Sunday, April 2, 2017


Autumn - my favourite time of the year.   Cool mornings and evenings, summery days and the changing of the colours in the garden.   This year we are having a true Autumn for a change made all the nicer with the drought having broken and the grass growing.   We are still having to feed out hay, though, as there isn't quite enough substance in the grass as yet but the stock are doing well.

We don't wean either our big or small Hereford calves until they are around eight months of age and then only if there is good pasture ahead of them.   All their vaccinations were completed by the time they were three months old but some breeders prefer to wait until weaning time.   If you do, then this is the time to get them done so that the calves have good protection once they have left their mothers.   In the past we have used the 5-in-1 vaccine but having lost two or three calves this season for no apparent reason we are going to try the 10-in-1 vaccine next season and see if that improves matters.

When my calves are weaned they have meal and chaffage products available along with molasses and mineral blocks.   There are many choices a breeder can make which are available from stock firms but check what ingredients are in them.   They also get hay as the new grass growth tends to make them a bit runny at the rear end!   We drench our calves a couple of weeks after weaning them to prevent worm build-up plus deal with some external parasites.   Lice are present at all times of the year but they tend to prefer the thicker coats the animals are building up for winter.

These cooler months are well suited to undertake
any de-horning or castrations if they weren't done when the calves were muchyounger.   Remember, though, that shelter mustbe available in case rain comes unexpectedly.
The calves can either have a local anaesthetic in
the horn area or be completely anaesthetised.   The
horn has to be completely removed and this should
involve removing the hair in a circle around them -
sometimes called the 'ring of confidence' except
toothpaste is not being used!   Failure to do this
can result in the horn re-growing often in a very
deformed condition which is both unsightly and
Providing there is good pasture ahead of them supplementary feeding can be gradually phased out leading up to Winter with the weaners going into the colder months in good condition and not likely to lose weight.   Make sure tails are trimmed with any dags cleared away and ears can also be trimmed so that their tags can be easily read in the paddock.

Friday, March 24, 2017


It is far too long since I published something on this site.   Something always seemed to get in the way but really I should have been making regular posts to keep up to date.

Since the last post, my herd of minis has grown so that now there are around sixty of them if you count cows, calves and bulls.   It has got to the point where I have to take my paddock book out with me to identify some of them!   This is especially when two or more may look so alike once they are mature.   Ear tags are helpful but only if the ears are kept trimmed.   I have bought in a few more, mostly females and sold one or two to other breeders or as culls to the Works.   We had another drought this summer so this photo shows some of the twenty-five cows and calves having their daily feed of supplementary hay.

Two years ago I decided it was time to take a hard look at what I had and sort out which were to stay and which were to go. Unfortunately Mother Nature must have been looking over my shoulder and decided to take a hand  so that I ended up with a catastrophic calving season losing ALL the heifer "mini" calves.   I also lost two lovely first calvers.   This made the decision to not calve them until they are three year olds as we do with our standard polled Herefords.   They just are not mature enough and I have been very lucky with the results from the previous four years of breeding.

The original goal was to build up to at least fifty breeding cows but that has now been revised down to around thirty unless I can acquire more land.   At present there are, I hope, twenty-six.cows in calf for next Spring.   Two other goals have been to develop an entirely polled herd and to get the coat colours much darker.   This is slowly being achieved with the use of two imported polled bulls from the USA.   First was KNF General Stan Watie then a few years later Diamond S Starbuck.   Quite a few polled calves have been born to both these bulls and there are others sired by sons of those bulls.

KNF General Stan Watie                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Diamond S Starbuck

Both Stan Watie and Starbuck are heterozygous polled, i.e. only carry one polled gene.   Since acquiring Starbuck four years ago from Robert Watts of Diamond S Herefords, Kennewick, Washington State, I have been working with breeders in the USA to find more polled Miniature Hereford bulls.   Two homozygous polled (carrying both polled genes) bulls have finally been selected from the herd of Betty Johnson of Straitside Ranch, Sequim, Washington State as suitable for the herds in New Zealand.   With arrangements for importing straws well in hand these should be available for use in October of this year (2017).   There are also a couple of homozygous polled bulls in Australia I am keeping my eye on.   All this variety of genetics can only benefit our Miniature Hereford herds.   Over fifty per cent of the latest crop of my calves, born in Spring, 2016, are polled which is very pleasing.   It will reduce the vet. bills, too, when there are fewer to be dehorned!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


