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Miniature herefords are big in terms of their popularity
By Doug Graves
Ohio Correspondent

SEYMOUR, Ind. – As a breed, Miniature Hereford beef cattle have a lot going for them. They are compact, efficient, docile, easy to handle and mature quickly. They eat considerably less than their full-size counterparts and produce very tasty meat.
“They’re really cute and their popularity is growing,” said Debbie Flohr, of RFD Farms in Seymour, and breed manager for Miniature Herefords at the Indiana State Fair. “While much of that growth has so far been in states farther west, such as Colorado, Iowa, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas, “it’s kind of making its way east.”
According to Flohr, there are now reputable breeders in Indiana and Ohio.
“As of 2023, the number of Miniature Herefords exhibited at the state fair’s open show had in just a few years grown from 10 to 28. Only Angus and regular Hereford breeds had higher representation, said Flohr, who is in her eighth year as breed manager at the fair. “At the National Western Stock Show in Denver, demand is such that there are both open and junior shows for Miniature Herefords. The Miniature Hereford Breeders Association lists more than 500 members, who can be found in nearly every state.”
The only difference between a Hereford and a Miniature Hereford is the height and overall size. The Miniature Hereford was developed over the last 30 years by selective breeding of stock that was originally imported to the U.S. from England in the early 19th century, according to The Cattle Site, a knowledge-sharing platform for the global cattle industry.
“A female cannot exceed 45 inches at the hip, while for a male, it’s 48 inches at the hip,” Flohr said. In contrast, a regular Hereford female might be 55 or 60 inches at the hip while a male might be 60 or 64 inches.
But despite their much smaller size, the miniature variety has the same body profile as a full-sized Hereford in terms of proportions. 
Flohr has three Miniature Herefords on her farm now. She sold her herd this past summer, but with breeding her numbers should increase dramatically. 
Flohr and her daughters were involved in 4-H. Now, her grandchildren are into the miniatures.
“People choose Miniatures Herefords for various reasons,” Flohr said, “and a lot of times it’s to start kids out because the person might have small acreage.”
A cheaper animal? Guess again, Flohr said. “If you get into the equality genetics, the high-quality breeding of this animal is not cheap,” she said. “There’s all levels of genetics. There can be certain breeds of Herefords that are expensive.
“I grew up with regular-sized Herefords that my dad had. My husband, Rick, and I had Angus. But I didn’t connect with them. They’re just not what I was used to. In 2008 Rick read an article about the Miniature Herefords. I envisioned some kind of dwarfed animal. I’d never hear of them. So, we attended the North American Livestock Expo in Louisville and we came home with a mission that our Angus were gone.
“In 2009 we sold the entire herd of Angus and purchased eight Miniature Herefords. We purchased four from Nebraska and four from Mechanicsburg, Ohio. They are like the original ones that came over from England.”
The ancestry of Miniature Herefords goes back more than 250 years. In England in the early 1700s most of the population lived in the country and most had multi-purpose oxen. They pulled their carts and furnished milk and meat for the family. As mid-century approached and city populations grew, there became a need for a beef animal to feed the cities. 
Some sought to fulfill the need for beef by utilizing the grain in Scotland, but a very industrious farm family who had been raising cattle in the area of England called Herefordshire, made a determination to fulfill the need with a bovine that could efficiently produce beef from native grass pastures. Benjamin Tomkins made that decision in 1742, which is the starting point for Herefords.
After several years of selecting individual animals that were heavy muscled and would fatten on grass, they closed their herd in 1758. At that time there seemed to be no definitive breeds of cattle whose names derived from their color markings. The Hereford color and marking was not in the planning at first, but it just so happened that the most influential bull in that closed herd was one from a group called white face. His name was Silver Bull and the two original cows were named Pigeon and Mottle. These names appear in the first American Hereford record.
Tomkins worked with the cattle for 47 years, then his son continued on for 25 more years.  From that beginning, the Hereford breed was established and named after the area in England from which it came, Herfordshire. For the next 100 years, interested breeders continued to improve the traits of early maturity and the ability to fatten on grass. During this same period, the traditional markings of the Hereford that we know today, were firmly established. The first registry of the breed was established in the English Hereford herd book in 1846, and by the second half of the nineteenth century, Herefords were a dominant breed in England.
Henry Clay imported the first Herefords to America in 1817: a cow, a heifer and a young bull. Not more than 250 head were imported before 1880 but by 1900 imports totaled 3,600. 
At some time in the mid-1930s, a recessive dwarf gene showed up in one of the major herds in the northwest and without knowledge of the severity of the problem, through selling bulls, was spread into many bloodlines and individual herds. Other individual herds, however, continued to develop bloodlines which did not have the problem. In the mid-1950s, the American Hereford Association started checking pedigrees at the owner’s request. This check, revealing the carrier and non-carrier bloodlines of the recessive gene, soon solved the dwarf problem. The Real Silvers, Mischief’s, Onwards, Colorado Dominos, Mill Irons, Zato Heirs and others, remained free from the dwarf gene. Those from these bloodlines continued to win in the show ring until the late 1960s. It is from these dwarf-free bloodlines that the Miniature Herefords have been developed.
A Hereford congress was held in Wisconsin in 1969, at which one of the major subjects discussed was that of size. Starting the next year the tallest were placed first in their class and made champions at all the major shows. This was said to have been done to compete with other larger breeds which were being imported at this time from other countries.  
The first small Herefords to be exhibited at a major show was in 1995 at the American Royal in Kansas City, Mo., and since that time, they have been exhibited and shown at many small and major shows across the land. The smaller Herefords were shown for the first time at a major show in separate classes in the latter 1990s.