Breeding Standards

Breed Standards

The Hereford is a fast growing, fertile beef breed of distinctive colour and markings. Breed standards identify the priorities of the Hereford and continuously aim at the long term improvement of the breed through effective breeding and selection policies which are regularly up-dated.

Functional efficiency of the Hereford is attained by the following priorities which are presented in order of importance together with the corresponding requirements and conformational features.

1. Fertility


  • Heifers are required to calve early according to the respective environments where herds are kept. They are also expected to conceive during a shorter breeding season than adult cows so that heifers of low fertility can be identified.
  • All cases of dystocia (difficult birth) are to be recorded against the animals concerned.
  • Optimal birth weights to avoid dystocia are to be identified for the Hereford breed and are not to be exceeded in stud bulls.
  • Mature Hereford cows are expected to calve annually and without assistance and to produce and rear strong and healthy calves.
  • All bulls are required to have good libido, to produce fertile sperm and to be able to serve cows with comfort.
  • Testicles are to be well developed, absolutely symmetrical and normal on inspection. Minimum scrotal circumference is to be identified for age and taken into consideration in the selection of bulls. Hypoplasia (under development) of the testicles, twisted testicles, asymmetry, hardening or softening with or without enlargement of the testicles or epididymi or any form of abnormality of the penis or sheath are to be discriminated against very strongly.
  • Every effort should be made to select only bulls that were strong at birth and that were born without assistance. In addition bulls that sire calves that are heavy at birth should be identified and used with great discretion.
  • Males and females that are born with difficulty are to be regarded as undesirable.

Conformation in Relation to Fertility

  • Obesity (over fatness) and oversize in heifers and in cows are to be avoided.
  • Cows are expected to be feminine in appearance without fleshiness in the neck and withers.
  • In females good capacity in terms of abdominal circumference is desirable so that the body profile (with points (a), (b) and (c) in mind) is distinctly wedge shaped towards the front.
  • Early hair shedding at the beginning of summer and sleekness of the coat are highly favoured characteristics in the Hereford. It is an indication that animals thrive well in their particular environment and on their nutritional regime and that normal hormonal and metabolic functions are in operation.
  • Visual sexual characteristics in both cows and bulls are strongly favoured. In cows a feminine appearance, slim forequarters free from fleshiness and excessive fat deposits in the brisket and over the withers are favoured together with a clean tail setting and good capacity and a wedge shaped body profile.
  • Bulls should exhibit strong masculine characteristics with well defined muscling, heavy in the neck and forequarters with strong well conformed legs and feet and they should be fit, alert and active.

Over-fatness in bulls should be avoided at all times.

2. Growth Ability

Growth ability is the second most important priority in the standards of excellence of the Hereford.

Growth ability cannot be identified with any degree of accuracy by conformational features of sires, dams or calves. Records consequently are employed to identify this important trait in the Hereford.


Calves are to be strong and healthy at birth and they should attain desirable weaning weights and/or indexes. This indicates milking ability of the dam as well as the inherent growth ability of the calf. The latter is inherited in equal proportions from the sire and the dam of the calf.

Selection for desirable weaning weights therefore improves these traits but this is not to be sought at the expense of fertility.

Weaning weight, twelve month, and/or 18 month weights are to be recorded as important parameters if growth ability. Likewise ADG, ADA and FCR are highly important parameters and all breeders are expected to be acquainted with the relative importance and with the improvement of bulls and particularly stud bulls in their herds.

Conformational features and growth ability All Herefords, males and females are to be entirely free from heritable defects. Optimal growth rates are to be attained through balanced feeding but not at the cost of over fatness. Over fatness predisposes to fertility problems and erosion losses and is consequently to be avoided.

Good muscling and weight are desirable characteristics in bulls but not in females. It has been proven beyond any doubt that mature cows that are fertile and calve regularly and that wean calves of desirable weaning indexes are never heavy and muscular. Body reserves, even at high or optimal body condition that is required for the maintenance of fertility and desirable levels of milk production.

3. Functional Efficiency and Fitness

To improve fertility and growth ability Hereford cattle are required to be fit and functionally efficient. This entails the ability to walk comfortably and with rhythm and ease even over long distances. Sound legs and feet and a strong back are highly desirable for these purposes.

