We moved to our 60 acre property in 2003 from 14 acres, so more cows were on the agenda.
Initially we ran agistment cows to help pay the bills. We also bought cattle as weaners, kept them for 12 months and then sold, mostly doubling our money, happy days. The focus was always Friesian Hereford cross. We brought three cows to our 60 acres with us. Those girls got lucky and become our first breeding cows and not steak. Then the search was on for a bull, we found a Hereford Angus cross bull cheap. We called him Collingwood, poor fella, so the cycle began. To grow the herd faster, we brought a jersey house cow and milked her to bucket raise some Friesian Hereford cross calves for breeding. After a few years the bull was changed for a purebred Hereford. Phil always liked red and white cows, a paddock full of red and white Herefords is a great sight. Numbers got to fifteen breeding cows on our 60 acres plus growing our own hay and half an acre of spuds each year.
Our local school at Yolla, where our children attend is a farm school. We were asked if our children would be interested in sheep handling/showing. Phil’s reaction was I love lamb (with mint sauce). All three children started sheep handling. In September 2015 Phil attended a stock handling camp at the Jordan River School farm with our children and others from Yolla to learn some tricks of the trade for showing sheep. Jordan River were running a herd of Miniature Herefords, oh boy these guys are cool. The research started, why Miniature Herefords? Why Not! Succulent short muscle, family size cuts of meat, lighter footprint, quiet nature, eat less, run more numbers and purebred red and white cattle. These little guys could really suit our farm!
December 2015 Elsie and Faith, in calf with calves at foot, arrived on our farm. Purchased from Jordan River School. Elsie and Faith were nine and ten years old, so getting on but good foundation stock we hoped.
Show season of 2016 we had our two heifer calves Lettie and Linda to show, our eldest son took on showing Lettie while we had great help from a student at Yolla to show Linda. We felt the wry eye of the big cattle breeders, but Miniature Herefords are purebred cattle just like theirs. At our local shows in NW Tasmania we had no competition, so won plenty of ribbons in our own classes, but we also had some third and fourth places in junior pairs and interbreed which were fantastic results competing against our big cousins of all breeds. Brighton Show in the south was where we would have competition from Jordon River minis. A four hour truck ride for the girls with sheep for company. We lined up against eleven other minis and Lettie won the class and Linda was fourth. We were over the moon, our foundation stock was solid.
In July 2016 Faith gave birth to a bull calf. Born in the snow! Maverick, a bull, not really what we wanted as we needed heifers to grow our numbers. Oh well, we shall grow a bull. Phil broke him in, and our children showed him. Maverick was sold in May 2019 to a new stud and we currently have another bull Parker for sale. All three of our children have now shown and continue to show our minis.
2019 saw the first three steers processed to market, well one to market with some normal sized steers and two into our freezer. The three minis were almost two years old when processed and dressed out to an average of 200kg not to far behind their “normal’ sized cousins. We are aiming to grow our minis to a live weight of 350kg which equates to a dressed weight of around 180kg which also shows benefit of the breed with very good meat conversion.
Fast forward to 2020 and our herd has grown via breeding and a few purchases along the way to fourteen breeding cows, and our bull Kingston. Our numbers will grow over the next few years and our commitment to the breed will continue. We have found that the smaller cattle on our farm has a real benefit, with our annual rainfall around 14-1800mm, the paddocks do become pretty wet during the winter months. We have noticed since the change to minis that the ground recovers faster after grazing and the mud level is considerably less.
We are active members of the Australian Miniature Hereford Breeders Network and have been for four years. AMHBN have proved to be a great source of information and with regular chat sessions, it is a great source of help and advice from like minded people from all over Australia. We highly recommend the AMHBN website as a first port of call for any information about Miniature Herefords.
How did we end up with Miniature Herefords, well it is a rather funny story indeed. We were heading into semi-retirement with a bush block to develop and an idea to get cattle in due course, Charolais, beautiful but big cattle. While sitting in an apartment in Sydney we started playing with names for the farm and ended up combining our first names (Sandra and Adrian) to form Sandrian Park.
Preparing for the move to Gatton in SE Qld where Adrian already owned the bush block, we bought a house and got offered 3 small Herefords as part of the sale. One look at their cute furry little faces and we were hooked and just like that we fell into what is proving to be a real passion.
The more we read and learn about this wonderful breed of cattle the more we fall in love with them. While they are call Miniature, they are in fact the original size of the breed from England and it is these smaller cattle that were bred bigger to give us the larger version more commonly seen around Australia and the USA.
Shortly after moving to Gatton we purchased four more girls and some Semen straws via a breeder in WA and started on our Artificial Insemination (AI) journey. As a city girl who had never been so up close and personal with animals before, there was a heck of a learning curve (around cycling and bulling, giving injections, race and crush training and assisting our vet with the business end of the process and later the preg testing). We got two hits from the AI and then right on cue a beautiful bull came up for sale not that far from us and Lyndon Lodge Harrison joined the family.
