Avid, young Hereford breeder Brady Jensen recently experienced what he described as an exhilarating and inspirational opportunity, when he was one of nearly 80 junior members representing 21 different states at a National Junior Hereford Association Conference during late summer, followed immediately by an international Hereford event.
The 20-year-old Jensen of Courtland, Kan., and approximately seven dozen young adults converged on the campus of South Dakota State University in Brookings during the last week of July and first week of August for a leadership conference.
Labelled PRIDE — an acronym for “Program For Reaching Individuals Determined to Excel” — the seminars provided by the National Junior Hereford Association offered leadership guidance for Jensen and the other participants.
Recently being selected grand champion senior showman at the mid-July Junior National Hereford Expo in Kansas City, Mo., Jensen is also now propelling through the ranks on the Board of the NJHA.
He’s currently in his second year as part of a three-year term on the junior board.
During the first year, Jensen was a director.
He was then elected to the membership chair position in July 2013 — a board seat which gave him the opportunity to attend the national seminar in South Dakota, and then the international workshop in Canada.
Jensen said it’s exciting being part of it all.
“Oh it’s awesome. The opportunities we’ve had already have been crazy-good. It’s a title (membership chairman,) and I get to chair a couple of events. Being on the board, I like to see all the youth who attended, and listen to the speakers and learn about animal activists, and how you would respond when the media asks questions, like in this interview with you,” he relayed excitedly to The Fence Post.
Jensen also enjoyed hearing a seminar on raising cattle and farming.
A highlight of the campus event was a pep rally with inspirational keynote speaker, V.J. Smith, who was a prior fundraiser at South Dakota State University.
Smith was a big draw for the youth.
“He gave a hoorah speech to get us pumped up, and he provided several key points on interacting with people, including learning to be grateful, handshakes, writing thank-you notes and using eye contact,” relayed Jensen.
Then Jensen shared an unforgettable memory, when Smith discussed a book he wrote about a senior citizen employed at the Walmart in Brookings.
Titled “The Richest Man in Town,” the novel is all about an employee, named Marty, who Smith explained typically hosted the most crowded check-out lane of all their cash registers. Smith couldn’t figure out why the line to Marty’s location was so long, so, one day he decided to try that line, himself.
Jensen relayed that the man was apparently so friendly and helpful that Smith wrote a letter to the head of Walmart about Marty’s stellar public relations qualities. That same year Marty was flown to Walmart headquarters. Smith also visited Marty a couple of times a week.
“It was an interesting book about leadership and how to live life,” explained Jensen.
The NJHA leadership conference is held at a different land-grant university each year, which is an animal science or agriculture college.
“We host these leadership seminars to build our future leaders, not only in the Hereford industry, but to expose them to events going on in the entire agriculture industry,” said Amy Cowan, director of youth activities and foundation for the American Hereford Association, based in Kansas City.
New this year was a unique competition with another cattle breed.
“This was the first year that we teamed up with the American Maine-Anjou organization,” Cowan said. “The Herefords and the Maine-Anjou’s competed in different contests, such as livestock judging.”
The 78 students attending also learned about marketing and breeding programs at different ranches.
They toured the extensive Fawcett’s Elm Creek Ranch, which provided invaluable information to take back home to their own family ranches.
“When we go to all these places in different states, we’ll stop by a ranch, and sometimes they’ll just take us under their wings for the night,” shared Jensen, adding, “The camaraderie and friendships are unreal.”
An exciting highlight for the junior breeders was a session on trans ova genetics, which offered the latest information on embryo transfer, artificial insemination and cloning.
“That was neat to teach them about that. The junior members learned different reproductive technology, and then afterward, four national board directors travelled north to represent us in Canada, which was really neat,” shared Cowan.
Travelling to an international conference was an experience that Jensen won’t forget, he said.
Immediately after the South Dakota seminar, he attended the Canadian Hereford Bonanza in early August.
Jensen said his mother’s family is from Canada, and they were instrumental in establishing the first yearly Bonanza.
“We literally left at six O’clock in the morning to go to Brandon, Manitoba, Canada for four days. I went up as an ambassador promoting our events, because we want international kids to come down to our PRIDE or JNHE events in the summer,” Jensen said. “People in Canada were so welcoming in the places we stopped along the way.”
