Efficiency is key
for The Fence Post
There are several key reasons why the Jensen Brothers Herefords program in north central Kansas has propelled its success for over 35 years with their registered Hereford herd. The use of artificial insemination and using proven genetics has helped the Jensens grow the herd to where it is today.
“Over the past 10 years we have increased our embryo transfer (ET) program and probably put in over 150 embryos a year, at our farm in Courtland (Kansas) and using cooperative herds in the area,” said Sheila Jensen; who co-owns and operates Jensen Brothers Herefords with her husband Kevin Jensen. “The Hereford cattle are known for their fertility, longevity, great foot and leg structure, as well as their feed efficiency and mild temperament. The Hereford breed has been around since the beginning, and has become dominant especially during the past 15 years or more as the breeders have stepped up and listened to their customers to make the breed’s genetics an asset in heterosis (hybrid vigor),” Sheila said.
Times have changed and efficiency is key to all business, Sheila said. “We have expanded our ET program so we could build our herd using outside resources and labor; therefore using cooperative herds was the answer. We have also used in vitro fertilization for the past five years or so, in our ET program, as it allowed us to use sexed semen and do reverse sorts, to choose if we wanted female or male embryos. The use of embryo transfer has helped us grow in many ways, as we can use our proven donor females and make many offspring with similar matings.”
For cow/calf producers, expected progeny differences are a vital tool in selecting bulls’ genetics when preparing for sales. “EPD’s are a vital part of our program to help our customers select the quality of animal they need in their program,” Sheila said.
It’s never too soon to prepare, and the Jensens have been immersed in getting ready for their bull sale. “We’re selecting the bulls now to be in the March 2020 bull sale and they have been registered with all the performance data entered; with DNA sent in to receive the genomic enhanced EPD’s,” said Sheila, noting they had targeted mid-November to begin jump-starting the bulls on the sale bull ratio. “We will be selling our spring yearlings and 18-month-old bulls in our March sale,” she added.
The Jensens also recently hosted a special live female cattle sale, called The Chosen held four hours away in Louisburg, Kan., just south of Kansas City.
“We wanted to have a live sale and not an internet heifer sale this year, as we had more numbers to sell,” Sheila said. “So we decided to take the cattle to Kansas City since the Hereford annual meetings and national show were hosted during the American Royal time-frame. We plan to have a female sale every year, and some years it’ll be in Kansas City and some will be online auctions. It depends on the number that we plan to sell.”
The Jensens have sold cattle from Texas to North Dakota and New York to Oregon and California, as well as globally in South America, New Zealand, Mexico and Canada.
They have also been using artificial insemination on their herd. “We AI all of our yearlings once and the cows, and then we turn our herd sire out with them when they head to grass,” Sheila said.
Jensen Herefords have been successful in the show ring but they’re also proud of the cow herd they developed and the customer base they built. One particular lineage is from the female; Misty.
“The Misty cow family has longevity, so many daughters are still in production in our herd. We name her daughters all the same.”
Sheila’s savvy and fascination with the Hereford breed began at a young age; before she ever met Kevin.
“My parents had Herefords when I was in my teenage years, and I showed them at numerous shows,” she said. “My Dad started the junior organization in Canada for the Hereford youth at a field day on our farm.”
Sheila’s husband Kevin also got involved with Herefords at a young age, and that’s why he was instrumental in getting the Jensen’s Hereford program started.
“Kevin joined 4-H and worked for a local Hereford breeder while he was in high school, so his interest began when he was young. Kevin started a custom fitting service (where you show cattle for the breeders at state or national shows),” Sheila said. During the custom fitting years, Kevin and Sheila traveled many miles and exhibited Herefords at shows from San Francisco to Harrisburg, Pa. — and Houston to Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.
“We made numerous contacts in the Hereford breed during those years, which have developed into lifelong friendships today,” Sheila said.
The couple’s three children, Brady, Brooke and Ben, have earned numerous awards from extensive hours working with their Herefords. Youngest son Ben recently earned the title of Junior Breeder at the 2019 Junior National in Denver through his work with the females raised in his breeding herd.
Other awards earned by Ben and older brother Brady and sister Brooke include numerous Champion Showmanship awards, Grand Champion Heifer awards, Champion and Reserve Steer awards at shows, as well as awards for livestock judging.
Even though Brady moved to South Dakota, and Brooke moved to Wichita, Kan., and Ben is attending college three hours away, they are still intently involved in propelling the continued success of the family Hereford cattle business.
“Brady and his wife Allie are both active in the Jensen Brothers Hereford marketing program, and the sale and show preparations,” Sheila said. Brady is a livestock judging coach and instructor in the Animal Science Department at South Dakota State University, after earning his master’s degree from Kansas State University in animal breeding and genetics. While at Kansas State University, Brady was active on the livestock judging team, and was an assistant coach for the livestock team while he pursued his master’s degree. Brady’s wife Allie is the executive director of the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Foundation. They have a daughter named Kelly Jo.
“Brooke and her husband Kalen help out with Jensen Brothers Herefords, and Brooke still enjoys the cattle showing and preparing,” Sheila said. Brooke, who was the 2014 National Hereford Queen, works for Cargill in Wichita, Kan., (three hours away) as a protein marketer. “Brooke’s husband Kalen grew up at Haddam, Kan., and is the office manager at Farmers Co-op in Conway Springs, Kan.,” Sheila said. Before graduating from Kansas State University with a degree in agribusiness, Brooke enjoyed being on the Kansas State University National Champion Meat Animal Evaluation Team, and livestock judging team.
“Ben is president of the Young Farmers and Ranchers at Butler Community College, as well as an ag ambassador. He is very active in Jensen Herefords and the junior Hereford show ring,” Sheila said. Ben, who is a sophomore at Butler in El Dorado, Kan., is also on the college’s livestock judging team.
Even after all three Jensen children grew up and started their own careers and livelihoods, their passion for ensuring Hereford sustainability and growth, is a grand champion testament in itself to the values instilled in them and their parents devotion to their herd. ❖
— Hadachek is a freelance writer who lives on a farm with her husband in north central Kansas and is also a meteorologist and storm chaser. She can be reached at email@example.com.