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Hereford cattle 1920-1929

High standards and low prices

The demand for Hereford cattle to be exported abroad protected the pedigree breeders from the worst effects of the "beef war" in which the meat-packing companies of South America, the U.S., Australia and New Zealand were competing with each other for the control of the English meat market. Demand for pedigree stock from these countries in order to increase their output was considerable, especially in Argentina.

At home the average price for the 3,264 bulls sold between 1921 and 1930 was £50.

There were outbreaks of foot and mouth disease which led to the slaughter of some herds, and many foreign ports were closed to the import of English livestock in the 1920s. There was also a risk from contagious abortion or Brucellosis.

Pedigree farmers suffered alongside commercial farmers when the market was flooded with cheap imports from the meat markets of Smithfield and Birmingham.

For a time pride and government subsidies preserved the Herefords but within 30 years they were forced to surrender to Friesians from north-west Germany, and gradually these black and white cows took over the pastures.

In 1928 the fall in prices of pedigree cattle continued; the average price for bulls at the Society's Spring Sales was £43 (the lowest in the 1920s). However, the export trade did improve.

[Original author: Miranda Greene, 2005]