Show seasons down our part of the globe start around October and go through till April or May.   With the exception of some of the biggest events these are all held outdoors.   There are no specific shows for Miniature Herefords so we have to compete against other small breeds or bigger breeds but the minis can more than hold their own.   They are also attracting a lot of attention with a growing number of people interested in becoming breeders in their own right.   This is good advertisement for the advantages of having Miniature Herefords and one which needs to be promoted.
In Australia there are several breeders who are showing their stock but at present only one in New Zealand.   It is such a shame we have the Tasman Sea between our two countries because the opportunity to compete against each other would be a real boost to our breeding programmes.   Joy Walters, of Boomer Creek Miniature Herefords in Tasmania, has been showing her animals for years and very successfully.   She has been a real asset in helping other newcomers to the show ring with training, preparation and techniques.
              Joy and Colin Walters at the 2011 Launceston Royal Show, Tasmania.

Bridgewater High School has also had the benefit of Joy’s instruction and their enthusiasm for turning out minis which perform well has earned them many placings.   The school has its own Bridgewater Miniature Hereford Stud.




Bridgewater competitors ata the 2011 Launceston Royal Show, Tasmania.

Two of the newer breeders in Australia have recently taken to showing with good results.   They are keen to see more owner/breeders of Miniature Herefords come on board so that there is more competition among the smaller animals.   Alison Livermore has Musical Valley Miniature Herefords in Victoria and Jack Bryan has HIghlander Miniature Herefords in New South Wales.

Alison Livermore at the Pakenham Show             Jack Bryan at the 2012 Canberra Royal Show
                           (Victoria)                                                              (New South Wales)
 On the eastern shores of the Tasman Sea is the very small country of New Zealand.   There are around thirty Miniature Hereford breeders here and many have show quality animals but somehow exhibiting them is slow to take off.   At present Riverlets Miniature Hereford Stud is the only one with animals in the show ring but this has generated so much interest in the smaller Herefords that they are becoming better known.   Most of the competition is against other breeds of cattle as well as the bigger ones but one show does have a Small Beef Breeds Class where the minis always perform very well.   This is also proving to be a popular class for those with the smaller breeds of cattle.                                                                                 

Young Handler, 2012 Northern Wairoa Show           Group Entry, 2012 Northern Wairoa Show
                   (New Zealand)                                                                     (New Zealand)
The big wish for the future is to have enough Miniature Herefords being shown in both Australia and New Zealand that special shows can be held for them as is happening in America.   An exchange system whereby handlers can cross the Tasman to either country and show animals bred there would be a good incentive for the younger people.   This is already being done by Lowline (Angus) breeders and we can’t let them get away with that, can we!   Another outlet is the Virtual Cattle Show for Miniature Herefords which proved a lot of fun last year and numbers for this year have almost doubled.   You can find information about this on both the MHBA ( and AMHBN ( websites.  

Friday, April 27, 2012

Tarahua Cracker Jack


Having joined the Kaipara Equine Driving Club and been offered the use of some harness-trained wee horses  I started looking for driving gear.  Trade-Me was an obvious site to look into and what a lot of Miniature Horses were available but no really suitable carts.   It took a couple of months of searching then up came not just cart and harness but the cutest wee horse to go with them - C.J., short for Cracker Jack.   He was also trained as a riding horse for little people so a contact was made with the seller.   I wasn't the only one after him but I was the lucky one!   On a quite nice winter day C.J. arrived in a large horse transport truck - the smallest and shaggiest equine I had ever seen with a personality as big as himself.   After a brief examination  of his new home he calmly settled in.

      I could use this as a swimming pool.                    Yes, I'm a horse, not a calf!                 

