2019 will mark 50 years that Ken Pierce has raised registered Hereford cattle on his Baraboo, Wis., farm. What started as a handful of Herefords in 1969 has grown into one of the premier Hereford genetics businesses in the Midwest.
Today the partnership is owned by Ken and Sandy Pierce and their son Travis. The Pierces’ 200-acre farm, located along the banks of the Baraboo River, is where enough feed is grown to support their herd throughout the year.
“When the cow-calf operation on this farm came to be, we had to have a breed of cattle with a good disposition,” Ken says. “We didn’t want to be chasing cattle all over the country, and Herefords are well-known for their docile disposition. The Hereford breed has continued to make big strides in marbling and fat cover. Breeding Hereford bulls on black cows is a very practical application of Hereford genetics, as black baldy cattle continue to be highly sought after in feedyards and as commercial cows.”
Focusing on resources
Pierce’s Hereford Haven is home to a herd of more than 100 registered Hereford cows. They are cared for on a day-to-day basis by Ken and Travis, who receive a great deal of help from Ken’s son Jim, as well. At one time, the herd numbered more than 130 cows, but decreasing numbers and focusing on the highest-caliber cows has resulted in more efficient use of time and resources.
“Cows are our business here on the farm,” Ken says. “When it comes to marketing, we prefer to sell our cattle directly to the buyer on our farm. Building a relationship with our customers and seeking their repeated business is how we’ve built a reputation for our cattle. We’re in this for the long haul.”
The goal at Pierce’s is to sell progeny that are going to be great cows and bulls to multiply the impact of superior genetics.
“Our emphasis since the beginning has been on udders and the ability to produce milk,” Ken says. “Cows have to raise calves, and to raise healthy calves, cows need to milk. Our customers have come for the udder quality and milking ability of our cows to improve their genetic programs.”
Cattle from Pierce’s Hereford Haven have been sold from coast to coast and beyond the borders of the U.S. The Pierces sell upwards of 30 bulls each year to other Hereford breeders and commercial cattle producers. Several shows are attended each year with cattle in tow, where the Pierces have been successful in topping classes, shows and sales with their prized Herefords.
“We don’t push for ribbons,” Travis says. “We breed for good cows, and the ribbons come after that.”
Embryo transfer practices were first implemented on the farm in the early 1980s. In-vitro fertilization began on the farm in 2012 and continues to be a popular way to transmit quality traits and genetics quickly in progeny that will become the future of the herd and sold to customers. Travis conducts the ET, IVF and AI work with the herd.
The Pierces have spent a lifetime making a name for themselves and their cattle in the Hereford business.
“We like to sell something that is going to make the next guy money,” Ken says. “We handle our cattle like most commercial cattlemen. If they aren’t going to make it here, they won’t make the cut for our customers.”
“If this were a science, everyone would be doing it,” Travis notes.
Giebel writes from Baraboo, Wis.