Callaway Hereford breeders honored with Century Breeder award
Callaway, NE ranchers John and Mary Ridder are carrying on a tradition started over 100 years ago by John’s grandparents, Theodore and Elizabeth Ridder. John and Mary were recently honored by the American Hereford Association as a Century Hereford Breeder.
Of the award, John said they are very honored to receive it. “You hear about other breeders receiving the award for 100 years of operation,” he explained. “But, it doesn’t seem like it has been that long ago. I think of this award as a tribute to my grandparents and parents more than to ourselves. It was their selection of cattle and the long-lasting family commitment that was critical to the ongoing success of this operation. You have to select the right genetics at the right time to make things work.”
The Ridder family settled in Callaway in 1907 after moving there from eastern Nebraska. Although the first generation of Ridders brought primarily black and commercial cattle with them when they settled in the Sandhills, they soon changed to the Hereford breed.
“There were a fair number of Hereford herds established here in this area at that time,” John says. “When they saw the disposition and durability of the Herefords, they liked them, so they made the transition to the breed pretty quickly.”
Theodore purchased his first Hereford bull named Rector from Benger and Decker who lived in the Callaway area. John said that Bud Snidow, a historian who keeps a record of cattle history for the American Hereford Association, has researched the bull and found he was an intensely line-bred bull, and was an extremely pre-potent bull for that time era.
Continuing with the Herefords, Theodore purchased some young purebred Hereford cows from some of the area breeders in the 1920s. John explained that one breeder, the Mousel Brothers, were one of the breeders holding production sales, and Theodore purchased several Hereford cows from them.
John said his grandfather ran the operation into the mid 30s, until his father, Paul, and Paul’s brother, Alvis, took over the operation. Paul was the youngest of Theodore and Elizabeth Ridder’s 12 children. Paul served in the military in World War II, and when he came out of the military, he and Alvis each had their own operation.
John said he took over his father’s operation in 1972, after his father passed away, and he purchased his mom’s cowherd in 1988. Since then, John and Mary Ridder and their six children have continued with the purebred operation.
“I think the breed has survived this long because it has the ability to adapt to different environments and different management styles,” John explains. “Herefords are low input cattle that are very feed efficient. They have superb dispositions and great mothering ability. I think that is why the breed has survived so long. They have so much to offer, especially today with cross-breeding, and superb carcass characteristics that are leading the taste and eating satisfaction the nation’s consumers demand.”
In their own operation, John and Mary place a lot of emphasis on completeness, soundness and balance in their Hereford cattle.
“Back when they first started production testing, we were very interested in that,” John says. “The evolution of EPDs gave us a very positive roadmap as to which direction our cattle are going in comparison to other breeders. Recently, with the development of carcass data, we have put a lot more emphasis on carcass traits.”
John said in 1988, the couple purchased their first Canadian bulls. “We felt they had a little more volume and muscle definition, but still had other characteristics that were important to us like milk production and a good disposition.”
John is particularly proud of a bull he purchased in Calgary from the Kallals in 2002 named Ribstone Lad 157K.
“When we first took ultrasound data from him, he was off the charts in data compared to the other cattle in our herd,” he says. “He is one of the best carcass bulls for the breed. His intramuscular fat was incredible. He also had an exceptionally good ribeye, which is unusual because usually those two traits work against each other. He was the number one indexing bull for both those traits.”
John said they sold half interest in the bull to the Doenz family, another Canadian breeder. “It is a very driving force to have a bull working that well public relations-wise on both sides of the border,” he says. “We lost him about two years ago, but we still AI heifers to him, as well as a number of top cows.”
John said they still have quite a little Ribstone Lad 157K in the bloodlines of their cattle.
“He was able to produce the type of females we were looking for in our herd,” John said. “The phenotype and genetic makeup is what we were selecting for.”
The Ridder family aims to produce cattle that are commercially-oriented, so they maintain cattle that are middle of the road for birth weight and mature size.
“We try to shoot for calves with birth weights in the 80 pound range,” he says. “We breed for medium size cows with very good udders and milking ability. I think our selection has really paid off. We are very pleased with our cow conformation. Most of our cows weigh 1,300 to 1,400 pounds. We also try to breed cattle with extra red pigment to help with pink eye and sunburned udder issues.
“Our philosophy is to raise a set of bulls and females that meet the industry’s demands,” John said. “The cattle leading the industry today come from the mainstream genes of the breed. The phenotypic ‘odd balls’ that come from extremes in size, or lack of size in the past, usually mask true genetic improvement.”
To help promote their herd, the Ridder family continues to show a carload of bulls at the National Western Stock Show in Denver each year.
“My dad started showing carloads in 1952 in Denver. We have showed at Denver in the carload show consistently through the years,” he says. “We feel it gives us the benefit of comparing our cattle and management against other breeders. We get a lot of producers looking at our cattle. Back when dad showed there, there was close to 50 carloads of cattle for sale. The breeders didn’t hold them back for their bull sales like they do today. Back then, commercial cattlemen from the mountain west to Texas would come and buy an entire carload at Denver.
“When we take a load of 10 bulls to Denver, our customers can actually see the bulls there and how they stack up against other breeder’s bulls,” he continues. “They can also see how our bulls will fit into their program. If we make a good impression there, it can really help our bull sale.”
John said they used to sell some carload bulls at Denver back in the 80s, but since they have such good buyer support at their own bull sale, they market all the bulls there.
“We felt we have always had really good commercial support in Denver,” he said. “They will see our cattle there and come to our bull sale. There is a lot of public relations involved in selling breeding cattle, and a lot of media channels available. People can now look at your cattle through new outlets like our website.”
The Annual Ridder Bull and Heifer Sale will be held on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2010 at their Callaway ranch. The sale will start at 1 p.m. CT, and will feature over 70 yearling and coming two-year-old bulls, and 40 yearling heifers.
for more information about the ridder hereford ranch, check out their website at http://ridderranch.com. they can be reached at 308-836-4430.
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Outtagrass Cattle Co. cartoon by Jan Swan Wood for the June 19, 2021, edition of Tri-State Livestock News