How to measure mini Herefords

(An extract from the American Miniature Hereford Newsletter)

Measurement of your miniatures can be taken straight across the hipbones. The hip height can vary an inch or so depending on whether the animal is standing correctly on its back legs or keeps its back straight (not sagging or humped up).

For the past few years, here at the Point of Rocks Ranch, we have taken both the hip and shoulder height of our Miniature Herefords. The hip height is definitely the more accurate of the two measurements. This is reinforced by the fact that the standard sized cattle go by the hip measurement. Also the shoulder height can increase after 3 years of age, where the hip height will usually stabilise at that age.

There are several instruments made for measuring cattle height. They are usually made of metal with a sliding tube inside a larger tube and a level mounted on a horizontal arm at the top. Another type resembles a regular tape measure with a level attached to a bar for placing on the animal’s back. An inexpensive homemade measuring stick can be made from PVC pipe. We use a reamed out T to slide up and down a pipe with a horizontal piece glued to the leg of the T. This is then placed over the back of the animal. Make permanent marks on the pipe for a quicker reading.

When using the frame height charts to predict the future height of a calf it must be remembered that many factors influence the growth rate. The primary factor is genetics. Some calves grow quickly when they are young then taper off at eighteen months, maturing an inch or so shorter than expected. Other calves grow slowly and continue to grow after they are two, maturing out an inch or so bigger than you expected.

Another factor that changes the growth rate is nutrition. Of course, if a calf does not receive proper nutrition it can become stunted, therefore having a deceptive reading when you use the chart to estimate the mature height. On the other hand a mature cow can measure a couple of inches taller than her actual frame score if she is excessively fat.

Six months of age is the earliest you should begin measuring your calves. By the time they are twelve months old you can get a better projection of their mature height.

It’s pretty standard knowledge in the cattle industry that if you wait until a heifer is three years old before she has her first calf, then she will grow a little bigger than a heifer that has calved at two years old.