Transplanted to the Sandhills: Hoffman family brings Herefords back to Hereford Alley |

Transplanted to the Sandhills: Hoffman family brings Herefords back to Hereford Alley

Deanna Nelson-Licking, Freelance Contributor

In the heart of the Nebraska Sandhills, Hereford cattle graze the native grass and their presence is a nod to the thousands of Hereford cattle that used to range “Hereford Alley,” the land along highway 83 from Thedford to Valentine. 

Hoffman Herefords is a name that has become synonymous with quality cattle over the years. The family-owned and operated ranch is headed by Denny and Dixie Hoffman and their son Jason and his wife Kaycee and their three children, Haxton, Kennedy, and Hayden. The Hoffman family moved to the Sandhills of Nebraska from a remote town in Northern California in 2008. They purchased a ranch near Thedford, Nebraska and have continued to produce registered Hereford cattle as well as Angus and Sim-Angus.  

But almost everything has humble beginnings; Denny grew up showing cattle in 4-H and FFA. He acquired his first registered cow in 1957 and has owned purebred stock ever since. Denny worked on different cattle operations over the years in both Oregon and California. Dixie Hoffman comes from a long line of Hereford breeders, her parents owned Nelson Hereford Ranch of Livingston, Montana. Eventually the family purchased land in California but decided they needed to change locations to something more central and with better access to build their seedstock business. Thus came the relocation to Nebraska.  

“To some, Thedford might be the middle of nowhere, but to us it’s in the center of everything. We couldn’t think of another place that could offer such an even balance for all the different things we do in the seedstock business,” Kaycee Orr-Hoffman said. “My ancestors settled near Lewellen, Nebraska from Ireland, and then my great-grandfather Ted Orr went on to Colorado during the Homestead Act. There are still members of the Orr family in Nebraska.” 

The Hoffman program has been centered on functional, good-uddered cow families that can create modern and practical cattle. These genetics have been used both nation- and worldwide. The family hosts an annual bull sale the third Friday in February and a female sale the last Monday in September at the ranch. “In 2017/2018 we will sell over 500 yearling and two-year old bulls and 200 to 300 registered females and over 1,000 commercial females.” said Jason Hoffman. 

“Our goal is to breed cattle that will fit any environment. A large percentage of our bulls stay in the Sandhills, however we market both bulls and females nationwide. We raise sound-structured, easy-fleshing cattle that will work for everyone.” Hoffman said. 

The Hoffmans work hard to help market the calves of their customers and host an annual replacement female sale at the Valentine Livestock Auction the day before their bull sale. They have built a website  that is designed to be a marketplace for calves with their genetics. “We are proud to be able to market our customers’ cattle, we help to place some feeder cattle, but predominately sell females with our genetics,” Hoffman said. 

Recently the Hoffmans built a grow-yard at the ranch so the young bulls could be developed at home on a high roughage ration; the older bulls are run in large lots to help build good feet and soundness. The bulls raised are not all the same, as the Hoffmans try to raise cattle that will fit everyone’s unique cattle needs and preferences. “We breed for feet, structural correctness, and udder quality, with a strong focus on the maternal side. Our bulls are uniform in those aspects but we raise and sell different styles of bulls,” said Hoffman. 

The Hoffmans have developed an extensive artificial insemination and embryo flush and transfer program. They register nearly 1,000 calves a year between the three breeds. The embryo calves allow customers to purchase bulls that are full, three-quarter and half-brothers, giving them a more uniform calf crop, and maximizing Hoffmans’ best genetics. 

“We are very proud of the Sandhills and I feel like it is one of the last frontiers with a lot of opportunities for young folks in the livestock industry,” Hoffman said. “Ranching is a wonderful way of life and one of the best ways to raise children. Our goal is to have our kids involved in our operation long-term, however the traits learned on the ranch such as hard work and responsibility will hopefully carry them throughout their lives. Kaycee is a fifth generation Hereford breeder and our children are the sixth.”  

The entire Hoffman family is involved in the ranch operation and they have one full-time hired man who runs the grow-yard along with several seasonal employees who help in the show barn. In addition to ranching, Kaycee Hoffman owns and operates Bar None Hat Company in Thedford, where she builds custom felt cowboy hats. She started building hats in 2003 in her parents’ barn in Kersey, Colorado with the help of two aunts who also build hats. What started as a hobby became a business, which now allows Kaycee to be a stay at home mom, yet still contribute to the family income. “The hardest part with being a mother with her own business is learning how to balance a family, helping with the family ranch and making time for the Bar None Hat Co,” Kaycee Orr-Hoffman said. 

The opportunities that the Nebraska relocation has provided have allowed the Hoffman family to grow their operation and accomplish dreams that would have never been attainable in California. It didn’t take the Hoffman family very long to call Thedford, Nebraska home.