It wasn't long before word got around our friends about the new little fellow and the phone started ringing with requests to come and see him.   He was not in the least bit fazed by all this attention so his fan club grew.   I discovered just how good he was to handle and how safe he was with younger children eager to pat him, pick up a brush and groom him and generally make a fuss of him.   C.J. wasn't on his own.   One of our big eventing horses was paddocked nearby with an injured leg so the two of them became acquainted and were very happy together.   Gourd is twice the size of C.J. but that was no problem for them.   Eventually we would go for "ride/drives" along the road or out on the farm with the two four-legged friends striding out together.   On occasions he had the paddock company of my Miniature Herefords which are actually BIGGER than him.

  Gosh - he's smaller than me!                                       Big Gourd, Little C.J.
As a small saddle had come with his gear I decided he would be good for youngsters to start learning about horsemanship but they had to begin with bareback riding to establish a good balance first.   He now has a regular rider who is very confident about grooming him, taking off and putting on his cover, picking out his feet, saddling and bridling him and so on.   But, oh dear, someone's legs have grown and they are not C.J.s!

    The long and the short of it.                                    Can horses wear high-heeled shoes?

I hadn't bought C.J. as a whim, a fashionable accessory or just a pet.   With a damaged back I could no longer ride but this was not going to stop my life-long involvement with horses so there was a definite purpose for this little guy.   Our first Rally with the Driving Club proved just how well-trained C.J. was.   Obedient to the lightest touch on the reins or voice he is a joy to drive.   I don't really need the whip - a slight tap with it on his harness to speed him up at times is all that is necessary.   It was years since I had last driven regularly but it all came back despite the rust!   C.J. is possibly the most dependable horse I have worked with so I decided I should try and trace the person who had trained him so well.

               Leaving for a Test Drive.                                             Test Drive completed.

Once C.J. and I were comfortable with each other we decided to have more fun.   Games Day was coming up with our Driving Club and it was soon obvious that not only did he know what to do he enjoyed doing it.   Then it was on to something a bit more serious - the annual One Day Event.   C.J. didn't put a foot wrong but his driver was a different matter!   First of all I learned the Dressage Test incorrectly and even though C.J. obeyed every move they were not all the right ones.   Then, I missed a couple of obstacles on the Cross-Country Course which dropped our marks but he came home on the last leg at a brisk canter.   Finally, even though I had carefully walked the Cones Course (equivalent of showjumping), I managed to drive him through one set the wrong way round - he actually did a clear round without dislodging any of the golf balls perched on the cones so I apologised to him for my lack of co-operation.

                Warming up for Dressage                               Powering up a Cross-Country hill

This little guy and I are going places.   Our Driving Club has a great variety of activities and the next one on the list is a farm trek with lunch at picturesque tourist lakes on the way.   In the meantime it is a marvellous way for me to get out on our farm at our own pace, check on the stock and do some more exploring.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Up There From Down Here - Christmas 2011

The festive season approaches with us sweltering in the sizzling summer and you snug in your winter woollies.  The traditional dinner here includes roast lamb, kumara and potatoes plus ham and salads finished off with pavlova, fruit and cream and lots of other fattening goodies!   A good family-get-together time.  


            Pavlova, fruit and cream - yum!                

                                                                                                                Pohutukawa in blossom

 Some of us decorate what we call the New Zealand Christmas tree rather than the usual fir.   A native tree, the pohutukawa is a mass of bright red blossoms at this time of the year.   Beaches and barbecues beckon and school is out for about six weeks.   Silage and baleage are almost finished with haymaking just around the corner.

Photo of a secluded Northland eastern beach.                    Painting of a Northland beach.

The Miniature Herefords are glossy and fat in their summer coats with Spring born calves growing well.   The bulls went into their respective mating herds in October and will be taken out in January with hopefully everything in calf.

                                        Miniature Hereford cows with the Herd Sire
We can now let you know the Virtual Cattle Show for Miniature Herefords will be taking place again with entries closing on 31 May, 2012 so get busy with your cameras if you haven’t already.   There are some slight changes to the programme which you will be able to see on the Australian Miniature Hereford Breeders Network website .    Entry form and Frame Score recording will also be included.   This time, at the request of one of the Judges, we are asking for three photos of each animal – one from the front, one side on and one from the rear.   Read the Photo tips for taking front-on photos.   We are also changing the Viewers’ Choice to be a choice from classes 1 to 9 only, not an extra photo.   This gives us a better idea of how people see the different entries.   Again it will be a ballot box judging.   It is hoped all previous competitors along with new ones will join in and we are endeavouring to find out where else in the world there are mini breeders.   If anyone knows of some please contact me at .


