Globally, there are 400 recognised genetic defects in beef cattle. Hereford Cattle Society tests for four of these defects: hypotrichosis (HY), dilutor {DL}, idiopathic epilepsy {IE} and maple syrup urine disease {MSUD}.

Mandatory DNA testing

• All registered herd sires – genotyped and *hypotrichosis

• All registered calves born to a hypotrichosis carrier sire {HYC} – genotyped and hypotrichosis

• All animals entered in society recognised sales – genotyped and hypotrichosis

• All AI sires – genotyped and four traits (hypotrichosis, diluter, idiopathic epilepsy and maple syrup urine disease)

• All donor cows and service sires in a domestic embryo transplant programme genotyped, parentage verified and three traits (hypotrichosis, diluter and idiopathic epilepsy), unless they parentage verified free (PVF)

• All animals and germplasm exported – parentage verified and four traits (hypotrichosis, diluter, idiopathic epilepsy and maple syrup urine disease)

• All animals and germplasm imported – parentage verified and four traits (hypotrichosis, diluter, idiopathic epilepsy and maple syrup urine disease)

• All bull calves and their dams randomly selected for inspection – genotyped, hypotrichosis and maple syrup urine disease

• All heifer calves and their dams randomly selected for DNA testing – genotyped, hypotrichosis and maple syrup urine disease

• All animals involved in late notifications/registrations

**All first time calvers (females registering a pedigree calf for the first time) – genotyped and sire or parentage verified

When conducting online searches, you will see animals which have codes listed in brackets { } following the animal’s name. These codes represent the genetic defects the animal has been tested for, i.e. Richmount 1 Nina (P) {DLF IEF HYF MSUDF}.

The only exception to mandatory testing for a genetic defect(s) is where the subject animal is the result of parents tested free of a defect(s). However, it will still be necessary to genotype the subject animal and undertake parentage verification (PV). If found to be correct, the subject animal will be shown as PVF or PVHF.

This exception will not apply in respect of genetics exported unless the importing country agrees to a derogation.

All DNA analyses must be undertaken via Weatherbys Scientific with DNA samples submitted to the society’s office at Hereford House. Results provided by overseas laboratories in respect of imported genetics will also be accepted.

Hereford Cattle Society will reserve the right to publish all results of the genetic defect(s) through the society website and any other official publications considered appropriate i.e. show and sale catalogue. In any event results of animals tested will be available from the office.

In the case of animals, or any genetic material (germplasm) such as semen or embryos being sold, it will be the responsibility of the vendor to inform buyers clearly of all known information relative to genetic defects at the point of sale.

Purchasers will assume all risk associated with the purchase of known and unknown genetic defect carrier animals provided the vendor has disclosed all known information relative to genetic defects at the point of sale.

Vendors will not be responsible for any new genetic defects that the Hereford Cattle Society may recognise after the sale of an animal or genetic material such as semen and embryos.

It is recommended that members inform the society of every calf born (living or dead), as it keeps calving records up to date. There is no fee to add this important information to the society’s database.

Members are requested to note the long existing ruling; rule 35b, that breeders must notify the Hereford Cattle Society of any instance of genetic defects.

It may also be necessary for blood and/or tissue samples to be collected to allow tests to be conducted in an attempt to determine whether the defect is genetically transmitted.

**DNA genotyping first-time calvers

Any female having its first calf registered with the Hereford Cattle Society must be DNA profiled (genotyped) and sire or parentage verified (if the sire or sire and dam have been previously SNP tested), testing for hypotrichosis is optional but recommended.

(To assist with the practicalities of testing the first-time calver, breeders will have up to six months to complete the test)

If breeders test their first-time calvers and they prove free of hypotrichosis, then by putting them to a hypotrichosis free sire (HYF), all future offspring will only require parentage verification. This will result in progeny becoming parentage verified hypotrichosis free (PVHF) and will obviously save the cost of an additional test.

Submitting samples to the society

By submitting hair or tissue samples to the Hereford Cattle Society, members are confirming that they agree for a SNP profile to be created which will be used for the purposes of parentage verification, determining any genetic defects as requested and if specified to discover the poll status of an animal. That profile will form part of a database owned by the Hereford Cattle Society. They are also agreeing that samples or the resulting SNP profile may be used by the Hereford Cattle Society to conduct further tests and that the data may be used by other national Hereford societies.

Genetic defect testing policy

Since genetic defect testing commenced in 2013, over 6,000 cattle have been tested. No animals have been found to be a carrier of either idiopathic epilepsy or maple syrup urine disease and only five have carried the dilutor gene.

This being the situation, the current policy revolves very much around testing for the genetic defect hypotrichosis.


Approximately 9% of the animals tested have been found to carry the hair disorder hypotrichosis.

The following is an explanation of the risk factors involved when mating with animals carrying the defect.

A mating between two hypotrichosis carriers (HYC) will result in 25% of the offspring being affected by the defect, 50% will be carriers and 25% will be free.

A carrier and a non-carrier will not result in offspring being affected by the defect but 50% will be carriers and 50% will be free. Therefore, using a non-carrier sire will result in no offspring being affected by the defect.

Animals can be searched by their genetic defect status via the society’s website. Please use the ‘select if’ dropdown menus.

Testing animals for official sales

All animals entered into a society sale, with the exception of calves up to six months of age sold with their dam, must be DNA genotyped, sire or parentage verified and tested free of hypotrichosis with the results lodged with the society by the date of the sale.

Any animal found to be a carrier of one or more of the genetic defects will not be eligible for entry into an official sale.

DNA testing timetable

If a hair or tissue sample is submitted less than five weeks prior to close of entry, the laboratory (Weatherbys Scientific) will only be able to test the sample once. If the sample is unsuitable and not able to produce a result, then the animal in question will not be permitted to enter the sale.

To ensure the results are known by the sale date, DNA samples should be submitted at least eight weeks prior to close of entries of the sale.