Kathi and John Wagner, who own JKW Polled Herefords in Athens, NY, started raising purebred Hereford cattle in a rather unique way. “John’s grandparents came over from Germany,” said Kathi. “They ran a German boarding house and had a dairy farm. Then his parents took over the dairy until the 1960s when they got out of the dairy business. They bought a few commercial Herefords, and we converted to registered Herefords in the early 1990s.”
Today the Wagners keep about 25 brood cows. When asked why they like Herefords, Kathi, who was not raised on a farm, replied that Herefords are a docile, gentle breed.
The herd is bred via A.I. in April for January calves, then the bull is turned out with the herd in May. “We calve primarily in January, February and March,” said Kathi. Then we can wean those calves in the fall and send heifers to Penn State for the heifer development program. We also send a bull for the bull test program. The bull sale is in March, but the heifers stay until they’re ready to be synchronized and bred in May. After they’re pregnancy checked, we bring them home in late July.”
Kathi says she and John can select the bull for heifers that are bred while in the Penn State program. “We can either send semen down there, or work with Genex,” she said, adding that they’ve been sending heifers for about three or four years,” said Kathi. “We get valuable information including weight per day of age and ultrasound data. Most of the heifers we send down there are replacement heifers.”
The Wagners sell breeding stock, primarily at the New York spring sale, and also sell private treaty. In addition to sending a bull for the bull test at Penn State, a nearby Angus breeder develops bulls for the Wagners, and several of those bulls are offered for sale the following spring. Calves that aren’t sold for breeding stock are sold as feeders.
The Wagners’ farm includes 60 acres, and they lease an additional 125 acres that is used for hay. “The 60 acres are used for pasture,” said Kathi, “with two small hay fields, and the rest of the land we lease is used for hay. We sell about 125 round bales each year.”
The cowherd is fed all hay and pasture, and in late summer, calves are creep fed. “They do so much better at weaning when they’ve been creep-fed and bunk-broke,” said Kathi.
Cows that are ready to calve are moved to maternity pens in the converted dairy pens. The farm includes working chutes along with a work area, two holding pens and squeeze chute.
As president of New York Hereford Breeders and chair of the decorations committee for the upcoming Junior National Hereford Expo to be held at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania’s Farm Show Complex from July 5 through July 12, Kathi has been busy.
“The show has been in planning stages for 18 months,” said Kathi. “Our first planning meeting was in January of 2013. We’re really excited about it.”
Kathi explained that the decorations committee sets the theme for the show. One of the main decoration projects is a larger-than-life mural that will be painted and placed in the show ring. “It’s on one side of the show ring,” said Kathi, “and it’s used as a staging area for the kids who are ready to go in the ring.”
The theme for this year’s show is ‘A Sweet Family Tradition’. “We told him what we wanted in the mural and gave him a rough drawing,” said Kathi as she described the artist and the process for creating the mural. “Then he puts his artistic talent to work.” The committee is also in charge of decorations for the Friday evening awards banquet.
Katie Kusisto, whose family raises Herefords on their Potic Mountain Farms in Catskill, is a member of the decorations committee and has been helping Kathi with details including assembling the centerpieces for the awards banquet. Other committee members include Brenda Bippert, Taylor Wierzbowski, Megan Andersen, Patti Andersen, James Held, Anita Kriese, Jenny and Aleesha Howe.
The six host states for this year’s national competition include New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland.