L Bar W Cattle Company: New kids on the block raising Hereford cattle
Jumping into the purebred cattle business takes fortitude, a positive attitude and keen vision. Carl and Denise Loyning formed a partnership with Mike and Jeannette Walen to do what both couples love: raising the best Hereford cattle they can.
Denise and Carl grew up with Herefords in the shadow of the Beartooth Mountains on the gently rolling hills and river bottom trees that make up land around Red Lodge, Montana. The Loynings were leasing their current place north of Absarokee when the Walens purchased it. The new owners asked if Carl and Denise would like to remain and start a seedstock business.
“You could say we hopped on the Hereford bandwagon,” said Denise. “We wanted to be on the cutting edge of genetics. We looked at the improvements the Hereford breed has made and felt that was the direction we needed to go.”
The couple leapt into action once it was decided to go into the registered business. Although they had dabbled in the commercial cow/calf operation for about 10 years, it was only four years ago they decided to make the big transition into becoming seedstock producers. They spent months researching the kind of genetics for the foundation of their program. They have selected the very best genetics from top Hereford breeders in Montana. Now with the foundation in place they are starting to put a type and kind together.
The Loynings both agree that they have been fortunate with their cows and their friendship with other breeders. Quality cows with good dispositions come from Cooper, Holden and Pedretti’s Breeders who have been generous with their time to help out these new faces in the purebred business.
The improvements they saw the Hereford breed striving for were a reduction in birth weights, and an increase in weaning and yearling weights which they felt were wise. “The Hereford breed is not making changes detrimental to the breed, but they are implementing gradual changes rather than rushing forward,” Carl said.
The couple especially praises a Hereford’s disposition and predictability. Their commercial herd allows them to integrate their genetics into the commercial cow/calf operation. This helps them make decisions regarding the kind and type of genetics that will work in a commercial setting. Most of their bulls will go into a commercial setting, and they need to know that those bulls are going to cover ground and get the cows bred. Mediocrity is not tolerated.
“We know that there are certain bulls we want to pair with certain cows, and it’s the same with our embryo work.”
Denise chuckles that their first round of getting ready for the sale started with clipping the bulls to get ready for the photo session. They had their clip date set and it was sunny and 20 degrees, which quickly deteriorated to being dark and 10 below zero. Photo day was equally challenging. The winds were blowing 40 mph so the crew set up a straw windbreak. This resulted in straw constantly blowing across the camera lens—not so good for photos.
“At least our video day was sunny and nice,” Denise said. “Through Christmas and all through the National Western Stock Show in Denver, all we did was work on the catalogue. Until you design a catalogue, you don’t realize how hard it is. However, we agreed it was worth it. We offered 32 yearling bulls and eight two-year-olds along with some bred heifers.”
They spent a day at the Cowtown Beef Breeders Show in Miles City and the Bull Pen at the MATE in Billings, promoting their 1st production sale. They are both active in the Montana Hereford Association.
“After having our first production sale last year, I have a whole new respect for the people who put on these sales,” Denise says. “Actually, you start planning the next sale the day after your sale is over. Our sale was the first Wednesday in March and we already started thinking about matings and breedings for future sales and what calves might be great candidates for the sales. Our first sale was a great learning experience for all of us to move our program in the right direction.”
She adds that one has to let go of the most nerve-wracking of it all—things you can’t control like the weather. “We can control our genetics, but we can’t keep a snowstorm away.”
The new L Bar W sale barn has a large kitchen and seating for the lunch, as well as video screens for the auction. Even though potential buyers could stroll in and out of the pens to inspect bulls and sit in the bleachers for bidding, the sale itself is all video—a method that the Loynings feels keep the animals and handlers safer than running them in the ring. Plus, less behind-the-scenes help is needed.
Buyers numbering about 150 came from Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas and the Dakotas. “Our production sale was the right fit for our resources. We paired with another Hereford breeder and we couldn’t be happier.”
Denise explains that although she and Carl are not blood relatives to Mike and Jeannette, they feel like family. She adds that Emily Shilling, a young woman they’ve hired as herdsman, does a great job with feeding, working on the rations and cattle health, including helping with calving. The herdsman praises the L Bar W cattle, admitting that when you go in to their pens, even if they have a calf, you are not worried for your safety. “Our cows are so easy to work with,” Emily said.
Carl admitted his favorite part of ranching is the cattle. “You’re always striving to have the best of the best. What one cow might be lacking, we can achieve by breeding. In addition, the people you meet are great. Whether we visited with a rancher with a herd of five or 500, we’ve made many good friendships.”
Their 2nd annual production sale is March 7, 2018 at the ranch in Absarokee.