All things great and small

Frank SmithCountryman

Denise Warner is passionate about miniature Herefords. She runs 40 head on her 32 hectare block at Waroona with her husband, Len.

She has been a member of the Australian Miniature Hereford Cattle Association for five years and is currently the national secretary.

“When we started, we wanted to buy three female miniature Herefords from a stud in South Australia. The carrier said he had room for a few more, so we ended up buying the whole herd,” Denise said.

“Three of the original miniature Hereford cows to enter Australia are still in the herd at 16 years old.”

There are only about 500 certified miniature Herefords in Australia, so preventing inbreeding is important.

Denise has seven bulls at stud, all but two are from different lines.

“One particular bull can mate with every cow in the herd except his mother,” she said.

There are a handful of miniature Hereford studs in WA, Denise’s being one of the largest.

“Many farmers are downsizing. We’ve just sold 35 animals due to lack of rain and available feed. Even the native trees are dying,” Denise said.

The Warners have reticulated 10ha, but their allocation from Harvey Water has been cut by one third.

“Often the pressure is so low we can only run one sprinkler at a time. Still, our property is more green than most,” Denise said.

The Warners buy in meadow hay but no grain. The cattle get any grass that is available, including the lawn around the house.

They don’t apply superphosphate to pastures, because Denise believes it locks up trace elements. However, they use mineral rock phosphate dust from Queensland.

Denise keeps drinking troughs full and leaves gates open for native birds and other animals in paddocks that are being spelled.

The cattle may be miniature compared with mainstream Herefords, but even so, some of the miniature bulls can weigh in at around 600kg.

“Buyers want smaller animals to meet the demand for smaller joints of meat for families,” Denise said.

“People with small blocks of land also like smaller animals. They like them quiet, and miniature Herefords are so quiet it took me two days to halter train a bull for a local show. One bull whinges and whinges here, but when we take him to a show, you don’t hear from him at all.”

The other market Denise sees for miniature Herefords is in mating with first-year heifers.

“You can mate them sooner without risking calving problems,” she said. “You get a small calf that we have found closely resembles mum’s sizing when mature.”

The Warners have crossed their miniature Herefords with a Brahman and a Jersey cow, while Denise’s sister, who runs a miniature Hereford stud in New South Wales, crosses them with Murray Greys.

One challenge for the Warners was bovine pestivirus.

“I bought in a bull and two cows and I didn’t have the females tested. One was a carrier,” Denise said.

“It is not a problem if the cows in contact with the carrier are not pregnant. If cows are infested while pregnant, calves can be aborted, deformed or be carriers.

“Last year, we delayed mating and ran all the females with a pestivirus carrier to ensure they became naturally immune.”

Snakes are also a problem. Calves are inquisitive and can come into harm’s way when they investigate tiger snakes or dugites.

Denise’s second love after miniature Herefords is Brahmans. “If I didn’t have miniature Herefords, I would breed Brahmans,” she said.

Handling is important — Denise does not use a dog and knows all her animals by name. When she wants to move them, she calls to them and they come.

“I’m passionate about my cattle. We don’t regret the decision to run miniature Herefords, because they are quiet and easy to handle,” she said.

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