The Hereford breed was established over two and a half centuries ago in the English County from which it has gained its name. It has become one of the best known cattle breeds across the world. Herefords are the breed of choice in all the major beef production countries north and south of the equator. First introduced into Ireland in 1775, the Hereford was recognised as an animal with the temperament, quality and performance to suit both Irish farming conditions and tastes. The breed has had a major influence on Irish cattle production since its introduction.
Breed characteristics and qualities
The Hereford female has established herself as a superior mother cow with the capacity to meet producers demands for productivity and efficiency. The modern Hereford sire is well muscled with good size and volume with strong feet and legs and is built to withstand the rigours of tough breeding seasons. Herefords are valued for their excellent meat, early maturity and ease of calving. New opportunities now exist for them in the era of sustainable farming where ease of management in close harmony with the environment is a major consideration.
1. Excellent meat quality
2. Early maturity and high performance on forage based diets
3. Adaptability – Herefords thrive in a wide variety of environmental conditions
4. Excellent temperament
5. Easy calving ability
6. Good fertility
Irish Herefords generally have a deep rich red body with a white face, crest, underside, socks and brush to tail. The cattle are hardy, adaptable and suitable for intensive or extensive farming systems. Hereford are also known for their high libido, early puberty, fertility, ease of calving and excellent mothering abilities. They are very suitable for crossing with dairy and beef suckler dams.
Increasingly Irish Hereford bulls are used as terminal sires on continental cross cows in commercial beef herds to provide earlier maturity and improve beef eating quality. Beef farmers rate the Hereford cross dam high for its qualities of hardiness, docility, milking ability and ease of management. The Irish Hereford’s ability to colour mark its offspring with the distinctive white head is much valued by breeders.
Meat Eating Quality
The development of the Irish Hereford Prime brand has led to the identification of a major demand for beef of high eating quality. The marbling ability of the breed together with the texture and tenderness of Hereford beef have combined with the animals inherent docility to ensure a superior quality eating experience every time. The brand has won a number of prestigious awards for excellence and is available through a major Irish multiple, high-end independent retailers and all good restaurants. Irish Hereford Prime also supplies an expanding number of prestigious contracts in the European market.
As environmental and sustainability issues come to the fore there has been renewed interest in the Hereford breed with its early maturity and ability to finish more economically at lower weights. Herefords can provide the consumer with excellent meat produced in a system that benefits the animal and environment. The Hereford represents quality over quantity and it offers an opportunity for Irish and European farmers to increase margins at the premium end of the market.