Hereford breeders experienced an increase in demand for Hereford genetics during the 2007-2008 American Hereford Association (AHA) fiscal year (Sept. 1 – Aug 31). And, the Association released phase I results from a study validating the efficiency of Hereford and Hereford-influenced cattle.

“Hereford breeders are seeing the shift in demand,” says Craig Huffhines, AHA executive vice president. “Their private treaty sales are stronger; the last four years of production sales have reflected an extremely strong bull demand, and the demand for Hereford females is unprecedented.”

AHA reports the average price paid for a Hereford bull this fiscal year increased by $287 per head with the average price being $3,272. That’s an 11.5% increase during the last four years.

Also, breeders saw an increase in demand for purebred Hereford females. More than 3% more females were sold this fiscal year than the previous year. The total number of purebred Hereford cattle sold increased as well as the price Hereford breeders are receiving for their cattle: the average price paid per head was up more than 4% or $123.

All this progress was made during a year when the price of fuel and feed skyrocketed and many cattlemen felt the pinch. Because of inflating inputs, the Hereford breed’s efficiency has never been more valued. The results from the first year of the Harris Ranch study quantified the value of Hereford genetics and heterosis. In this study Hereford bulls and Angus bulls were bred to predominately Angus cows, and the progeny were compared. The Hereford-sired calves had the advantage in nearly every production phase from weaning to harvest. Ultimately, in the first calf crop, the Hereford-sired calves had about a $78 per head advantage in profitability compared to the Angus-sired calves.

Other research projects at Circle A Ranch and the University of Missouri are finding similar results that further prove Herefords are the efficiency experts.

Also, in the Harris Ranch project, the heifer calves were retained, bred and, in the spring of 2008, calved. Data is being gathered to compare the fertility and longevity of these females.

This year, Hereford breeders continued to use the advantages of artificial insemination (AI) to improve their cattle. Hereford breeders used AI to produce 19.4% of the total Hereford calf-crop, an increase of more than 5,000 head in the past five years.

“It is so rewarding to see the improvements Hereford breeders have made in their cattle,” Huffhines says. “They are paying attention to their customers’ needs, fixing problems and making genetic improvements in the areas that make a difference.”

Helping with this progress has been the Whole Herd Total Performance Records (TPR™) program. Now eight years old, the program has helped the AHA and Hereford breeders build a database that documents the breed’s strengths. This fiscal year 107,521 cows were enrolled in the program and 84% of all calves registered were by Whole Herd TPR breeders.

Certified Hereford Beef (CHB) LLC also experienced an increase in demand this year. CHB LLC packing partner National Beef Packing Co. LLC had such a demand for Hereford-influenced beef, it launched an ad campaign to find more Hereford and black-whiteface cattle eligible for the program.

“Such a campaign had never been done before, and it built excitement in the industry,” says Arden Gremmert, CHB LLC interim general manager.

CHB sales were up about 1.4 million lb. with a large portion of that being on the foodservice side. Foodservice sales increased 50% from 2.9 million lb. last year to 4.4 million lb. this fiscal year.

Hereford Verified, the AHA’s traceable program for Hereford-influenced calves that provides producer bonuses and data on cattle that meet CHB requirements, boasted a 58% increase in harvested cattle. A total of 12,260 head were harvested through the program with 15,056 enrolled during the fiscal year.

“Feeders are taking advantage of this alternative marketing solution to the commodity system,” says Jim Williams, CHB LLC vice president of supply, of the increase in enrolled Hereford Verified cattle.

Also noted at the fiscal year’s end are registrations, transfers, total cow inventory and memberships. The second largest cattle breed in the U.S., Hereford reported 63,943 registrations and 33,912 transfers. The Association has 3,354 active adult members and 2,239 junior members.

Texas topped the list of registrations per state at 8,361 with South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Kansas rounding out the top five respectively.

The top five breeders by registration numbers were Rausch Herefords, Hoven, S.D., with 605; Courtney Herefords, Belle Fourche, S.D., 583; Upstream Ranch, Taylor, Neb., 482; Star Lake Cattle Ranch, Skiatook, Okla., 444; and Stuber Ranch, Bowman, N.D., 425.