Hereford crossbreeding alleviates financial pressure

The shift to crossbreeding with Herefords brings many benefits, says Posy Moody, NZ Herefords General Manager.

In Beef Country5 Minutes

The shift to crossbreeding with Herefords brings many benefits, firstly the inherent Hereford strengths of fertility, feed efficiency on the pasture and feedlots, docility, longevity and production efficiency. Another is the fact they are the least related to any other Bos Taurus breed such as Angus, Murray Gray or Shorthorn, which means they offer more heterotic impact and provide better return on investment.

The heterotic impact provides increased return on your investment in two ways: male weaner calves will be heavier and finish quicker with increased carcass weights, and retained females will last longer and be more productive during their life cycle, with 17% more calves on the ground compared to a straightbred female, according to findings from the United States Meat Animal Research Center (USMARC).

During recent research at Oklahoma State University, where straightbred black Angus cows were compared to Hereford-sired black baldy females and consumed 2 pounds (0.91kg) less modest quality pasture forage per day which equates to 725 pounds (329kg) less per cow per year – about an acre (0.4ha) less per year of the pasture in the study. Plus the Hereford X females maintained a 0.5 higher body condition score throughout the research.

This is why Dave Warbuton, production animal vet and stud beef breeder, began his article in the 2024 Hereford magazine by saying: “1 + 1 = 2.5? Did I do the maths wrong?” Yes, but when it comes to hybrid vigour, did you know when you cross two different breeds, the crossbred offspring have a little extra in performance over their parents at no cost. It’s the hybrid vigour effect. Many cattle breeders instinctively agree hybrid vigour from crossbreeding was the closest they would ever get to a free lunch in farming with the biggest benefits of hybrid vigour in the lowly heritable traits, such as fertility, survival and longevity which increases the importance of the crossbred cow.

The NZ Herefords ‘Hereford X best of breeds’ campaign hopes to encourage farmers with large black cow herds to consider capturing the benefits of hybrid vigour to outperform the straight-bred cow and generate more dollars for the commercial farmers whilst utilising the traits Herefords bring to the cross, including temperament, structure and fertility.

In the Nelson/Golden Bay area, clients of Martin Farming have continually crossed Hereford and Angus to retain much-needed hybrid vigour. “If you’re running a finishing operation – especially with climatic adversity – you pick up the advantages of hybrid vigour,” says Richard Martin. The ‘phenomena’ of hybrid vigour lifted fertility, longevity and efficiency.

“Improving herd reproduction and keeping cows longer provides huge financial gains for commercial operations.”

The Beef + Lamb Genetics beef progeny trial at a Pāmu farm at Lake Manapouri is measuring the effects and value of hybrid vigour from crossbreeding. Kepler Farm Manager Travis Leslie said a big part of the trial was gauging how crossbred cows performed, their longevity, robustness and the performance of their offspring.

Hybrid vigour is going to be a big player and that’s no surprise for us … it’s a question of how you utilise that and take advantage of it. Weight has always been king and I suppose the advantage for us was always producing more animals or bigger animals in the same time frame, or earlier processing at a suitable weight.”

This article was reproduced including information from the 2024 NZ Hereford magazine, with thanks to vet Dave Warburton and contributing journalists. Full versions of these stories, plus others, can be found at online at