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Breed History

A breed with a wealth of history, the Hereford originates from the Welsh Marches. Bred to utilise the natural environment to a maximum in the areas around the Black and Cambrian Mountains of Wales, and the river valleys that flow east into the counties of Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Shropshire, these cattle grew into a medium sized, early maturing, very hardy and easy fleshing breed of cattle.

In the 1960s and 70s, some Hereford breeders began to use North American bloodlines to increase the leg length of their cattle. These animals became the height of fashion within the breed, and soon most herds had discarded or crossed out their “old fashioned” or Traditional females, which had served them so well for centuries, in pursuit of the new type. In 1995, recognising the sudden decline in the Traditional Hereford population, a suffix, [*], was added to the name of all those cattle that can trace their descent entirely from the British Hereford Herdbook, and this remains the case today.

Vern Robert (by Tarrington Punch), bred by Captain R de Q Quincey

Tarrington Idol, Supreme Champion at the Royal Show 1936, bred by H R Griffiths

Origins and Development of the Breed

The origins of the breed are slightly obscure until the work of Benjamin Tompkins Senior and Junior in the mid to late eighteenth century. After the expansion of the breeders in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century it became necessary to publish the first Herd Book in 1846 and leading to formation of the Hereford Herd Book Society in 1878. The subsequent closure of the Herd Book to entries other than those descended from members of the Herd Book in 1878, was brought about in 1886.

The breed expanded through the nineteenth and early twentieth century, despite the major agricultural depressions of those periods. The white faced cattle of the Welsh Marches became the pre-eminent beef cattle of the world. In the period after the Second World War the native Hereford cattle had an unprecedented demand that saw some of its most successful breeders rewarded with prices for bulls not seen before.

However, methods of production were changing. With the advent of the scientist in animal production, the emphasis moved to high input and output agriculture, with its high cost systems. This change involved the extensive use of cereal based diets to produce beef intensively, which meant a new emphasis was placed by some breeders on a larger framed, later maturing animal. These were successfully developed in countries such as Canada and the USA, and quickly displaced the earlier maturing traditional type of Hereford.

Today's focus, however, is returning to how beef producers can reduce their costs by improving feed and forage conversion, and as a consequence the Traditional Hereford is regaining popularity due to its efficiency and ability to perform on an extensive, low-cost system, which means that the National Herd of Traditional Herefords is steadily growing year on year.

Early Influential Breeders

In the first Herd Book to record females, volume 3, there are several breeders who have registered females that became significant through the passage of time. The first of these was John Hewer. Born at the Great Hardwick farm near Abergavenny, John inherited much of his father - William's - work of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. The Hewers have to take most of the credit for the pre-potent white faced Hereford. This was primarily successful not because of its white face, but because he produced amongst the best cattle around at the time.

With Hewer were several others. Most notable of these would be Ben Rogers who, like Hewer, produced bulls for the hire market as well as for sale. Rogers started his farming life in Radnorshire and moved to the Grove at Pembridge just after the first Herd Book had been published. His significance is that in about a twenty year period he registered and sold more than three hundred bulls for breeding by others. The Turner family also bred Hereford cattle before the introduction of the early Herd Books and it was Philip Turner Junior, of Aymestry Court and subsequently of the Leen, who registered most of the tribes that became famous. Only one of the original tribes from Aymestry still survive today in the female tribes, but others are represented in some of the AI bull lines. William Tudge again started in Radnorshire and moved down onto better ground, this time in South Shropshire, finally ending his days at Adforton. The Rae family were another of those breeders that started their farming in Radnorshire and moved eastward to Herefordshire. Again their influence in this early Herd Book is significant.

The period after these early Herd Book breeders was taken up more by the show men of the nineteenth century. Men like George Pitt, John Price of the Court House Pembridge, Arthur Turner, son of Philip, Thomas Carwardine, Arthur Edwards Hughes, and John H Arkwright. These men forged a type of animal that took the world by storm. Herefords were exported worldwide to the great grassland of the globe, to perform outstandingly against all comers.

The early part of the twentieth century was much quieter than the latter part of the nineteenth century, with the breeders W Griffiths, Alfred Tanner and Stewart Robinson coming to the fore. Two of the breeders of the mid twentieth century were sons of the first two, H R Griffiths and E Craig Tanner respectively, and their herds were to dominate the period between the wars, along with a young man whose background was in Herefordshire, but by misfortune had lost the aid of a family background at an early age, one Percy Bradstock. It was also in this period that some herds were set up with monies made by industrialists in the First War. These herds were short term investments that in general lost more than they gained financially, but they did focus the best bloodlines of the breed into single herds, and on their break up help improve many of the ordinary breeders' herds. Others who established and developed high quality herds during this time included; the Newman brothers, and later F J Newman at Wickton Court; J W Jones and Sons at Sheephouse, (Atok and Penatok); C L Hewitson and Son at Rowington; W Milner at Wenlock; and probably the man who became the most famous breeder of Herefords after World War II, R de Q Quincey.

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