Splayed hoofs, corns, straight hocks, cow hocks, sickle hocks, weak pasterns or fetlocks, swollen joints or any deviation of front or hind legs during standing or during walking are undesirable. Front and hind legs are to be parallel and correctly placed when viewed respectively from the front or the back.

4. Adaptability

The Hereford is exceptionally well adapted to intensive systems and feedlot production and it is known to be an excellent forager on more extensive range conditions. The temperament of the Hereford makes it ideally suited to trouble free management and it is a breed that takes readily, with little time to adapt, to all types of feed and range supplements.

Climatologically, Herefords have always been exceptionally well adapted to temperate regions and even to extremes of low temperature, while, in warmer and more tropical regions Herefords respond well to acclimatisation. The Hereford, therefore, can be employed in cross-breeding in most regions of the country.

It is well documented and accepted that in Herefords, like in all other cattle breeds, sleek and smooth coatedness has positive adaptive significance in terms of environmental temperature and resistance to external parasites. Smooth coatedness and early hair shedding are therefore highly desirable characteristics in the Hereford. Pigmentation of the hide and hair again, protects against radiation and it is therefore strongly encouraged particularly in exposed and sensitive areas around the eyes, the hoofs etc.

5. Carcass Quality

The Hereford is an earlier to medium maturing breed in which cognizance is duly taken of consumer demand for carcasses of low fat content. High cutability is required and consequently signs of wastiness are undesirable. These include full flanks, a heavy brisket and a fatty tail setting.

The state at which carcass maturity is reached is consequently somewhat delayed to a higher age. This also brings about that adult size of the Hereford is somewhat increased. These adaptive changes are accepted in the Hereford as desirable. However, they are not to be pursued as primary objectives and particularly not at the cost of higher priorities of fertility, growth ability and general functional efficiency.

Good muscling and particularly muscular definition in bulls are highly desirable features of the Hereford. Reference points for muscling are well developed forearms and outer thighs below the patella (Stifle joint).

Hereford females are not heavily muscled because it is known that well muscled and heavy females are rarely regular breeders. The thurls and brisket region are wide and hind and front legs are straight.

6. General Conformation Features

  • All known heritable defects in the Hereford are listed and rigidly avoided. Included are dwarfism, short cannon bones and all degrees of compactness of the head together with defects like wry face, wry tail, over of undershot jaws, hernias, prolapses, defects of the genitalia etc., and particularly defects of the legs and hips.

Defects of the sheath, prolapsed sheath, deviation of the penis, shortening of the penis and incomplete protrusion in bulls are serious defects.

In cows prolapse of the genitalia, horizontal or underdeveloped vulva and functional disturbances are serious defects. Udders are well developed and symmetrical and teats of normal size and shape.

  • The colour of the Hereford is a special and distinctive feature. The coat is bright to dark red with a white head, brisket, underline, crest and switch and legs below the knees and hocks. Pigmentation around the eyes is very strongly favoured while albinism of the eyes and muzzle is undesirable.
  • The forehead of the Hereford is wide and symmetrical with the nostrils big and clean. The eyes are alert but not prominent and set well apart under a strong brow. The horns are oval and bend slightly down with a waxy texture and of greyish appearance but never dull white.

Poll animals should have a prominent poll.

  • In males the shoulders and neck are heavy and muscular and wide between the scapulae (shoulder blades) with wide and deep front quarters and ample width in the sternum (brisket) region.

In cows the abdominal capacity is large and the croup is wide and broad befront. Cows are never fat and muscular. The scapulae are free moving along the dorsal spines of the vertebrae and this area is never heavy and fleshy.

  • The back is wide, strong and muscular in bulls and the ribs are well sprung. Bulls that are flat bodied with high and wide hips are strongly discriminated against.

In cows the abdominal capacity is large and the croup is wide and broad between the thurls with the pins slightly lower than the hips for easy calving. The Hereford is not a sloping rump type and the tail setting which is free from fatty humps hangs straight between the hocks. In cows the tail switch is fine and silky but with coarse well developed hair in bulls.

