Breeding 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.

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.

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:


1.1 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.

1.2 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.

1.3 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.

  • 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.

1.4 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.

  • 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.

1.5 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.

1.6 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 or 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.




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.




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-breedings in most regions of the country.

It is well documented and accepted that in Herefords, like in all other cattle breeds, sleek and smooth coated ness have positive adaptive significance in terms of environmental temperature and resistance to external parasites. Smooth coated ness 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.




The Hereford is an early 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.




5.1 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.

5.2 A Heifer must calve before or at the age of 39 months (1187) days for the first time.

5.3 All cases of dystocia (difficult birth) are to be recorded against the animals concerned.

5.4 Optimal birth weights to avoid dystocia are to be identified for the Hereford breed and are not to be exceeded in stud bulls.

5.5 Mature Hereford cows are expected to calve annually, without assistance and to produce and rear strong and healthy calves.5.6 The minimum number of calves a cow must produce by a certain age is noted in the table below

Age of dam  Min. No. Calves Max. Average ICP (Days)
3 years 3 months    1  
5 years 3 months  2 790
6 years 3 months    3 578
8 years 3 months 4 628
9 years 3 months   5 563
11 years 3 months 6 596
12 years 3 months 7 558
14 years 3 months  8 582
15 years 3 months   9 555
17 years 3 months 10 575

5.7 A cow must rear at least two of any three consecutive calves up to weaning. (For this purpose, a weaning weight recorded on Intergis will serve as proof that a calf was reared up to weaning).

5.8 Any calving interval may not exceed 26 months (790 days).

5.9 A cow may wean not more than two calves with a weaning index below 90. Once a cow has weaned three (3) calves with an index below 90 she will be culled.


6.1 The gestation period shall be 283 days. The minimum acceptable gestation period shall be 262 days, and the maximum period shall be 304 days.

6.2 The minimum period between the dates of birth of two successive calves out of one cow (intercalving period) shall be 266 days.

6.3 Any gestation or intercalving periods outside these ranges shall not be recognised unless the parentage of the calf concerned is confirmed by a DNA profile.

6.4 Calving interval may not exceed 26 months (790) days maximum.




  • 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 at all times be avoided.
  • 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.




  • 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.
  • No animal shall be accepted for registration or recording if it has been treated with hormonal growth stimulants. Such practices shall be considered prejudicial to the interests of the Society.
  • 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 of 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.
  • Wean Indices are required for the purpose of inspection.
  • The entire remaining group must be inspected together.
  • The wean index is compulsory for all groups and for individual animals unless a valid reason, as accepted by Council, is provided. In such cases the year and 18 month indices must be presented.
  • In cases where the animal was not weighed at the age of 12 months, the wean and 18 month indices will be acceptable.




  • In cases where heifers are inspected before the age of 18 months, the wean and 12 month indices will be acceptable.

The minimum indexes for heifers are :

  • Minimum wean index of 85
  • Minimum 12 month index of 85
  • Minimum 18 month index of 85


8.2  BULLS


The scrotum circumference of Phase B bulls is not officially measured. The inspector may measure the scrotum circumference and use the standards below as guidelines. (A breeder may measure bulls' scrotums at 18 months of age and submit measurements together with 18 month old weights) 

  • Bulls tested in Phase B :
  • Minimum weight of 300 kg at time of inspection
  • Minimum wean index of 85
  • Minimum 12 month index of 85
  • Minimum 18 month index of 85
  • Minimum scrotum circumference :
Body weight     Minimum scrotum circumference
300 to 349 kg     29cm 
350 to 399 kg 30cm 
400 to 449 kg  31cm
450 to 499 kg 32cm
500 to 549 kg 33cm
550 kg and over  34cm

Bulls tested in Phases C1, C2, C3, D1, D2 and D3 :

  • Minimum wean index of 85
  • Minimum ADG (Average daily gain) index of 85
  • Minimum feed conversion ratio index of 85 (Phase C only)
  • Minimum scrotum circumference :

Bodyweight-corrected (to standard of 425 kg body weight) scrotum circumference of 305mm.

  • All rejected bulls from Phases B, C & D as well as bulls not submitted for inspection, must be castrated or slaughtered immediately.



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Hereford Society