Cattle Journal 2023: NJW Herefords—Ward family works to create Balanced Trait breeding program, Wyoming & Montana
Ned and Jan Ward, along with their daughter, Bell, raise registered Herefords near Sheridan, Wyoming and Decker, Montana. The Wards have been fine-tuning their genetics for the last 37 years so they can offer their customers something they believe in.
“Herefords are what we both were raised with and we’ve made it our lifetime mission to make them good and fault-free,” says Jan Ward.
“Buying bulls is a huge investment,” she says. “The genetics you choose today will have a tremendous long-term impact on your herd. Buying the right bull can transform your calves and their value in just one generation as well as affect your cowherd for the next 10 years.
“A good Hereford bull offers commercial breeders heterosis and extra pounds at weaning, plus will improve docility, feed efficiency, and fertility. Another plus is longevity…you’ll get more years of use from a Hereford bull.
“Our program and cattle are the result of a passion and commitment to raising the most predictable, highest quality Herefords possible,” Ward says. “I think what sets us apart or makes us different is our ‘Balanced Trait’ breeding thoughts. Our goal is to produce easy-doing, big-bodied, thick, and sound cattle with added performance that still maintains enough calving ease and high maternal traits.”
In order to meet these expectations, the Wards have had to be aggressive about culling and very intentional with their genetics.
“In an attempt to offer the most predictable, accurate EPDs,” says Ward, “we genetically enhance each animal’s EPDs…We use a large amount of our own genetics but every year use a few outside bulls to pull in new genetics but only use cattle we are sure will improve traits.”
In addition, says Ward, “We are adamant about taking and submitting accurate, honest weights and udder scores. Our herd is very maternal and we demand our cowherd have good, problem-free udders.
“Our goal is to raise bulls for the commercial cattleman – bulls that are problem-free and a forward-moving set of ‘genetic tools’ both to look at and on paper,” says Ward. “We do not follow trends or fads but breed cattle the way we like them – cattle that are right for our customers and right for this environment.”
“Our bulls are raised on northern Wyoming and southern Montana range and their mothers’ milk only…no creep! We try to run our cattle as much like our commercial customers as possible – running them on the same terrain and grass.”
The Wards have a bull sale the 3rd Wednesday of March, where they sell about 100 yearling bulls and 40 registered heifer calves. Since they sell their bulls as yearlings in March, the Wards calve earlier (February and March.)
“Bulls are weaned the first part of September and developed here on our south ranch on a limited amount of grower pellet and free choice grass hay,” says Ward. “The heifer calves are weaned in and run on a big grass pasture with a grower pellet as well and hay when weather demands.”
“While the majority of our bulls go to the commercial man, we have been fortunate to sell to purebred breeders across America, Canada, and Mexico,” says Ward. “Semen sales have also been very good for us all over the world.”
Besides their registered Hereford herd, the Wards run a commercial Red Angus herd, some of which they use as recipients for their embryo program.
A ranch is always a changing, dynamic place, but for the Wards, “The last two years have been full of new beginnings and lots of transitions,” says Ward. “We purchased two new ranches and moved from the ranch we had lived on and leased for 37 years. The lifelong dream of owning our own place [was] finally realized.”
With all that they have going on, the Wards say they could never have done it without their ranch family.
“Over our 37-year journey, we have been blessed with exceptional employees who work as if it all was their own,” says Ward.
Ned and Jan run the place with their daughter, Bell, two full-time employees, and a few part-timers.
“Bell works with us here full time…which is a rancher’s dream to have that next generation come home,” says Ward. “Bell runs some cows here with us and has recently invested in some land of her own – something we are extremely proud of her for!”
“Jake Bare works with us here full time and at our South Ranch. Jake really does any job but he is really a good cowman – he knows the cowherd and has a great eye for good cattle plus brings to the table a lot of laughs and is fun to work with!
“Emilee Holt lives here at the North Ranch and is mostly full time. Emilee has a passion for Herefords and knows pedigrees. Besides doing many things on the place,” says Ward, “Em helps me with the records and does other office things I’m not smart enough to do!”
“Our employees are a big deal here. They give it their all,” says Ward. “They’re a tremendous part of our program.”
Ward also says they wouldn’t be anywhere without their customers.
“We are so grateful for their support and trust and belief in both us and our program.”
But most of all, Ward credits the cowherd behind their bulls.
“We have spent our lifetime developing these genetics with a passion to make them better and better. We expect our cattle to improve your genetics.”