Jensen has just started his junior year at Kansas State University’s Animal Science and Industry department in Manhattan, Kan., after graduating from Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kan., where he was on the livestock judging team.
He rooms with his cousin Cody Jensen at K-State, who was recently elected to the NJHA board as a director this past summer in Kansas City.
The Jensen family Hereford operation originated from a local project at their Republic County, Kan., 4-H organization.
Now, Jensen’s dad, Kevin — who established a extensive herd of 200 to 300 Hereford cows with his brother, Kirk, at their ranch in Courtland — enjoys watching his son, other children, nephews and niece all compete together with their Herefords in Kansas, as well as across the U.S., and now internationally.
“Every kid in a family is different and has different likes, but even though the future might take Brady to ag economics, I’m relatively sure he’ll stay involved in the farm somehow,” Kevin Jensen told The Fence Post. “It may not be day-to-day, but he loves it, and I know he’ll stay involved in what we do.”
In fact, the young Jensen was fascinated watching his father conduct ‘live’ judging over the internet recently, while his parents were at the Illinois State Fair, via www.livestockworld.tv.
Brady’s parents were also judges at the Iowa State Fair this summer. Jensen noted his father has also judged Hereford cattle shows in Australia and South America, as well as Canada.
“Watching the whole play-by-play is like watching football,” said Brady, of the internet streaming.
When Jensen is home for the summer, it’s ‘all hands on deck’ with their herd.
“It’s a family-run operation, so everybody does everything. We all handle the cows, wean calves, cut thistle, everything from the top of the totem pole to the bottom — everybody does the same,” Jensen grinned.
There are two large events each year geared toward the junior Hereford youth; one in mid-July, which this year was called, “Show Me the Herefords,” taking place in Kansas City. It was the eight-day Junior National Hereford Expo, and was attended by 700 kids.
“They bring the cattle and the whole family to the junior nationals,” explained Jensen.
The junior board hosts those two big events, and actually spends all year doing it.
“We do all the fundraising, all the planning, and run all the events. We decided who will go to the adult board of directors; Reno, Kansas City, and other places. We send a couple of people there to create excitement and to get sponsors for the other events.
A key goal for the youth was to have Herefords dominate the type of breeds at their shows, and they achieved that goal.
“A lot of people prefer Angus, Charolais and Simmental. We always had 100 more entries at our junior national show than the Angus, and had more youth attend the show, as well. So, it was really humbling to achieve our goal with the Herefords being the top dog in the junior industry,” relayed Jensen.
Propelling their mission is one goal. But, getting media exposure in the Hereford publications, such as the Hereford World, published by the American Hereford Association, is also an accomplishment in itself, Jensen said.
“Everything is published in there, and they see what we’re currently doing. They’re more than happy to see us mentioned.”
Although the juniors thrive on the press coverage and circling their wagons around their prized Herefords, Jensen’s favorite part of being on the board is all about the people who own the Herefords.
“The contacts and friendships and relationships you establish at those events are my favorite part. Meeting people from across the country, whom you fit in with, and you like to be around — is the No. 1 best thing. The Junior board opens you up to meet people all over the country, from New Hampshire to Texas, to Oregon to Florida,” shared Jensen.
Representation from Florida was new this year.
The next Hereford meeting, is the national meeting of the American Hereford Association, held over the Halloween weekend in Kansas City.
Jensen excitedly pointed out that it produces a staggering amount of scholarships for youth.
“We’ll give $30,000 dollars worth of scholarships at that event. We also give $30,000 at the summer event. These go to people who apply each year, who then go through an interview process to narrow down the finalists,” Jensen said. “A lot of things go into it, such as grades, community support and other factors.”
Just as travelling help shapes perspective, the visits to different cities, states and countries also provided a gentle reminder to Jensen that there’s no place like home; not only in Kansas, but across the U.S.
“For me, it made me come to a realization how great our program is here in America,” Jensen observed, “but also how many youth we could encourage to attend, to make it more prestigious. It was totally a junior event.” ❖