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
Up 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.
There 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.
However 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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 2017)
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