Honesty earns Berry Hereford honor
Cheyenne – A long-time Hereford breeder, Marvin Berry of Berry Herefords in Laramie County was known for his eye for cattle, as well as his honesty, and that earned him a spot in the American Hereford Association (AHA) Hall of Fame this year.
“The reason we did business with him was because whatever he said was gospel, and the cattle were good cattle,” says Rock River producer Carl Shaffer, who bought his first bull from the Berry family in 1969, when all three Berry brothers were still involved. Shaffer’s father had bought bulls from the family before then.
Marvin began breeding Herefords in the late 1930s as a 4-H member. He, along with his father and two brothers, started the herd and by 1949 they held the first “The Berrys’” production sale in a tent.
The cattle were raised on a ranch homesteaded by Marvin’s parents in 1910. In the early 1970s the sale had grown to an offering of 100 bulls, and in 1980 the family sold its combined herd, and Marvin started out on his own.
“As soon as Marvin started having annual sales again after the dispersal of Berry Herefords we went back, and we’ve only missed a year or two since,” says Shaffer.
“Berry cattle are honest, good doing cattle, and they have good udders, sound feet and good dispositions. We’ve had a lot of success with the daughters out of the bulls being good mothers and raising a decent calf,” says Shaffer adding those daughters also work well with his operation’s Angus bulls. “Their disposition is outstanding, and Marvin, if he told you something, that was the way it was. If he told you that you didn’t want to get into a bloodline, you didn’t want to get into it.”
Marvin’s son Jay Berry says he decided to nominate his father for the AHA Hall of Fame to coincide with the family ranch’s centennial celebration. “I felt like, if we were going to do it, this was the time, and he deserved it,” says Berry. “I was reflecting back on how we got here, and we as a family got to celebrate 100 years, but we hadn’t paid the dues.”
Berry compares the operation to stocks. “I inherited a great portfolio that he and I built together, as partners,” he says. “What he built, first with his brothers and then on his own, was well-respected in the industry.”
In 2001, at 80 years old, Marvin passed away, leaving Jay and Jay’s family to continue the Berry Hereford tradition.
“What made him interesting to watch was that he didn’t have to spend the most money to buy good cattle,” says Berry. “A lot of people will follow the dollars, but he knew to bide his time, because you’ll always run into things you can’t buy in the seedstock industry.”
Marvin attended the National Western Stock Show every year except for one when he was serving in World War II. He showed many champion heifer pens and judged the carload show in the Yards.
“It’s been one continuous set of cattle since they bought their 4-H projects in the 1930s,” says Berry of the family operation, adding, jokingly, that that’s why people should be careful of their kids’ 4-H projects.
Of the resurgence of Hereford popularity, Berry says he has customers returning who used to buy 20 years ago.
“The honesty and integrity of the product is why people still come and buy. The bull you see is what you get. The seedstock industry doesn’t leave many places to hide. If they’re not what you say they are, it shows up really fast,” says Berry.
“So much of what we do in the seedstock business is about the people and not the cattle,” adds Berry. “He knew a lot of people, and was very unassuming. He got respect because they watched what he’d done, not because he was doing something faster and cooler and neater.”
Christy Martinez is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at email@example.com.