One of the most common questions we get is whether our cows are polled.
The answer is no.
All of our cows are born and registered as horned animals.
We don't even ask if a cow is polled when we are looking to buy or breed.
To be honest, we don't really care.
So what is all the talk about horned versus polled animals?
Let's be clear. We do not have horns on our cows, but they are not born that way, they are dehorned.
There are several options for dehorning, but I won't get into all of that today.
When we first bought Miniature Herefords, our boys were very young and small. They have always done a lot with the care of our animals. The horns were right at head height and there was no way I was going to send one of my munchkins into a pen with a 700 lb. horned animal.
Now, those munchkins are much bigger and more capable of handling themselves around the animals...but I still don't want them in there with the horns.
Horns on a cow are determined by their genetic make up. The polled gene is a dominant trait while the horned gene is recessive.
You may have seen bulls advertised as homozygous polled. What this means is that they carry 2 polled genes ensuring that their offspring will be polled. A heterozygous polled animal has one polled gene and one horned gene. Since the polled gene is dominant, there is a 50% chance that their offspring will be polled, but it is not guaranteed.
Herefords are historically a horned animal. It wasn't until the late 1890's that the Polled Herefords were developed. In 1901 the Polled Herefords officially became a registered breed.
Polled versus horned can be a testy subject for some. For some it is a lot of misunderstanding. I am not here to convince you one way or the other. You need to make your own decision based on your own farm goals.
We have had many discussions with people over the years and much of the desire for the polled genetics is just to not have to deal with the dehorning process.
Don't let the horns scare you. The dehorning process isn't really as scary as you may think. The easiest and best way we have found is to use Dr. Naylor's dehorning paste when they are 2 or 3 days old. We have found this to be the least stressful and least costly way to remove horns, and we don't have to involve the vet.
I am sure that you have heard the saying "when they bred the horns off, they bred the butt off."
When the polled genetics were being developed, they looked past many of the other traits of the animal and focused only on the polled genetics. In the process, they lost many of the desirable traits of a cow. We have this in the Miniature Herefords also, but I don't want to make a blanket statement because not all animals are created equal.
As you are looking for animals, you need to determine what your goals are.
To us, the depth and width are really important, especially in the show ring.
Sometimes, the polled gene becomes the most important trait and other traits of the animal are overlooked.
Polled animals are changing and many of them are catching up to the horned cattle.
Find the traits that you are looking for in a cow and don't let the horns be the first trait. Just let it be the bonus.
The Miniature Hereford breed is still a very developing breed. They were started to go back to the traits of the "old Herefords."
The old Herefords had horns.
I will also add that many ranchers out west prefer the horns, because the cows can better protect themselves from predators out on the range.
As the polled genetics become more prevalent, they will only get better and better.
There is one polled bull that we are currently looking at using, but to be honest, we didn't even know he was polled until after we had several conversations with the owner. We are looking at other traits in this bull to strengthen some specific points in our genetic program, not because of the horn issue.
Do your research. Make a list of your most desired traits. Find animals that have the traits you want to improve in your herd. Always keep building and growing better animals. If something doesn't work, be willing to change course. Don't be close-minded and start and end your search with horns or no horns.
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Hello! I am Heather... the city girl turned mom to manure loving country boys. My husband and I both grew up in the city, but spent weekends visiting grandparents in the country. We are first generation farmers who learn best by almost always doing things the hard way. I hope you enjoy following along with our adventures down on the farm.