Van Newkirk Herefords 2nd in the nation in Dams of Distinction
The American Hereford Association Dams of Distinction program recognizes superior cows in the breed and cattle producers who manage them. A cow receiving Dam of Distinction honor is a cow that meets the highest standards of commercial cattle production. Only a few active cows are recognized. The 2011 Dams of Distinction list recognizes cows from 707 Hereford performance herds in 44 states. Van Newkirk Herefords Oshkosh NE ranks 2nd in the nation with 30 Dam of Distinction cows.
The Van Newkirk ranch was established in 1892 by Lorenzo Van Newkirk; today the operation is run by Joe and Kolby Van Newkirk.
Joe said “Our cows are treated like commercial cattle, they graze nine months of the year on Sandhill grass and cornfield crop residue,” he explained. “When we start calving in the middle of February, we bring them in and feed them hay until they go to grass again in mid-May. Our core business is selling Hereford bulls to the western high plains cattlemen, we try to select cattle with moderate birth weights,” he explained. “We also like thick, easy fleshing, high performance cattle that gain. We like cattle that are efficient and convert feed into gain. Since we feed a lot of our cattle out and realize that is what pays the bills, we want to produce cattle that grow well.”
Joe said he has also tried to select cattle with more pigment to get rid of pink eye and sunburned udders. “We are trying for cattle with more red around their eyes and pigment on their udders to alleviate these problems,” he said.
Through it all, Joe said they try to maintain cows that mature at 1,250 to 1,350 pounds and produce calves that wean at least half of the cow’s body weight. “We try to wean calves that weigh at least 650 pounds and will finish at 1,250 pounds at 12-13 months,” he explained. “To raise uniform, thick, functional bulls it all starts with real honest cows that are naturally thick, deep bodied, and milk well.”
Joe and his wife, Cyndi, have three grown children, who all attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Nick graduated with a degree in finance,Kolby, has returned to the operation, and daughter, Sara, is a senior majoring in agriculture business and animal science. “This is a family operation,” Joe said. “My wife and kids are just as much a part of the success of this ranch as I am. They get right in there and help with whatever ranch work needs to be done.”
The Hereford breed has been good to their family. “We have had pretty good success with the Herefords,” Joe said. “The Herefords suit our climate, and they do well for what feed we have available, so we have no reason to change. Our business has really grown over the years, and we have built the backbone of this operation on our repeat customers. They make us successful,” he said.