Young breeders embrace opportunity at the breed’s inaugural Seedstock Academy.

October 4, 2023

4 Min Read
American Hereford Association

"Being a young producer in the breed, this is a really important time to get a broad perspective on what the industry is doing as a whole and all of the different dynamics within the Hereford breed," says Jacob Rausch of Rausch Herefords, Hoven, S.D. "That way, when I'm back home at my operation, I'm taking all of those things into consideration. I'm not getting tunnel vision or pigeonholing myself. It's going to create an opportunity for more success."

Rausch was one of six young Hereford breeders selected to attend the American Hereford Association’s (AHA) first Seedstock Academy, an intensive week-long opportunity in September to learn more about current beef industry dynamics, to network and share ideas with other seedstock and commercial producers. Other members of the 2023 Hereford Seedstock Academy are Breck Debnam, Keayla Harr, Emilee Holt, Jacob Rausch, Tyler Schultz and Shayne Wiese.

"As a young breeder, it's exciting to see what we can do to further improve this breed. It's been really nice to branch off and see the different environments people operate in, but all come together and talk about the value of Hereford cattle throughout the United States," says Shayne Wiese of Wiese and Sons, Manning, Iowa. "The connections alone, and the camaraderie has been outstanding. Also, getting a crash course into a lot of these Association programs is very, very helpful to me."

Emilee Holt of NJW Polled Herefords, Decker, Mont., says the academy was a really great learning experience, “not just for what we can do better every day, but how we can think through things and make things better for the long term.”

Designed with intention

"The Hereford Seedstock Academy is the logical extension of the breed’s intentional leadership development, which is a key part of the AHA’s strategic plan," explains Jack Ward, AHA executive vice president. "Members of the Seedstock Academy have already established themselves as high-achieving individuals with years of committed Hereford seedstock production experience despite their young age."

Shane Bedwell, AHA chief operating officer and director of breed improvement emphasizes the week’s curriculum was designed to provide participants tools and information to benefit their operations, their customers, and the Hereford breed.

In-depth discussion areas and tours included: the breed’s National Reference Sire Program (NSRP) at Olsen Ranches, Harrisburg, Neb., the breed’s mainstay NRSP herd; visits with leading commercial cow-calf producers, stocker operators and cattle feeders; insight to the pioneering AHA collaborative sustainability research project with AgNext and Colorado State University; Hen House Local Markets, a premier Certified Hereford Beef retailer; and leveraging individual breeder brands with the AHA brand.

"I come from the commercial side of the business, and I happen to raise registered cattle. For these young Hereford breeders to grasp what's going on every day in the commercial part of our business is huge," says Bill Goehring, AHA president. "These young leaders had the opportunity to delve into key facets of each commercial sector during the week and what that means to their operation, their commercial bull customers and the breed."

Goehring and his family raise Hereford seedstock, run commercial cows and operate a sale barn near Libertyville, Iowa.

"This group was amazing," Bedwell says. "Their ideas, their openness, their willingness to share their thoughts. It was apparent that this breed is on a powerful trajectory with the talent that we have in this class."

Detailed insights

Tyler Schultz of Sandhill Farms in Haviland, Kan., says he’s really excited about the work that’s being done to capitalize on the breed’s advantages in crossbreeding as well as the research that’s being done to keep ahead of the curve when it comes to consumer concerns about sustainability.

"I've been a part of a lot of different young stockman groups, but to have one with people in the same business as me is rare,” he says.

"My favorite part about the experience was getting to network with the others, learn about what they are doing in their programs and how they are overcoming the challenges that we all face," says Keayla Harr of J & L Cattle Services in Jeromesville, Ohio. "Getting to see Olsen Ranches and the National Reference Sire Program in action, what we're documenting and how that entire program works has been incredibly beneficial in understanding how the data improves the breed’s genetic evaluation and how we're proving some of these young bulls."

Breck Debnam of Innisfail Farms, Madison, Ga., commented: "My biggest takeaway is the impact we can make on the beef cattle industry when we make good, responsible genetic decisions. It's definitely been an eye-opening experience for me. Being able to interact with leaders in our industry, folks who are extremely talented at what they do and then bring those ideas back to the ranch is a priceless opportunity."

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