Chaster Valley is a working farm and home to Europe’s only herd of pedigree Miniature Hereford cattle
Miniature Herefords are especially suited to people with small acreages or those who just don’t want the problems associated with much heavier standard cattle. It took 10 years to build our herd of breeding females and we are now in a position to supply mini bulls, mini heifers (from next year) as well as semen from five different mini bulls. Miniature Herefords are not “dwarf cattle” or cross-breeds, but simply a scaled-down version of the standard Hereford and developed by the Largent family in Texas during the 1970s.
The Largents appreciated that not everyone wants, or can handle, large cattle so they set about breeding these small cattle over a 30-year period. We initially had to specially import our “mini Herefords” as embryos from Canada and implant them into standard size Herefords.
Our ‘Minis’ are very popular with everyone who visits the farm, especially the Special Needs students who have been coming to the farm for nearly seven years.
Challenger suckling natural mum
All of our cattle are registered pedigree Herefords and their details can be found on the UK’s Hereford Cattle Society website. If you click on ”Animal Search” and enter the name “Chater Valley”, you’ll see our minis listed on the screen. If you click of any one of our minis and then keep clicking on the previous sires, you will see that they can all be traced back to the original Largent mini Hereford herd. And if you want to delve further, you can go onto the American Hereford website and do the same thing starting with the earlier mini on the UK site. You will find that the Largent minis can be traced right back to a bull, called Anxiety 4, which was exported from the UK to America in the 1890s. So it could be said that small Herefords have come ‘full circle’ and are now available to buy in the UK.
We do sell our spare mini bulls and heifers each year, and whilst we would prefer to sell these unique little animals to breeders who share our vision of establishing a herd of miniature pureblood Herefords, we understand that some breeders (especially Dexter owners) like to cross them for improved beef and temperament. Next year we hope to have our first mini heifers to sell.
Please call or email to check on availability of stock.
History of the Miniature Hereford Breed
The Tomkins family of Herefordshire is generally given credit for having started the Hereford breed 250 years ago, and the first Herefords were exported to America in the early 1800s. Since that time, as the whole world has obsessed with breeding ever and ever-bigger cattle, one stubborn farming family in America bucked the trend.
The West Texas Point of Rocks ranch in Fort Davis, USA, developed the miniature Hereford with a selective breeding programme starting in the early 1970s. Through careful breeding, the first Miniature Hereford bull was born in 1981. Their reasoning for developing a miniature was that the typical Hereford was getting too big, developing too much bone, and becoming harder on pasture and facilities. People were coming to the farm and often asking to buy the smallest calves. This was because they only had a smallholding, and so had little land, or they wanted them to fit into their freezer. To ‘downsize’, the Largent family used the smallest Herefords they could find, and continued to breed smaller over the decades, until they reached the size now called miniature.
“…in general our bulls are around 43 inches tall with the cows/heifers a bit smaller…”
Anxiety 4 – generally regarded as the “mother of all American Herefords”
Miniature Herefords are measured across the spine at the hipbone, as the height there is less likely to change than at the wither. In general our bulls are around 43 inches tall and the cows/heifers a bit smaller (at maturity at three years of age). But they are very stocky, much meatier than say a Dexter, which is why some Dexters breeders have started to buy our mini bulls (and to get the quieter Hereford disposition). The miniature Hereford of today is really more like the Herefords of the early- to mid-1900s. These Herefords were of a compact type of conformation (short, low set, wide and deep-bodied) and ideal to be accommodated on the old Atlantic-crossing, sailing ships with their shallow deck heights.
By 1989 miniature Hereford breeding stock became available for sale. They can now be found in many States of the US, Canada, Australia and, now for the first time, here in the UK. The Chater Valley herd of miniature Herefords came from a herd bred in Canada by Marie Hamilton over 20-plus years.
The characteristics of Herefords (the “Royal” breed) are that they are efficient foragers (turning grass into beef), mature early, calve easily, milk well for their calves and are excellent mothers. They are extremely hardy and adapt well to almost any environment from extreme cold to high humidity areas, to dry deserts. Herefords have always been known for their docile nature. In addition, because of a strong genetic base that has been firmly established over the past several decades, the offspring are very predictable as to type and conformation.
Mini with her surrogate standard size mum
Miniature Herefords have all the Hereford’s excellent traits but they have some added advantages. They eat approximately 40% less food than their bigger cousins but produce around 60% by weight of the prime cuts with less bone. Compared with the popular crossbred cows of today, miniature Herefords will winter on about a third of their intake. Our experience is that it is possible to graze at least two or three miniature Herefords in the space of one standard Hereford. They certainly do less damage to the pasture. In good winters on good pasture, they can be left to run outside all year round. Herefords and their miniature cousins require no special feed. Good pasture or quality grass hay or haylage, a salt/trace mineral supplement, and clean water will meet their nutritional needs.
So miniatures Herefords are the ideal animals for smallholdings with just a few acres.
Minis are well suited to young children or people that love cattle yet do not have the time, space or patience for the requirements of running large cattle. Neither do they require elaborate cattle handling systems, big fences, pens or chutes. If you come and visit our farm, we will show you exactly what we mean.
We chose to breed Hereford cattle because of their special characteristics. Throughout their history the Hereford has maintained its distinctive white face and reddish-brown coat. Even when they are cross-bred – something we don’t do – they retain the Hereford white face characteristics.
Three little bulls out for a summer stroll
Pedigree Herefords are renowned for easy calving, which keeps the vet bills down, and allows more natural behaviours. Our farm is mainly pasture and woodland – the Herefords graze as long as the weather permits and are then brought into the barn and fed only on hay and haylage. Herefords kept mostly on grassland produce an excellent ‘marbled’ beef that has a distinctive flavour and renowned eating quality. They are well suited to forage-based diets, which fit in well with our pasture grazing system. Beef produced off grass is claimed to have a longer shelf life & better colour, is high in the essential fatty acid omega-3, and has a distinctive taste. Here at the farm our aim is to build the Chater Valley herd of pedigree miniature Herefords, producing wonderful pedigree calves.
We are members of the Pasture Fed Livestock Association, which was formed, to champion the virtues of pasture and to provide distinct identity for livestock systems that are based purely and simply on pasture. We also belong to the Premium Cattle Health Scheme, run by the Scottish Agriculture College(SAC), and our herd is accredited free from BVD, IBR, Johne’s disease and Leptospirosis.
” . . . our herd is accredited (by the SAC) as free from BVD, IBR, Johne’s disease and Leptospirosis . . . “