While we were having a wonderful time getting to know our cows and planning for our future with them, the country is in a terrible drought and we spent many hours searching for good quality hay, that doesn’t require trucking great distances and then hand feeding the animals. Food became more and more scarce and expensive and the summer rain failed for a second year. We were fortunate that our animal numbers were low and they were doing really well with the harsh conditions, but with feed prices rising all the time we had to make the hard decision to sell two of our older girls (the ones that came with our new house). We also made the hard decision to send one of our girls who was very reproductively challenged, (ovarian cysts meant she would never get in calf), to Brisbane Valley Meat works. She was not suitable to sell as a pet or a breeder but she did go on to fill the freezer of four families. Mini Herefords have a very good bone to meat ratio and have one of the highest meat yields for their size of any cattle.
The meat has been amazing and it is nice to be able to put a full of flavour T-bone on a plate and still have room for the vegetables. Miniature cattle are perfect for a small acreage as they are easy on the ground and fences and require less feed than their larger counterparts. They make great pets or freezer fillers but you do have to be prepared to buy in feed and have a good supply of water if you take on a cow. You should also try and have two as they are a herd animal and don’t like being on their own.
Our first calf was born in September 2019 (our first AI baby), and a beautiful bull calf. It was another three months before our second AI baby arrived and we got lucky with a second bull calf. These boys have different American fathers and bring some exciting genetic diversity to our future herd. It was nine months and 3 weeks after Harrison had arrived on the farm that his first baby arrived and I was privileged enough to be there for the whole process. It was just a beautiful experience to see the birth of our first heifer calf and one I will never forget. Just two weeks later a second heifer calf was born and our first year of calving was done.
Baby cows are hilarious, they are very lively and just as naughty as any child. They love to run and chase each other and tend to do so with their tail held high in the air. With the Herefords having a bright white tip to the end of their tail it makes it all very amusing and reminiscent of dodgem cars.
We were also fortunate to finally get some good summer rain and at last the grass grew. Heading into our third year with four cows in calf to Harrison, two beautiful upcoming bulls and two heifer calves we are feeling pretty good.
The bush block is coming along, plenty of Lantana still to clear and fencing to be done but the future is looking bright. We love our cattle, they really are part of the family, and the pure breed herd is set up nicely.
Our hope is to be able to supply animals to small holders as there is no surer way of knowing that you are eating grass fed beef that had a great life than having it grow up in your own back yard. A mobile butcher can ensure that your cow suffers no stress right up to the last minute. Equally they make a great pet, and if you think that might prove to be expensive just price up feed for a large dog and you might find they are quite economical.
Having a group like the Miniature Hereford Breeders Network on hand to offer advice and answer questions is a great support as is having a great vet as part of the team. Check out the AMHBN website and follow Sandrian Park on Facebook or Instagram if you want to be spammed with pictures of cute cows.
Not everyone wants big cattle and lots of people don’t have the room anyway. If you’ve got 5, 10, 20 or even 100 acres and you run the big Hereford you could find yourself supplementary feeding some if not all the year round. You could develop new relations with your neighbors as hungry cattle push on fencing and ultimately bust through. When it rains chances are your ground will get all pugged up and take a lot to repair. So, if you have a few acres, would like the pleasure of owning a couple of beautiful brown and white cows, maybe breeding some calves, I suggest you look at Miniature Herefords.
The modern day Miniature Hereford has been around since the 1960’s and a family in America bucked the trend of ‘’bigger has to be better’’ and selectively bred from the smallest Herefords they had. News of these little guys spread slowly around the world and Australia has a steadily growing group of dedicated people who are busily breeding robust, quiet, user friendly small cattle for others like ourselves. People with a few acres, possibly not much experience, basic facilities, and generally children or grandchildren who just love the idea of a pet in the paddock. Some of them are tired of mowing the ever-growing grass and want a couple of lawn mowers, others want to have their own homegrown beef. Miniature Herefords deliver on both counts and if you want to see baby calves frolicking in the sunshine then Minis can deliver that too.
Today’s mini is about half the size of the modern Hereford and are easily quietened and handled. Breeders pay a lot of attention to temperament as a placid mini is an absolute pleasure and ensures the enjoyment of the owners. To the uninitiated they won’t look any different from their big cousins and it won’t be until someone stands beside them that you realise they only come to about your hip. Mature Mini’s weigh about 300 – 400kg and are only classed as miniature by measurement at the age of 2. They are in the same herd book as the bigger cattle – they are just short in the leg and smaller in their frame which in a big animal is actually just a wasted resource anyway as all the meat is in the body. Our home butcher is very impressed with our minis and how they stack up. Not much waste and the best beef money could buy.
The Australian Miniature Hereford Breeders Network (AMHBN) is the perfect place to start if you’re interested in Miniature Herefords. An enquiry email will get sent to all the members and we’ll get in touch, keen to help, and to share what we know.