The Hereford seeks its excellence in total functional efficiency. Conformation in the breed is important in the sense that certain anatomical features are directly related to functional efficiency and economically viable traits. Amongst these traits the traditional colour and markings and the general conformation of the breed present the Hereford as a unique producer of beef and an excellent selling product.

Schedule B


1.  All sales of Herefords shall be controlled by the Society and the auspices of the Society will be granted at the discretion of the inspectors.

2. Council may appoint one or more inspectors to inspect and approve of animals proposed to be sold at any sale to be held under the control of the Society.

3. If, in the opinion of the inspector, any Hereford proposed to be sold at such sale is not up to standard either in regard to conformation, size or condition or is not a worthy specimen of the Hereford breed, such animal shall be withdrawn from the sale.

4. All Herefords put up for sale must be the bona fide property of the seller at the time of the sale.

  • All sellers, intending to hold a sale of Herefords, shall prepare and publish a sale catalogue wherein shall be disclosed in addition to short particulars of pedigree of each animal also its registration number, its ear and year letters and ear numbers as well as its date of birth. In the case of twin animals they must be declared as such and it should further be stated in the catalogue whether a heifer was twin with a bull or otherwise; and whether it is proposed to produce at the sale veterinary certificates in respect of the animals to be sold.
  • Sales catalogues shall before publication be submitted for perusal to the Director of the society; and shall be published under the auspices of the Society, but the information and particulars therein supplied shall be the sole responsibility of sellers and under no circumstances shall the Society be held responsible for any statement in or omission from the catalogue, not for any act of commission or omission in connection with the sale.
  • “Seller” under this schedule shall mean the person or body in whose name the animal is registered and “sale” shall mean a sale where an inspector of the Society has inspected the Herefords.

5. Veterinary certificates, if obtained, shall be made available by the seller to the Society and/or the auctioneer prior to the commencement of the sale

6. The seller shall nominate the auctioneer for any sale where a Society inspector has carried out an inspection and such auctioneer shall bind himself:

  • Not to put up for auction at such sale any Herefords that are according tot he Bye-laws and Schedules not eligible for sale thereat.

To incorporate in his conditions of sales an announcement that

  • The terms “running with the bull” and “having been served” bear no warranty of pregnancy in respect of any females; and
  • That veterinary certificates produced at the sale are produced only as a matter of guidance to prospective buyers and do not serve as a warranty either by the Society of the seller as to the facts therein stated.
  • Before the commencement of any sale to draw the attention of prospective buyers to the provision of Bye-law 8.2.2 hereof as far as the exculpation of the Society is concerned.

7. The Society may in its discretion waive the application of any or all of these regulations in respect of any particular sale.

Dress Code at National and Provincial Championship Shows

8. As from and including the 1991 National Show, the wearing of Hereford outfits, as specified by the Council, will be compulsory at all National and Provincial Championship shows. These outfits are also to be worn in all Parades and Interbreed Classes at these shows.

Schedule C

Inspection and Duties of Inspector(s)

  1. The Council may appoint Inspectors to inspect all Herefords eligible for registration.
  2. It is compulsory for all breeders to place before the Inspectors upon their visit, the date and time of which shall have been notified to them, all registered Hereford bulls 12 months and over but under three years of age as well as all registered Hereford females 12 months and over but under three years of age in respect of which the births were notified and accepted. Inspectors may, regardless of the maximum ages referred to above, in their discretion hold over any Herefords for further inspection if there is some good and sufficient reason for this, such as severe drought conditions, illness of or injury to the animal concerned.
  3. The Inspectors shall inspect each eligible Hereford upon presentation of its birth notification receipt and shall satisfy themselves that the particulars of age identification etc., as notified are correct and correspond with the animal offered for inspection. Furthermore they shall satisfy themselves that the animal conforms in all respects to the breed standards as laid down in Schedule B and the minimum performance testing standards as laid down by the Council from time to time. Any inconsistencies and discrepancies shall disqualify a Hereford from registration and shall be reported to the Council.
  4. Any breeder dissatisfied with an Inspector’s decision may lodge an appeal with the Director within three weeks from the time the inspection took place, such appeal must be accompanied by a deposit as laid down in the Schedule of Fees (Schedule G) a board of appeal appointed by the Council will re-inspect the animal or animals in question and if the appeal is upheld the deposit in respect of the animal concerned will be refunded; if not the deposit shall be forfeit.
  5. Special inspections can only be carried out by permission of the council if the applicant pays the traveling and out-of-pocket expenses of the Inspectors, as laid down by the Council from time to time, and provided the Inspectors are available.
  6. Inspectors employed by the Society shall always act as propagandists and give demonstrations and lectures at convenient centres during their tours, where meetings are possible with local farmers, or under the auspices of district Farmer’s Associations or Agricultural show Societies.
  7. With the approval of the Society members may request inspectors to classify their Herefords at a fee that shall be prescribed by Council from time to time.
  8. The Inspectors, acting on the instructions of the Council may at any time, without previous notice, carry out a general inspection of any herd.
  9. The Inspectors may not accept instructions or commission from members or non-members to negotiate the buying and selling of Hereford cattle.
  10. No breeder shall act as an Inspector of his own animals.

