ABINGDON, VA — “I’ve always had a Hereford calf since I was a child,” said Wayne Campbell, gazing at some of the 100 or more Hereford cows which now form the backbone of his cattle operation.
“I like the calmness of Herefords,” he said. “As you get older you need something you can work by yourself out there. The only time I’ve got help is when doing pregnancy checks.”
In addition to his cow-calf herd, Campbell keeps about 80 stockers, bringing the total count of his cattle to around 280, “about all one man can handle.”
Campbell became a full-time cattleman in 2002 after a distinguished career with Southern States, managing outlets in Wythe and Russell counties. The center of his farming operation is his mother’s home place in the mountains outside of Abingdon, which has been in the family since the 1840s. Counting owned and rented land, Campbell runs cattle and cuts hay on more than 400 acres.
Most of Campbell’s Hereford cows are registered. He built up his herd by going to sales, including to Dublin and Statesville. Using A.I., he breeds the best cows with Hereford bulls to maintain and improve his Hereford herd. The other 60 cows he breeds to Angus (first with A.I., then following with a bull). The resulting Black Baldy calves grow well. “I like the hybrid vigor of the two breeds,” Campbell said.
It’s common for producers to breed Angus cows to Hereford bulls to create Black Baldies, less so nowadays to find a producer like Campbell breeding Hereford females to Angus bulls. But that’s just the way Campbell would have it. He likes how his Hereford cows are “so easy to work with.”
He also likes the longevity of his Hereford cows. The average age of his cow herd is seven, with the oldest cow being 14.
Past issues with the Hereford breed have also improved, thanks to genetics. Compared to decades ago, the breed has less incidence of pink eye and has better milk production.
When choosing genetics, Campbell has used all of the major stud services. “You have to be open-minded when buying different genetics,” Campbell said.
A similar flexibility is required of all cattlemen, registered or not, Campbell believes. “You’ve got to be willing to change and change quickly.” For example, in 2008 he started increasing his cattle numbers to respond to the market.
Being diversified in marketing cattle is important, Campbell said, “just like a stool needs a number of legs to support itself.”
For Campbell, he has four different ways to sell cattle. First there is the registered market. He sells purebred bulls and heifers off the farm and at local sales, such as in Dublin. His purebred buyers come from throughout Virginia and North Carolina as well as from Tennessee, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.
His calves he markets largely through VQA sales, mostly to Pennsylvania buyers. Then there are the stockers, which he sells as eight- or nine-weights as trailer loads, usually to Ohio buyers. Finally, he sells a half dozen or so beeves off the farm each year too.
Last year, Campbell built a loose housing barn last year with a feedway to house his cows once the pasture forage is gone. He feeds hay he makes and can, depending on availability and cost, feed grain and silage too.
The building not only helps the animals, but helps Campbell from having to go out in rough weather and navigate the sloped terrain of his farm to unroll bales of hay.
“It’s helped me got off that ridge,” Campbell said, pointing to a high, steep ridge which runs along the edge of his farm. “In the winter time it’s slick.”
The barn also serves during the warmer months as a treatment area for sick animals.