Warners take Shorthorn heifer honors at Cattlemen’s Classic in NebraskaWritten by Gayle Smith
The couple, who raise registered Shorthorns and Herefords on their Riverton ranch, had won some reserve champion honors on bulls at past shows, but the champion honor had eluded them until this year.
“Our win at the Nebraska Cattlemen’s Classic was a really big honor for us,” says Bryan of the show.
A move north
The Warners first got involved in the Shorthorn business in 1997, with about 30 cows, while living near Greeley, Colo.
“Colorado was starting to get too congested for us, so we were looking to move,” says Bryan. “Marti’s parents were from Wyoming, so in 2002 we bought this ranch in Riverton. We have expanded our herd immensely since then.”
Many of the couple’s first Shorthorns came from Columbus, Neb. breeder Ward Bakenhus.
“Those cattle have really produced for us, and now, 12 years later, a few are still in our herd,” says Bryan.
They purchased their first Shorthorn bull, a Rodeo Drive son, at the National Western Stock Show. Since then the couple has continued to build their herd, which is now at over 140 head.
“We changed our program last year to all Canadian bulls,” says Bryan. “In the United States the Shorthorn breed has been around so long that many of the traits we are looking for had the same sire influence behind them that we currently use. The Canadian bulls we have purchased have very good breed type, but the bloodlines are different. We’re finding out that it is making a really big impact on our herd. It’s almost like having hybrid vigor, even though it’s within the same breed.”
The main thing they have noticed about the Canadian bulls they have purchased is the more moderate size. The bulls have a frame score ranging from 5.4 to 5.6.
“I like that they are smaller, more compact bulls,” he says. “They are also a little longer in their spine,” he added. “We were using bulls that were 6 to 6.5, so we have downsized quite a little,” he noted.
They have also found the bulls are improving the feed efficiency of their offspring.
“Where these bulls came from, they were not catered to,” explains Bryan. “The conditions they have to survive during the winter are pretty rough.”
The cattle on the Warner Ranch are raised in a similar way. The cows graze on sagebrush and grass during the summer months, and hay and grass stubble during the winter. The couple supplements the cows and calves with alfalfa hay, and the bulls with grass hay as needed. The show cattle need more growth, so they are supplemented with some grain, alfalfa and grass hay, says Bryan. The cows range from 1,200 to 1,400 pounds in mature size, with a 5.5 to 6 frame score.
Disposition is key
About 30 to 40 heifers are artificially inseminated each spring, and a representative from Cow Country Genetics in Cody transplants about 20 embryos into Hereford recipient cows. The cows calve during March and April, and the heifers calve for about 45 days.
“Our goal is to produce a really good set of functional cattle,” explains Bryan. To reach that goal, the couple culls for disposition, structure and poor milk. “There are too many good cattle out there to not cull a cow because she has a bad disposition. We do most of our work on foot, so we like to be able to walk through our cattle without having them run to the other end of the pasture. We have found that, if they are a problem, they need to be shipped.”
In addition to raising Shorthorns, the couple also started into a new venture last year.
“We have purchased 10 registered Herefords,” says Bryan. “Marti’s family raised Herefords in the Jackson area. There are a lot of ranches out there that were paid for with Hereford cattle.”
The couple finds the Herefords to be a good cross with their Shorthorn cattle.
“A few years ago there were some Hereford/Shorthorn cross cattle that topped the sale in Columbus, Neb.,” he says. “The combination of those two breeds makes a really nice cross.”
Like most breeders, Bryan and Marti keep good records on their herd.
“We have birth weights, disposition, calving ease, and birthdates,” he says. “We keep pedigrees on all our registered cattle with the Shorthorn Association, so we know exactly where all our cattle came from. A few of the cattle have been in the herd for 12 to 14 years, so I like to see how they have changed and progressed over the years.”
Each year, Bryan and Marti pick a bull and their replacement heifers from their herd and market the rest of their calf crop private treaty or through sales at the shows they attend.
“Showing our cattle has allowed us to show other areas what kind of cattle we can produce here in Wyoming,” says Bryan. “Our cattle will do well in any climate because they are used to the harsh Wyoming winters with sub-zero temperatures, and they are used to summers when the temperature can be over 100 degrees.”
Bringing Shorthorns back
“We started raising Shorthorn cattle because we wanted to do our part to bring the Shorthorn cattle back,” says Bryan.
“We want to show the breeders and packers that black is not the full answer. Black cattle are good, but we feel the Shorthorn cattle need to come back and be used as dual purpose, functional cattle. They are a really good choice in a crossbreeding program. They are being used as a cross with the Red Angus, which is known as the Durham Red. They have also been crossed with Black Angus and Hereford, which is known as the Shorthorn Plus,” he explains.
Bryan has found that commercial breeders like purchasing the more solid red Shorthorn bulls because the calves are more solid.
“If they have any color variation when they go to the salebarn, they are discounted because someone thinks there is something wrong with them,” he says. “For show cattle, they like the roan bulls because they are pretty and flashy.”