The classic red-and-white Hereford cow, with or without horns, is one of the most common breeds in the American beef industry. This didn't come about by accident, but by cattle producers breeding for the most important traits since the origin of the Hereford back in mid-18th century England. The Hereford founder, Benjamin Tomkins, bred for characteristics still found in these cattle nearly 275 years later.
When you're dealing with an animal weighing more than 1,000 pounds, temperament is important. Herefords are known for their docility, making them easy to manage and work with. For farmers and ranchers, that good temperament is an important safety factor.
Hereford cows are renowned for their high fertility rates and ease of calving. The cows possess strong maternal instincts. Easy births and natural motherliness also cut down on labor demands on farms and ranches.
From a business perspective, one of the Hereford's most important traits is early maturity, coupled with longevity. Not only does the fertile Hereford cow generally produce calves easily, she can be bred at an earlier age and continue producing calves later in life than comparable breeds. According to The Cattle Site, "Many breeders keep their elderly cattle until they die of natural causes."
Known as good foragers, Herefords are extremely efficient at converting grass into body mass. An adaptable breed, Herefords flourish in various climates and terrains, making them a good choice for breeders internationally. Their economy of feeding means they are cheaper to raise to a market weight than other beef cattle.
Herefords boast the nickname "The Great Improver." That's because, when crossed with other beef or dairy breeds, the resulting offspring take on many of the important Hereford traits, including efficiency, fertility and calving ease.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.