Upstream Hereford Ranch: They come from a long line of Herefords
From the humble beginnings of fourteen cows, the Upstream Ranch now calves out a thousand, split between spring and fall calving herds. Courtesy photo
In the Nebraska Sandhills, 17 miles north of the rural community of Taylor along highway 183, Brent and Robin Meeks raise high-quality Hereford cattle. Upstream Ranch is owned and operated by Brent and Robin Meeks and their daughter Carlee.
Herefords have been in the family for over 100 years. Brent’s grandfather Alfred was born on Dec. 30, 1914, on his father J.D. Meeks’ small commercial and registered Hereford ranch near Logan, N.Mex. Following his high school graduation in 1933, Alfred went to work in agriculture and married a local ranch girl, Mildred Brown, the following year. Things were hard during the Depression but the couple started out with 14 head of commercial Herefords and working for a local ranch for $30 a month. Their oldest son, Ferrell, was born in July 1935. That fall, a local banker loaned them enough money to buy 160 good heifer calves at $20 apiece. In 1937, Alfred purchased some registered heifers from his father and Alfred Meeks and Sons came into being. In 1940, they leased a small ranch near Dalhart, Texas, and, a second son, Warren, arrived. In 1945, Alfred was able to purchase this ranch, during these years he was a member of the Professional Rodeos Cowboy Association and roped calves in his spare time.
MOVING TO NEBRASKA
The Meeks family worked hard to improve their land and cattle but years of drought in Texas took their toll. The cattle country of Nebraska had always interested Alfred, so at the invitation of a good friend, Homer Buell of Rose, Neb., he came north to look for a ranch. He fell for the more predicable rainfall and the Sandhills grass. So Alfred and Mildred, along with son Ferrell and his wife Gloria, sold their Texas ranch and purchased the Thompson ranch north of Taylor, Neb., in 1955. Included in the deal were all the horses, haying equipment and the commercial Hereford herd. Upstream Herefords held their first bull sale at the ranch in 1978, having sold bulls private treaty for some years before that. The sale is held annually on the first Saturday in February at the ranch, auctioning off around 300 Hereford bulls and 45 bred heifers with another 40 to 50 bulls sold private treaty.
Ferrell and Gloria’s son Brent met Robin Sellman while in college, her family was also in the Hereford business. They married in 1983, and have worked hard to grow the operation, and raised two children, Marshall and Carlee, on the ranch. Marshall is married to Katie, a kindergarten teacher and he is a third-year resident at St Louis University studying radiology. Carlee graduated from Kansas State in 2017 with a degree in ag communication, and along with helping on the ranch, she works part-time for Purple Visions Productions, taking videos and photos.
From the humble beginnings of 14 cows, the Upstream Ranch now calves out a thousand, split between spring and fall calving herds. They implant about 175 to 200 IVF embryos a year and have an extensive AI program. The Meeks time-breed all of their heifers and about 70 percent of the cow herd with a seven-day CIDR synchronization program.
“We raise both polled and horned Herefords and our bulls are born, raised and developed here. They never leave the operation until they are sold,” Brent Meeks said. “Most of our bulls go on black cows in a crossbreeding program. We sell a lot local and in the state but we cover a pretty big area, like 15 different states.”
Upstream Ranch has had great success in the show ring with their cattle and in 2016 the ranch ranked third in top breeders of Dams of Distinction, an honor bestowed on outstanding Hereford females by the American Hereford Association. Meeks feels that Herefords are a good breeding tool for ranchers. Offering cattlemen bulls with good dispositions, heterosis, hybrid vigor, increased performance and hardiness. “Herefords can adapt to a lot of different environments, temperatures, regions and feed. I believe in Hereford cattle, they have been good to my family.”
The main focus of Upstream Ranch is the production of bulls for the commercial cattleman.
Around two-thirds of their bull crop will reach the sale; the family rigidly culls for performance, soundness, fertility and disposition. The cow herd is also culled very aggressively for problem-free production. Good feet, eyes and especially sound udders are essential. Genetically, Upstream Ranch is trying to produce cattle with balanced trait selection. Their breeding goals are constantly striving for the proper balance of calving ease, growth, maternal, fertility and carcass traits. “We are strong advocates of using EPDs and ultrasound, but we must remember, they are just another selection tool. We still like our cattle to look good phenotypically, be sound on their feet and legs, and docile in their temperament. We raise good productive cattle and stand behind our product,” Meeks said.
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