In the ring and on the range: Wyoming family shares love of Hereford cattle
for Tri-State Livestock News
The Fremont County Fair in Wyoming saw a unique group of young showmen and their cattle this summer. Kodi and Conor Christensen, Maddi and Corbin Marshall and Kaylynn Weber were all in the ring with Hereford steers. Four of the five were purchased from their grandparents, Ron and Becki Weber; Kaylynn’s steer was out of her parents’ herd but was out of a cow that was purchased from Ron and Becki as a heifer calf.
Ron and Becki celebrated 50 years of marriage on Sept. 17, 2021. Both grew up on Wyoming ranches with Hereford cattle. Their son Steve and daughters Heidi, Tami and Becca grew up helping on the ranch, and now their grandchildren are spending time in the saddle with them. They make yearly trips up and down the mountains with their Hereford cattle every summer and fall, trailing to and from their summer pasture.
“My mom’s great-grandfather and great-great-uncle homesteaded in the Lander area,” Steve Weber said. “That’s where mom grew up, although it is no longer in the family. Dad was raised on the Laramie plains; his father was born in Michigan and came to Wyoming in the 1930s. They were on the historic Kite Ranch for a while. When mom and dad got married they purchased a couple of heifers from dad’s parents, and that’s what this bunch of cows grew out of.”
Ron worked for the Wyoming Department of Agriculture for over 30 years, simultaneously building up his herd of Herefords. Their home place is near Shoshoni, and they summer on a forest allotment near Lander. Steve and Angela Weber live on the ranch and summer their cattle with Ron and Becki, and Steve is also a professional firefighter and a Wyoming brand inspector. Tami is the librarian at Shoshoni; she and her husband Charlie also run a handful of Herefords that they summer with her parents’ cattle. Heidi teaches in Shoshoni, and Becca is an ag teacher in Texas. Steve and Angela’s daughter Kaylynn has been showing calves in open shows since she was 5, and Codi, Conor and Corbin all showed calves last year, but this is the first time that all five cousins have been in the ring together.
CHOOSING THEIR CALVES
Last fall, Ron stood back and watched as Codi, Conor, Maddi and Corbin picked out their calves.
“I just let them have at it,” he said. “We let the kids pick them on their own, I didn’t try to tell them what I thought. I kind of scratched my head over a couple of their choices, the calves were somewhat uneven at that point. But by the time they got them finished they were really close. The calves all looked really good. It made me pretty proud of the cattle. They sure represented the breed well.”
Besides her Hereford steer, Kaylynn also showed two heifer pairs, one a registered Hereford that she bought from her aunt Becca, and the other a registered Angus heifer. She also showed her cattle at the Wyoming State Fair and won the award for premier breeding beef exhibitor there.
Ron has put 40 years into his breeding program, and while he doesn’t have a registered herd he has always acquired top of the line horned Hereford bulls to bring high performance genetics to his herd. He’s pushed for growth, maternal traits, good udders, and performance both on the mountain and in the feed yard. He also likes a little extra pigment to keep eye problems to a minimum.
“Those steers all finished about 1,300 pounds,” Ron said. “It just substantiated what we’ve been trying to do for so long. We have always bred to have a lot of growth, as well as milk and strong maternal traits. It has taken years but it has worked out as we hoped. We started way before EPDs were available, but we’ve learned our way through.”
“Dad has always pushed for getting high quality bulls,” Steve said. “He swears that the quality of the bulls makes the quality of the cows.”
Ron has used a lot of Churchill bulls but said that it’s getting harder to use them because the bloodlines are so close to his own now. Most recently, they purchased bulls from Van Newkirks in Nebraska. Their forest allotment has elevations ranging from about 6,500 to around 10,000 feet, so the cows’ hardiness and fertility are thoroughly tested.
“We do things a little differently than a lot of folks in our area,” Steve said. “We calve earlier because we run on National Forest all summer and we don’t take bulls to the mountain.”
Calving technically starts the first of February, but calves usually start arriving the last week of January, and they’re done about the third week of March.
“We calve through the barn, because the weather is definitely a factor that time of year,” Steve said. “Sometimes it’s pretty nice, but when we get a cold snap we can lose a lot of ears. We brand the third week of March. Depending on the range condition, we turn onto the mountain around June 16, give or take. We bring the cows home around Sept. 30. It’s a pretty short grazing season, but at that elevation we’ve gathered off the mountain in snow many times. It takes quite a cow to make the cut, to raise a six to six hundred fifty pound calf and breed back under those conditions.”
Webers’ calves averaged 642 pounds when they shipped them this fall, so something must be working.
Ron has gotten some data back on how his steers have finished in the past.
“They grow well, and grade about 80 percent choice, with a few prime and select,” he said. “I think part of the reason they grow so well is their quiet disposition. There’s no orneriness in them and they don’t get excited. They’re pretty dang gentle. The kids usually have them broke to lead in two or three days.”
Codi has graduated from high school, but Conor, Maddi, Corbin and Kaylynn all have calves picked out to show next year.
Ron and Becki’s grandchildren are getting involved on the ranch as well.
“This fall when we came off the mountain we had all the grandkids riding,” Ron said. “We trailed them five miles and they were all business. When we preg tested those little gals jumped in and loaded chutes. Two of them were horseback bringing the cows up. It tickles me to death to have them helping. There’s no better place in the world for them than right here.”
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