Warner Shorthorns strives for both
Riverton – Bryan and Marti Warner moved to Fremont County from Colorado in 2002 and brought about 40 head of Shorthorn cattle with them. Today they sell registered Shorthorn bulls and females, in addition to providing some local 4-H and FFA kids with steer projects. Bryan raises alfalfa hay for their operation, in addition to custom baling for some of his neighbors.
“We raise breeding stock Shorthorns and treat our cattle like a commercial herd, for the most part. We’ll cull if they have a bad attitude, bad udder or aren’t functional,” explains Marti.
“We don’t keep bull calves we wouldn’t be willing to use in our operation. We don’t sell bulls just to sell bulls – they have to be pretty spectacular for us to keep them as a bull. We do guarantee all our bulls and the Shorthorn Association also has a guarantee we follow as a breeder,” adds Bryan, noting the same strict criteria is used on the female side of their operation.
One example of the criteria used in their herd is calving ease. “We’ve worked really hard to produce calving ease, low birth weight bulls. We don’t use anything with a high birth weight and we don’t keep a bull if he weighed over 90 pounds at birth,” says Marti. She adds this attention to specific traits pays off in their customer base.
“I think a lot of the older guys who used to use Shorthorns got away from them, in part, because of their frame size. Shorthorns were large, and now we’re scaling them back and making them more moderate, in addition to selecting for other traits, including low birth weight,” notes Bryan.
“We also select on horns. If a bull calf has horns he gets to be a steer,” adds Marti.
“I was raised in Teton County and my family had Herefords – just about everyone did them. When we lived in Colorado we had a nice a little 40-acre place and thought it would be nice to have some cattle. We thought club calves might be fun, and we had some red cows so we bought a Shorthorn bull. We just liked the cattle so much we ended up getting more and more of them and have stayed with the breed,” says Marti of how they started raising Shorthorns.
She adds that while the steers Warner Shorthorns has sold locally have done very well in county fairs, that’s not what they’re geared toward. “We think of our cattle as breeding stock. The club calf thing is fine, and some guys do it very well, but we’re not willing to raise such extreme cattle and sacrifice a cow just to get a $20,000 steer. Our cows are part of our living and they have to last a while. If they aren’t functional and producing a calf, they go down the road.”
The Warners run their cattle on pasture in the summer and raise hay to feed in the winter. A recent purchase of additional farmland added to their hay production, and they now sell some alfalfa hay.
They also attend about four shows a year, where they compete and market the majority of their cattle.
“We show at the NILE, the Black Hills Stock Show in Rapid City, S.D. a small show in Columbus, Neb. and another in Kearney, Neb. We focus on taking bulls and some female breeding stock to those shows, and we sell through the shows too,” explains Bryan.
Last year they had the high-selling Shorthorn bull at both Rapid City and Kearney. They have shown the reserve champion Shorthorn bull in Rapid City twice and Kearney once.
“We sold a heifer to a family from Columbus, Neb. last year. She was the Supreme Champion Heifer out of all the breeds at their county fair. We were pretty excited about that,” says Bryan.
“We work pretty close ly with the kids who buy our calves and love to be involved with any of the kids in 4-H or FFA. We don’t have any of our own, so it’s fun to ‘borrow’ somebody else and help those kids try to be successful in what they’re doing,” adds Marti.
As part of helping kids, Bryan and Marti traditionally hold a fitting workshop at their place each summer. This year it didn’t happen, partially due to less interest and the economy.
“The NILE has a Merit Heifer Program for youth, and we signed on last year to donate a Shorthorn heifer. Even kids from this area can apply. They have to turn in an application and have letters of recommendation. The idea is to help kids interested in beef production start their own herd. It’s a good deal to be involved in, and the kids have to do a pretty in-depth application to be considered,” explains Bryan.
“The semen companies will donate semen if they want to AI their heifer. After the first year they will help develop a business program, and if they want to flush embryos they will help them get a loan through Farm Credit Services. They’re really trying to help kids focus on a future as a beef producer, and they are willing to help educate them,” adds Marti.
Bryan and Marti also utilize technology such as AI and embryo transfer to continue to improve their herd. They have some Shorthorn/Hereford crosses they are very happy with, and are working to develop a “black” Shorthorn. “It will be a Shorthorn/Angus cross, and will be eligible for an Appendix registration through the Shorthorn Association,” says Bryan.
Today Warner Shorthorns markets about 10 bulls annually, and have recently started selling more bulls locally. “We’ve also noticed the guys who purchase our cows and heifers are typically younger guys, they’re the next generation coming up, and that’s great to see,” notes Marti.
“This is a wonderful community and the people are nice and friendly. I just think Wyoming is a place where people are independent and respect your right to do whatever you want to do,” concludes Marti.
Heather Hamilton is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.