             Head View                                    Rear View                                          Side View
In case you are wondering, the AMHBN  is a Trans-Tasman group comprising mainly Aussies but with some Kiwis on board too.   We hold our meetings via G-mail which, with numerous people taking part, can be quite hilarious at times even though we do deal with serious matters as well.
We wish you all a safe and happy Christmas and New Year.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Helpful Hints

These pieces of information are from my own experience and some that others have suggested to me during the cycle of breeding, weaning, training, showing and so on of my Miniature Herefords.   They are also applicable to a wide range of other animals.   If anyone has something they would like added to this column for others to read please contact me on and I will put it in.   Photos are also welcome.


Ever struggled to fill a hay net with the hay refusing to be stuffed in and the net twisting like an octopus?   Here are a couple of easy ways to deal with that.

The Plastic Bag method.

Fill a plastic bag with the amount of hay you need then pull the hay net over it upsidedown.

Turn the hay net right side up and slide the plastic bag out leaving the hay in the net.

The Bucket method.        

Tuck the hay net into a bucket or something similar (here I have used a feed container) then put the required amount of hay into the net.

   Pull the hay net up over the hay and remove from bucket.      Now hang up the hay net securely.

For cattle we use a hay net with wider spaces in the netting than those in our horse nets.   Cattle need to use their tongues to help pick out the hay whereas horses use their teeth and lips.


Horrible little beasties have been invented to plague man and animal alike particularly in the summer months.   Biting flies, ants, midges, fleas, sandflies and so on can now be given a taste of their own medicine.

Procure a bottle of Baby Oil and a bottle of Dettol (antiseptic with a strong smell) and mix equal parts together (i.e. 50/50) into another container.

                 Baby Oil                                                                         Dettol

You will notice that the oil sinks down while the Dettol floats on top of it.   Shake vigorously until the liquids blend into a cloudy mixture.   You will need to do this every time you use it.

                 Unmixed solution                                                       Mixed solution 
Transfer the mixture to a container with a spray nozzle.   You can then use it on yourself (arms, legs) or the animal.   We ususally spray it on the legs of our cattle or horses and under their bellies.   If horses have a day sheet on that is all that is required otherwise it can be applied anywhere avoiding, of course, eyes and nose.   The oil keeps the solution on the hair and makes it shiny while the smell of the Dettol repels insects.

                                                        Spray container with mixture.
It is wise to label the container with what the mixture is.   If your animal objects to being sprayed simply spray the solution onto a cloth and wipe that over them.




Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Twins Grow Up

December 3rd, 2009.   A day after the due date and Grovenorth Abby calved.   She was in the same paddock as her friend who had produced an attractive heifer three days earlier.   When I saw first one calf and then the other all seemed well until - OH MY GOSH, there's a THIRD calf!   I discovered later that these were the first recorded Miniature Hereford twins in the Southern Hemisphere.   Apparently there had been another set earlier in New Zealand but they had not been registered.   The new little 'un with its mother was a bull so I hoped the other would be as well although I really wanted all heifers.   Out of luck - it was a heifer and probably a "freemartin" meaning it would be sterile (see article about this in the earlier story "Against All Odds").  In this case I found two separate placentas in the paddock so am hoping for the best.

TWO not one and mum makes three.                                           Tea, with milk, for two.

I like to name my calves in some way after their mothers so the bull became Riverlets Abbot (yes, I know  there should only be one 't') and the heifer Riverlets Abbess.   These names were shortened to Abe and Bess.   Abe weighed 22 kg and Bess 23.6 kg which was within the normal range for Miniature Hereford calves in my herd.   Abby was a good mum with plenty of milk so no supplementary feed was necessary nor did we need to take one calf from her to hand rear unlike the bigger Herefords.   Beef cows are really only designed to raise one calf at a time successfully but there are exceptions.   We were already at the beginning of a drought which lasted seven months but Abby cared for her babies all through this without any setbacks to them although by the time they were weaned, at around eight months, she had lost some condition and took longer to get in calf again.

