Jamison Ranch aims for performance in horses, Herefords
January 17, 2017
A lot of places say they are centrally located, but Jamison Ranch in Quinter, Kansas truly is middle ground. The ranch is 100 miles from the Colorado state line, 100 miles from the Nebraska state line and 100 miles from Dodge City, Kansas.
Manager Gordon Jamison is the third generation to run the family operation. “My grandfather got here in 1888. My father started the Herefords in 1944, and I’ve been here all my life,” Jamison said.
Jamison’s grandfather, Owen, originally raised Percheron draft horses to pull farm implements when he homesteaded the ranch. A church minister, Owen was always a sort of visionary. He was one of the first people in the county to own a car.
Owen’s son, Dale, who started the ranch’s Hereford herd, became interested in L1 cattle around 1970. The Jamisons’ aim was to use genetics to improve the maternal traits and performance of their cattle.
By then Dale's son Gordon had joined him in the ranching operation.
L1 Herefords were developed by the United States Department of Agriculture research station at Miles City, Montana. The L stands for linebred. The one means first generation.
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Dale bought some half L1 cows from Max Fulscher in 1971. At that time, L1 Herefords had been performance-tested longer than any other breed.
By 1975, the entire Jamison herd was L1. In 1975, Dale and Gordon bought CL1 Domino 350 from Cooper Herefords for $8,000. This was the first major L1 Herd bull purchase for the ranch. The bull performed so well the ranch bought CL1 Domino 75901 from Cooper’s for $37,500. Later interests in that bull were sold to Indian Mound Herefords in Texas and Barkley Herefords of Missouri for $75,000 each. The ranch also sold $150,000 worth of semen. These calves topped sales all over the United States for several years. In 1984, the Jamisons partnered with Pruett Ray from Arizona and Harding Brothers from Missouri to buy a bull named CL1 Domino 386 for $100,000 from Cooper Herefords in Willow Creek. Mont. That bull became the foundation of the herd. His genetics still show today. Along with performance and pigmentation, 386 is known for increasing milk production in Hereford cattle.
By the 1980s, Gordon’s brother Rusty had joined the operation. By this time Gordon had mostly taken over day-to-day management of the ranch. Dale was still very involved, but spent time traveling and working on behalf of his local and national church congregation.
The Ranch Today
“We run 400 registered cows and market some heifers,” Gordon Jamison said.
Each February, the ranch sells 200 bulls, and in the fall, offers 120 to 130 registered heifers and 300 to 400 bred commercial heifers.
“We try to buy heifers from customers who bought bulls,” Jamison said. The commercial heifers are bred to black bulls unless otherwise specified by the buyers.
“Recently, we had a contract where we bred two loads back to Herefords,” Jamison said. Using black bulls, Jamison said the calves are about 80 percent Hereford, red and black baldies.
“Herefords are resilient,” Jamison said. “The best thing that ever happened to Hereford bulls was black cows.”
Jamison said the horned bulls were a stand-by in the Hereford business for generations. “We bred around eye problems and prolapse to get more performance. We’ve got more years of selection than polled Herefords. While they were breeding the horns off, we were selecting around the problems.”
The Jamisons work approximately 20,000 acres of leased and deeded land. They farm around 3,000 acres for hay. Although Jamison would like to graze his yearlings on wheat, he said that is seldom and option. “It’s a little iffy this far north,” Jamison said. “We usually can’t get enough growth early enough.”
Working cattle takes horses, and the Jamisons raise their own.
“The horse thing has become a big part of our operation,” Jamison said.
The ranch has one horse sale a year in October, in conjunction with their fall heifer sale. This year they offered 60 weanlings the day of the sale, and 80 riders of all ages, many used on the ranch.
“It takes a lot of time and effort to make a seasoned ranch horse,” Jamison said. The hope is people who buy the broke horses will want to come back and purchase weanlings bred the same way.
The ranch stands three sons of Sun Frost. “We try to keep some speed,” Jamison said. “We like that mix with Blue Valentine and Driftwood mares to get a sturdier horse. The horse industry has gotten away from that.”
The ranch runs 100 mares, including the largest band of Wilywood mares in the U.S. Wilywood is a son of Orphan Drift and grandson of Driftwood. He has been a prolific rope horse sire in both tie-down and team roping. Several National Finals Rodeo contestants have ridden Wilywood horses. Wilywood himself won American Quarter Horse Association points in reining, calf roping, working cow horse and team roping.
“We’ve got more and more trade off the east coast. We market cowboy hats,” Jamison said. John Johnson worked the recent sale and he said the most impressive thing about the horses shown roping was that after the cattle were roped, the cowboy could step down and hold the cattle to turn them loose. Although Jamison horses can and do make arena horses, they are just as adept in the pasture.
At this year’s October sale, riding horses averaged $6,000 and weanlings averaged $3,000. Jamison attributes a lot of the sale’s success to the internet.
“Internet plays a big part,” Jamison said. “We had bidders from 20 states. Just about every horse had a bidder on the internet. They weren’t all bought on the internet, but somebody was bidding on them.”
The Future of the Ranch
Jamison said the ranch is in a changing era. He and his wife, Marsha, have three sons, Daron, Wade and Cody, in their 30s, and he hopes they will make the ranch their business. One son lives in California, but is responsible for all the ranch web site design and traffic.
“He said he hopes to make enough money to come back to the ranch,” Jamison said. “I hope they all will decide to come in to the ranch.”
Jamison said the recent downturn in cattle prices has taken a toll, but the horses took up some of the slack. “I said we'd better prepare cause it’s (the good prices of two years ago) not gonna stay. Then I was as surprised as anybody. But we just sent two trucks (of cattle) to South Dakota and Montana that will ultimately end up in Canada.”
With cattle being bought as far away as Canada, Jamisons’ cattle market still looks strong.
The family lost Dale in 2007 at age 87. Gordon and his brother Rusty run the ranch now along with three full-time cowboys and some dayworkers. He said, like so many ranches these days, his cowboys trade daywork with other area ranches. Neighboring gets a lot of the work done.
“I’ve been very, very blessed,” Jamison said. “If I can come to the ranch every day and share my faith with others, it doesn’t get much better than that.
“I can’t imagine doing anything else.”