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Hereford breed is alive and well

Staff writer

Turn on any western movie from the early 1900s, and if cattle are involved, they generally are red whitefaces, commonly known as Herefords. And they have horns.

Herefords got their name from their place of origin, Herefordshire, England.

The foundation herd was imported in 1840 and gained a strong foothold in New England before gradually moving west to populate large commercial herds.

The story is told that, when the blizzards of 1889 and 1890 swept across the West, Herefords proved to be the hardiest because of their thick hides and long hair, helping them to survive while other breeds froze to death. They became the leading breed in the West and are still prevalent there in many locations.

Marion County History, Past and Present, by Sondra Van Meter, records that several of the first ranchers who settled Marion County had Hereford cattle. Shorthorns and Durhams were other popular breeds.

In 1940, Marion County Hereford Breeders Association was formed. Members were Omer Shields, Lost Springs; Cecil Medley and Sons and Fred Dahlinger, Tampa; Harrison Koop, Hillsboro; Phillips and Jost, Harold Hauser, and Melton and Hett, all of Marion.

Annual Hereford shows were held in the county into the late 1960s.

In 1953, a Marion County Hereford show was held in conjunction with a big tractor and implement show.

Omer Shields was the first breeder in the county to raise polled Herefords. They were developed in Iowa using a foundation herd of genetically mutated females that were born without horns. They were considered “freaks” because of the lack of horns but gradually gained in popularity.

The late Fred Shields, grandson of Omer Shields, continued the Polled Hereford tradition.

The late Cy Goertz of Marion raised Hereford cattle, as did Rex Siebert. The Grace Ranch northeast of Burns ran 200 Herefords.

Although heavy promotion and marketing has elevated Certified Angus Beef in the past three decades, making Angus more common, Herefords continue to have a presence in the county. Usually, horns are removed from calves when they are weaned, except for those that will be sold as bulls.

Junior Hanschu of Ramona lives on his father, Alex’s, home place and still has Herefords as his father had. He crossbreeds them with black bulls to create mostly black whiteface calves

Dana Wolford has a small herd south of Durham, Roger Will of Tampa has a 30-head herd, and Jerry Plett of Lincolnville has 100 head. Stuart and Lea Isaac of Hillsboro started a herd of Herefords four years ago. Donnie and Dawn Hett of Marion took over Rex Siebert’s registered herd. Although they no longer register Hereford calves, the cows are part of their Angus herd.

There may be others who have not been identified.

According to Tom Granzow, president of the Kansas Hereford Association, the number of Herefords continues to grow after taking a downturn for a while. Hereford genetics are continually being improved, and Hereford bulls are in demand for crossbreeding with other breeds.

AHA has its own Certified Hereford Beef that is growing in popularity. To qualify, cattle have to be at least 50 percent Hereford.

“CHB took a big step up this year,” Granzow said. “The numbers say we have turned the corner.”

Last modified Nov. 8, 2017

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