When the calves were a couple of months old I had them dehorned.   Unfortunately this was summertime so we had to watch them carefully for any infection or flystrike with the hotter weather.   Abe did suffer a bit with one side of his head but was easy to handle so came right after a while.   It was simply a matter of keeping the wound clean, applying Wound Powder (a charcoal-based compound available from vets or stock firms) and topping off with Flystrike Powder.   Bess had no such problems.   Abe was very friendly and enjoyed a good scratch or rub but Bess was quite shy.   When scampering by their mother, especially in the evening light, they looked like a couple of rabbits with their bobbing, white-tipped tails.   They thrived then by May started to grow their winter coats, probably anticipating the wet, cold, muddy conditions to come.   With the severe drought there was no grass on which to wean any of the calves so it wasn't until July that the twins could leave Mum for a "greener pasture".   By then they looked like 'woolly little mammoths' according to a not very complimentary friend whereas I thought them round, cute and cuddly!
   Hoppity, skippity off we go with mum.                        Weaned and in their winter woollies.

Eventually there came a parting of the ways with Abe going off to join the bigger weaned Hereford bull calves and Bess into the heifer calf mob.   They mingled very well with their peers, getting used to a different part of the farm and continuing to grow well.   The following October (2010) saw the arrival of two more Miniature Hereford bulls purchased from Ruzak Park Stud, Oamaru, in the South Island.   These lads were a couple of months older than the twins and a bit bigger but that didn't faze Abe in the least.   He proceeded to try and assert domination over Digger but soon gave up and decided they were no threat to him!   I kept the three young bulls together for a while before taking them out to mix with the yearling mob again.   The little guys stuck up for themselves and before long they were all grazing happily together.   All the Herefords, great and small, get virtually the same management on our farm except during the mating or calving seasons when the Miniatures have separate paddocks.   The only difference is that the earlier-maturing minis are calved as two-year-olds while the bigger Herefords wait until they are better matured at three years of age.   This works well.   

        Riverlets Abbott v. Ruzak Park Digger.                                         Three is not a crowd.
It was interesting to contrast the growth of the Miniature Hereford calves with those of their same age group among the conventional Herefords.   The shorter legs and necks of the minis meant that they became more compact while the bigger animals went through a leggy stage before filling out from about eighteen months.   This applied to both heifers and bulls.   Although I prefer not to use my bulls until they are around two years of age one of them went out with a group of cows at seventeen months and got all of them in calf.   He is now running with another group and I am looking forward to seeing what his progeny are like.   The heifers are left until they are about fifteen months old and they calve with little trouble at two years.   The twin heifer was an exception.   She was very small as a yearling so I left her for another year.  

Abe and big Hereford - yearlings.                            Bess and big Herefords - yearlings.  
A puzzling problem with the minis is their tendency to have very dirty tails and hind quarters.   We don't have this to the same extent with the bigger Herefords and are thinking it may be the richness of the grass on our farm.   Herefords are able to forage anywhere but maybe they, the minis in particular, do better with more roughage.   Our farm is high in ryegrass and clover - very few weeds, no kikuyu or rough pasture and the soil tests have shown it to be well nourished.   The answer could be to restrict the minis' access to fresh pasture and feed more hay but that is easier said than done on a farm of this size.   They certainly came through both the drought and the horrible winters in better shape than the bigger cattle and what condition they did lose was recovered in a very short space of time.

 Rich pasture.                                                                  No pasture.                      

Two years have now passed and the twins are moving towards their next adventures.   Bess is with the herd running with Ruzak Park Digger in the hope that she will actually have a calf next Spring.   The two-year-old bulls Abe was with have all been sold so he has been "demoted" to the next mob of yearlings but he is still smaller than they are!   He is possibly going to take a trip to the Deep South to stand as a service bull at aother Miniature Hereford Stud for a couple of years.   He won't be sold as his genetics will be needed back home some time in the future.   Before that he will be tested for BVD (bovine viral diaorrhea) and vaccinated.   His TB clearance is C10 and he has had all other necessary vaccinations.   My cattle will only come from or go to herds which have the same protections as I cannot put either my minis or our larger Herefords at risk. 

Riverlets Abbott aged two.                                                   Riverlets Abbess aged two.