An interview with The American Hereford Association
1. How many cattle do you have in your registration?
The second largest cattle breed in the U.S., Hereford reports 67,930 registrations and 35,957 transfers with 100,494 cows on inventory. The Association has 3,507 active adult members and 2,490 active junior members. This is based on fiscal year 2013 that ended Aug. 31, 2013.
2. What year did your breed start accepting/ registrations or building a database?
3. Tell us about the origin of your breed and how it was transported into or developed in the U.S.
Is it any surprise that the Hereford breed originated as a product of necessity? Efficient, adaptable and hardy, these cattle have always had a face to remember. Nearly 300 years ago, farmers of Herefordshire, England, founded the breed in response to demand created by Britain’s Industrial Revolution. Efficient production, high yields and sound reproduction were of utmost importance.
Benjamin Tomkins is who to thank for the original design. A primary founder of the breed, Tomkins began in 1742 with a bull calf from the cow Silver and two cows, Pidgeon and Mottle.
Henry Clay, Kentucky statesman, brought Herefords to the United States in 1817. A true Hereford identity was not established in the states until William H. Sotham and Erastus Corning, Albany, N.Y., began the first breeding herd in 1840.
Among other renowned early Hereford breeders were Charles Gudgell and Thomas A. Simpson of Missouri. Their big break came with the importation of Anxiety 4, a bull credited as being the “father of American Herefords.”
A few of these early breeders came together in Chicago on June 22, 1881. The result was the foundation of the American Hereford Cattle Breeders Association, later renamed the American Hereford Association (AHA). Its purpose was two-fold: to keep the breed’s records and to promote the interests of its breeders.
Seven years later Warren Gammon noticed naturally hornless Herefords at the Trans- Mississippi World’s Fair in Omaha, Neb. He decided to fix the hornless trait using the bull Giant and 11 Hereford females.
In 1910 the American Polled Hereford Association (APHA) was founded. The two Hereford associations merged in 1995, keeping the AHA title. The AHA now registers all horned and polled Herefords.
Through the years shows and expositions contributed greatly to a growing Hereford popularity. The breed’s doing ability, coupled with early maturity, revolutionized American beef production. To achieve this desired early maturity, breeders in the 1930s and 1940s sought short, low-set, wide and deep-bodied cattle. Success eventually became a downfall. Compact, fat cattle continued to excel in the showring into the 1950s. However, beef packers were starting to pay less for over-fat cattle. The American diet was calling for leaner, more heavily muscled carcasses. Hereford breeders stepped up to the challenge.
Beginning in the 1960s, breeders focused their attention on tools such as performance testing, artificial insemination, objective measures, embryo transfer and sire evaluation. These tools allowed the rapid genetic change needed to bring Herefords in synch with consumer and industry expectations.
A broad genetic base allowed Hereford breeders to select stock comparable in size and performance to competing “exotic” European breeds. Although major changes were made, breeders didn’t lose sight of fundamental Hereford traits, particularly fertility and docility.
A new goal was established in the late 1980s – formal documentation of Hereford performance in the feedlot and on the rail. Colorado State University animal scientists conducted related tests for the AHA from 1991 to 1993. Superiority was noted in average daily gain, feed conversion and cost of gain.
Further studies in the early 1990s demonstrated the quality of Hereford beef. Regardless of marbling, Hereford steers consistently excelled in tenderness, juiciness, flavor and palatability. These findings led to the formation of a branded beef product known as Certified Hereford Beef (CHB®).
In 1994 the AHA, Midland Cattle Co. and its affiliate, Mid-Ag, came together to market CHB. Mid-Ag, later renamed Red Oak Farms, was licensed as the exclusive seller of CHB. In October of 1998 the AHA board of directors pulled exclusivity from Red Oak Farms due to its failure to meet license covenants. Greater Omaha Packing Co. was licensed as the second company to produce and market CHB in November of 1999.
