plenty of injured farmers around to prove it. Even if your animal is quiet, they only have to just have a bad day, or perhaps turn their head for an affectionate scratch, to hurt you. You just don't want horned animals on a small block. If you still have doubts, ask your vet. My personal opinion is that it is only a matter of time before OSH will have all animals dehorned as mandatory.
 

One other big plus with the Hereford is that the white face is the dominant gene so if you cross breed you should always get a white-faced animal. These always fetch the best prices at the sale yards.

So what are Miniature Herefords. Well they are not really miniature, they are about 60% of the size of a normal Hereford. However there are some small lines and our own bull "Riverview Robbie" is only a little over a metre high at the hip at 16 months old. They are true Herefords and the larger minis are probably more like the original animal that came out of Herefordshire in the 1700s to the USA than the larger Hereford we see today. Herefords are one of the main bull breeds used by dairy farmers over their cows. The animal is smaller than the Friesan, so calving is easier. The Hereford is a meat animal, so you get a good cross-bred animal, the size of the Friesan with the beef of the Hereford. And of course the white face which attracts a premium at the market.

 

Miniature herefordsHowever Hereford breeders who are focussing on returns for meat have bred bigger and bigger animals which is starting to cause a few problems for the dairy farmers. Modern Herefords have big heads and shoulders that can cause calving problems. Here lies a future market for minis. By using a mini, a dairy farmer gets all the characteristics of the Hereford cross but with easy calving. As it is the first cross the eventual size of the offspring is not really affected too much, but the calf is just a bit smaller.

That's one market. Personally I am focussing on getting them smaller because I think they are a great thing for the small block holder. If you only have an acre or two what do you do? If you have sheep you get all the problems I mentioned earlier plus fencing has to be very good. If you have standard size cattle then you need to have some sort of handling facility (cattle can get very large and powerful) and they will pound your paddocks to bits in winter. Enter the mini. Handling facilities can be minimal if you get them tame. You can just pour on the odd drench. The kids can pat and feed them. They keep the grass down and can be fenced off trees etc with a simple cheap electric fence system - cheaper than a mower, and much less maintenance.

 

So now I have you interested how do you get some. First you have to decide if you just want a pet or get into breeding. If you want a pet then a steer will do, and it will be much cheaper than a breeding animal. If you want to breed then you will have to pay a lot more as minis are fairly rare. At the moment they are an investment opportunity, as there are probably less than 100 registered animals in NZ and only about 200 in Australia. And because you can't just multiply them up rapidly like you can with plants for instance, it will stay that way for some time, so stud stock prices are unlikely to drop very much.

Next you have to decide if time is your priority or price. What I mean is that if you purchase an older animal ready to breed you will pay more. If you purchase a younger animal you will pay less, but you will have to wait longer for a return.


New arrival

Our new arrival Riverview Tiny Tim was born on the 21st July and is our smallest Mini Hereford to date. At birth he stood only 500mm high at the hip, hence the name Tiny Tim. Just as well it is not summer, as we might have lost him in the grass! He is the result of crossing our small bull Riverview Robbie (1.1m high) with Stella, our smallest Mini Hereford cow (about 1.1 m high). The result is Tiny Tim. We can already see a calm temperament in him and he will be used in a few years time to reduce the size of our animals even further.

Above right is a picture of Tiny Tim two days old with his mom Stella looking on.

I have not gone into the history of Miniature Herefords as you can view a lot of information on www.minihereford.com.


2008 Update

You may have noticed our new logo and name, Mini Moos at the top of the page. It is now a registered trademark and it reflects the aim of our breeding program. Last season we used our small bull Robbie over most of the herd and also did a bit of embryo work using two cows and a rented bull, Hamish. Hamish was a little on the large side for us, but he had a very gentle temperament. His head and shoulders had curly hair just like a buffalo. The embryo work was nothing fantastic, only two embryo, but fortunately both produced live births, one bull and one heifer. The heifer Amy (picture to the right at three months), has made it worth while as she is tiny, just what we are looking for.

 

Riverview Zorro"The females in your herd are where you are now, the bull is the future"
We are very excited about our new bull Zorro (picture at left at 7 months), named because of the even pigment around his eyes that makes him look like he is wearing a mask. He is the offspring of Robbie and Poppy 105cm, our smallest female. He was born about the size of a sheep dog and at seven months he is only 76cm high. Using a frame score chart we expect him to only grow to 104cm at 2 years. He was also incredibly easy to tame down, so will have a very good temperament.

So what happened to Robbie? Sorry folks, he has joined the McDonalds hamburger chain.

What happened to Tiny Tim? Tiny Tim after spending time with most of my herd has now been sold to another member and is currently in a herd of seven females, so he has a smile on his face. Below is a picture of Tiny Tim at 21 months. I would not expect him to grow much more. He was an early starter and got my son's calf day heifer pregnant when he was only 10 months old. Tiny Tim (all grown up) is pictured below.

Below is a picture of Betty our standard Hereford Freisan cross cow with Tiny Tim, so you can see a size comparison. With the dry season this year it was very noticeable how well the Mini Herefords did under harsh conditions. The herd was fed a mixture of Poplars, Willows and Paulownia.

Cattle feeding on cut Paulownia in the drought. Tiny Tim and Betty. Note the size difference.


2009 Update

This year has not been one of our best. We only had 2 heifers born this year, the rest were bulls, and all but one has been steered. However on the bright side all the calves have tended to be smaller which gives me confidence that we will be able to achieve our goals of downsizing the herd. All but one heifer is from Tiny Tim, so using the smaller bull has produced smaller calves, even though the cows in some cases are a lot larger. The last heifer to be born was from Byron, a bull not quite as small as Tiny Tim but he had great markings. The little heifer is a beauty, quite small and has inherited Byron's markings. Byron is currently out on another member's farm with her cows so I should imagine he is having a great time.

Bryon will be for sale shortly. He is a proven bull with a really good mane and is 108cm high at the hips.

Young Zorro is not so young any more and he is in with the herd. At only 90cm tall I am a bit concerned he may be a bit short to mate with some of my larger cows, however they always seem to find a way.


2010 -2012 Update

We have concentrated on reducing animal size by line breeding and have been fortunate enough to get eye pigment along with it. Our bull Zorro (sold some time ago) had good eye pigment and he has passed this onto his offspring. The result of our breeding is a neat little bull, yet to be named, who has pigment around both eyes like a Panda. All our cattle from Zorro have some eye pigment, but this little bull by chance was born with a lot. Eye pigment is believed to help prevent eye cancer in older stock.

First mini hereford home kill 2012

We recently killed one of our steers and put it in the freezer. The steer weighed 360kg alive and ended up giving us about 110kg of meat. The carcass weight was around 180kg which was plenty heavy enough for us to man-handle. Cut into quarters for hanging in the chiller, with each piece was around 45kg, a two man lift. We mainly cut roasts and they are magnificent. The "waste meat" gave us lean mince and stews because we were able to control the amount of fat going into it. A much healtheir alternative to shop purchased meat which can often be quite fatty.

For sale

Registered Miniature Herford cows and heifers from $1800.00 plus GST. We can organise delivery for an extra charge. Farm visits welcome by appointment.(sorry all sold out for 2016)

 
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