One of the most important duties of the Traditional Hereford Breeders' Club is to monitor and analyse the frequency and distribution of the remaining Original Population descendants of the Hereford female families, as recorded in the early Hereford Herd Books. Club Census recorder Willem Van Beele has kindly put together the below table which shows the number of females, residing in England, Scotland or Wales, pedigree registered with the Hereford Cattle Society and alive at time of searching, whose pedigrees trace back along the female line to the families shown. Census data is given for 2018, 2019 and 2022 and reveals that there are eight families each with fewer than 20 registered females remaining, a further eight families each with between 20 and 100 registered females, and five families with more than 100 and up to 440.
Plum (inc. Potency)
Pitt Families (inc. Prettymaid, Judy)
Gaudy (inc. Firlands "L", Freetown "C", Grace)
Tudge's Beauties (inc. Laura, Model, Spotlight, Venus)
Silver (inc. Amethyst, Cilla, Ruby, Sapphire, Sophia, Sylvia)
Why is this important?
For all breeds, retaining a wide genetic base is useful to enable farmers a greater choice when selecting animals to use in their breeding program, to make available all of the traits which exist within the breed, and to prevent the likelihood of animals becoming too closely related. When it comes to genetic diversity, the Traditional Hereford breed is in a fortunate position, having once been highly populous, becoming successful in many parts of the world, and having stored semen from a large number of bulls across several decades.
Since the importation of Hereford genetics into the UK became popular, however, some of that diversity within the Traditional Hereford breed was unfortunately lost, as many farmers began to breed their OP Hereford cows to bulls with overseas genetics. Those cows would eventually have made their way out of production leaving no OP progeny to replace them, and as such many of the original female families have only a few OP descendants remaining, some with none at all.
Whilst the Hereford does of course stand in a strong position in the marketplace and remains popular with consumers, the Original Population of the breed must continue to develop as a resource, not only to represent the Traditional Hereford phenotype, but to hold onto the whole cross-section of those valuable characteristics which are important to beef producers and graziers around the world.
What can breeders do?
Breeders already owning females represented in the above table, particularly those in categories with the lowest numbers, can help to perpetuate the continued revival of those families by ensuring that females are bred to an Original Population bull and, where possible, take action to ensure their protection against disease. Bovine TB (bTB) remains a major concern in many areas of the UK, and rare bloodlines represented by animals residing in bTB hotspots are extremely vulnerable to being lost. Breeders in this situation could look at the possibility of moving individual animals to herds in other areas in order to mitigate this risk, and the THBC are keen to offer help where needed in connecting breeders who might like to work together or to buy/sell. The Club is continually working to identify where animals from the rarest families reside, and to make the owners of those animals aware of their importance.
It was discussed at a recent meeting of the THBC that embryo collection/IVF from the rarest females could be one way to fast-track the regrowth of these bloodlines, and that the Club would welcome the participation of any breeder interested in undertaking this work by offering rare females for embryo collection/IVF (particularly as a final consideration prior to culling), or providing recipients and rearing progeny. In addition, the THBC also continues to work to re-introduce further lines now only in existence overseas, and are also looking into the possibility of assessing mitochondrial DNA to distinguish between or within these recognised families.
Start here - get in touch
Most importantly, if any individuals or organisations are interested in what could be done to increase numbers of some of these rare families, they should contact the Traditional Hereford Breeders' Club to discuss.
Learn more about Hereford cow tribes