The following October, the AHA formed a limited liability corporation, CHB LLC, for management of the CHB program. Hereford history was made during the second week of 2005. CHB had its first million pound week, when packers sold approximately 1.3 million pounds of product to participating retail locations and food service outlets.
Currently CHB is offered in 301 retail supermarkets in 35 states, as well as through 38 foodservice distribution centers serving restaurants. Since the inception of CHB, 4.3 million cattle have been identified through licensed packing plants as meeting the live animal specifications, and 2.6 million carcasses have been certified to carry the CHB name.
CHB’s mission: To strengthen demand for Hereford cattle, Certified Hereford Beef LLC commits superior customer service, competitive pricing and creative marketing strategies to the sale of tender, great tasting Certified Hereford Beef within retail grocery stores, wholesale food distributors and food service outlets.
Today’s Hereford is the efficient, adaptable and hardy product of necessity it was in yester years. Add fertile, gentle, crossbreed friendly and quality assured, and you’ve begun to put a name to the face behind the product.
4. What are two of the most unique and little known aspects of your breed?
The Hereford breed addresses a wide variety of issues facing the beef industry today. There are three traits that when combined together make the Hereford breed truly unique. They are good disposition, high level of fertility during stressed times, and a very tender high quality product. When you combine these three traits, they collectively address the major concerns of the beef industry including farm and ranch safety, cost of production, and the maintenance and growth of global consumer beef demand.
5. What is your expectation for the next ten years for your breed? Physically, what are the assets breeders are striving for? As far as EPD’s, what kinds of goals are breeders setting? What are some of the genetic aspects they are focusing on the most?
Consumer trends along with sustainable production practices will prove to dictate the direction of the U.S. beef industry in the next decade. Breeders of Hereford cattle will continue to enhance the existing traits that make the Hereford breed uniquely great, but they will also utilize every tool in the tool box from genomics, to enhanced high accuracy EPDs to identify the genetics that will drive the most profit and the most convenience to the cow-calf sector. Today’s modern Hereford breeders are attempting to find the sweet spots across all economically relevant traits. They are searching for calving ease cattle that will provide as much rapid early growth while attempting to moderate mature size and maintenance cost. They will also continue to identify genetics that produce a high quality eating experience. Over the next ten years I believe breeders will try to identify the genetic difference within the breed that impact those traits that are hard to measure such as feed efficiency and animal health.
6. Tell us a little bit about your organization’s president:
Steve Lambert, Oroville, Calif. was announced as the new president of the American Hereford Association (AHA) during the Annual Membership Meeting in Kansas City, Mo., Nov. 2. Steve is a second-generation Hereford breeder, who was active showing cattle as a youth on the state and national levels.
“It is an exciting time to serve as AHA president,” Steve says. “We have a great Board of Directors that represents a solid cross section of the industry and the country. The breed is heading back toward larger market share and desirability. Having grown up in a Hereford family, it is important to me to see the Hereford breed return to and maintain its rightful place in the beef industry.”
Steve’s family owned and operated Creekside Ranch, which was one of the largest Hereford cattle operations in California. Today Lambert Ranch is a diversified enterprise, growing high-quality grain, hay and Hereford and Angus cattle. A Gold TPR (Total Performance Records) breeder, Lambert Ranch has bred several Dams of Distinction.
“This coming year I will strive to make Hereford a brand that is synonymous for high quality and the rancher’s choice for added profit,” Steve adds. “This will be achieved by a strong marketing campaign, dedicated staff and product placement. The breed continues to improve through genomic research and our members’ will to drive the demand for Hereford seedstock. I truly believe we are poised to be the great genetic resource we once were. We need to keep our eye on the prize so our future will be golden.”
Steve has served as a director of the California/Nevada Polled Hereford Association since 2002. In addition, he has been very active in local government and other community organizations, including serving as mayor of Paradise and being Butte County Supervisor.
Steve has three children.