Chris Dermody grew up with Belgian draft horses and cattle, but recalls that the horses were just too big when he was young. “I liked cows,” said Chris. “My parents got me two Hereford heifers when I was eight, and I got started in 4-H. Then I had a steer project, and started to build a herd.”
As Chris learned how to raise and show cattle, he also developed an eye for quality. “At the start, I listened to what everyone was telling me,” he said. “By the time I was 12, I was into looking up bulls on my own. We got our own tank so we could order semen from the bulls I thought would make the best crosses.”
Today, the 60 Herefords at Locust Lane Farm in Linwood, NY, represent the hard work Chris has put into developing a notable seedstock herd. Why Herefords? “Everybody likes black because of the feeder market,” said Chris, “but the reason I got into Herefords when I was young because they’re easy-going. They’re easy-fleshing, easy to deal with and the genetics are accessible. They’re just a well-rounded breed, and they don’t have a lot of genetic defects.”
When he’s selecting bulls for A.I., Chris focuses on a variety of traits including weaning weight and yearling weight. “One of my main goals is milk,” he said. “If a cow doesn’t milk, it doesn’t do me any good. I like to pay attention to milk number, and I like to see the dam with the bull so I can see what kind of udder and milk production I can expect in his daughters.” Chris also pays attention to birth weight, especially for heifers’ first breedings, and selects low birth weight bulls for heifers.
The majority of calves are born in spring. “We try to calve the majority of them in February and April,” said Chris, adding that he started using a synchronization program about four years ago. “It’s made a world of difference. We can set up cows, know that we’re going to breed them a certain day and be done with it. We put them on the synchronization program and A.I. them once, then they go in with a bull.” Bulls are purchased from top-end breeders so that resulting calves are consistently high in quality. Cows are checked for pregnancy by ultrasound at 32 days, then checked again between 65 and 70 days for confirmation of pregnancy. Although he hasn’t done a lot of flushing and embryo work yet, in the next month or so, Chris plans to flush a cow that produced a top-selling calf last year.
Locust Lane cattle thrive on rations formulated to use homegrown crops including oats, barley, wheat and soybeans along with hay. Chris relies on a nutritionist to develop rations. “He tests the feed ingredients and comes up with a ration,” said Chris. “We work closely with him, and make adjustments as needed.”
Most calves are sold to 4-Hers who are interested in showing registered Herefords. “We usually have more demand than we have calves,” said Chris. “We also sell heifer calves for breeding projects. Last fall, we sold some through a production sale in Ohio, and we’ll keep some to sell private treaty. We’ll also hold some over for spring sales, and the rest are for our replacements.” Rather than finishing calves on the farm, Chris has found that it’s more economical to sell them as feeders. “With the prices so high, the profit margin is the same or better as selling them right from the cow with no input,” he said.
As Chris advanced through 4-H, he became the president of his beef club, and later, vice president and president of the New York Hereford Junior Breeders Association.
“The year I was president was the first year that the New York Hereford Junior Association decided to go as a group to the Junior National Hereford Expo (JNHE) in Indianapolis,” said Chris. “There was a lot to learn about the national junior show, and organizing everyone to figure out how we were going to put the trip together.”
Chris says although there weren’t many older members in the state club to guide him through the process of preparing to attend the show, everyone pulled together with fund-raising and other activities. With the help of dedicated volunteers and parents, 15 youth traveled to Indianapolis and exhibited about 20 to 30 head.
“Grand Island, Nebraska was quite a trip and a great experience,” said Chris, recalling one of the hosts for the JNHE. “Raising cattle is different in the west than it is in the east. Several of us visited Hoffman Ranch, one of the largest and most successful Hereford ranches in the country. It was good to see their cattle and the quality that’s out there.”
In addition to attending the JNHE, Chris exhibits cattle at the New York Beef Producers’ preview show in spring, several jackpot shows, the New York Hereford Empire Classic, the New York State Fair and Keystone International Livestock Expo. This will be Chris’s third Junior National Hereford Show.
Although Chris works off the farm, he hopes to eventually have a future with beef cattle. For his final junior national show, Chris will be exhibiting two Herefords — a junior yearling heifer and a summer yearling heifer. Both were shown this past spring at an Erie County jackpot show and at the New York Junior Beef Producers preview show. He credits his parents for their support as he improved his herd. “They’ve supported me as I was growing up,” said Chris. “It’s something we do as a family.”