Schedule C

Rules Governing the Collection of OVA/EMBRYOS and Inovulation of Herefords:

  • All Herefords which have been legally begotten as result of inovulation in accordance with the Act shall be eligible for registration provided that -
  • The Constitution has mutatis mutandis been complied with;
  • Parentage has in each instance been verified by blood typing;
  • All the following documents are submitted within 90 days of inovulation -

1. The duly completed certificate of inovulation referred to in Bye-law 7.6.2 (Document 2291);

2. The certificates reflecting the blood typing laboratory numbers of the ovum donor and semen donor (Document 2291); and

3. A certificate by a veterinarian to the effect that the collection of ova and the inovulation was done in accordance with the Act as amended (Document 2291);

The birth notification of the resultant progeny is accompanied by a certificate

4. Reflecting the blood typing laboratory numbers of both the ovum recipient (document 2291) and the progeny;


5. Confirming that the stated ovum and semen donors qualify as parents of the progeny;

  • Both the semen donor and the ovum donor had been approved for such purpose by the Society, who shall also have the right to limit the number of Herefords to be eligible for registration or recording, resulting from the ova of any one ovum donor;
  • The registration or recording of progeny resulting from inovulation shall be subjected to any requirements of the Society for the time being in force, regarding inspection and/or performance.

6. The Society reserves the right through its officers to supervise and/or inspect the keeping of records in connection with the practice of collecting ova or inovulation.

7. Breeders resident in those territories outside the RSA who enjoy the privileges of registration of Herefords under the provisions of the Act, may apply for registration or recording of progeny begotten as result of inovulation, provided the fertilized ova are obtained from a source approved by the Society from time to time.

8. If a Hereford from which ova have been collected for the purpose of inovulation, is sold, the seller of such Hereford shall furnish the new owner thereof with a certificate in which shall be indicated that ova of such Hereford have prior to such sale been so collected, and he shall also furnish the Society with a copy of such certificate.

9. The Society reserves the right to refuse to register or record the progeny resulting from inovulation should any of these rules not be fully adhered to.

B. Imported Embryos

The birth notification of progeny resulting from an imported ovum/embryo must, subject to the provisions of Bye-law 7.5, 7.6 10 bis, 13 bis and this Schedule also be accompanied by -

  • Certificate issued by a recognised competent body in the country or origin -
  • Of the name, identification and registration numbers of the ova and semen donors;
  • Of the date and place of the insemination and collection;
  • Of the number of viable ova/embryos collected from the donor concerned;
  • That the ova/embryos were collected for export to the Territories; and
  • Reflecting the name and address of the importer.

Schedule C

Identification of Performance Tested Bulls (Phase C)

Performance tested bulls (Phase C) that have met with the laid down requirements with regard to growth, feed conversion, functional efficiency and breed standards will be branded by the Department with a V mark.

The V brands on the left fore-quarter shall have the following meanings:

  1. with the base of the V pointing down for Herefords that have achieved a Gold Certificate of Merit;
  2. with the base of the V pointing towards the head for Herefords that have achieved a Silver Certificate of Merit;
  3. upside down for Herefords with performance less than mentioned above (i.e. ordinary certificate).