W4 Ranch: Good Nutrition is Key to Producing High Quality Cattle
A primary goal of W4 Ranch, Morgan, Texas, is to produce great high quality Hereford cattle. “Our basic goal is to be the top Herford breeder in the State of Texas,” says W4 general manager Jay Wright.
“We go at it from a little different angle than a lot of registered breeders,” Wright acknowledges. “A lot of registered breeders breed for the show ring and breed for just specifically registered cattle. We’re more of a working cattle ranch that has registered cattle. Our main goal is to raise Hereford bulls to sell pretty much commercially.”
Wright estimates that W4 sells 90 to 95 percent of all its range bulls to commercial breeders to be used for the purpose of breeding for meat production. “We’ll sell a handful to registered breeders along the way but for the most part our bread and butter is selling range bulls. We’ll sell 100 to 160 a year without any problem whatsoever.”
Reputation for quality
Over the years, the ranch, which is owned by James, Joe and Joey Walker, has grown into one of the largest registered Hereford breeders in Texas and has developed a reputation as a producer of high quality purebred Hereford cattle and certified females.
When James Walker purchased the original ranch in 1961, it consisted of 1,000 acres. Many years were spent building the ranch’s infrastructure, improving its water system with the development of irrigation, improving grasses, clearing land and building good fences. Since 1961, W4 has grown into 12,000 acres.
Wright, who has been W4's general manager for about eight years, believes in concentrating on birth weight, yearling weight and milk production as he seeks to always improve the genetic quality of W4 Ranch's Hereford cattle.
The primary focus of the ranch will always be on Herefords, he says. At the same time, the ranch needs to utilize other markets for diversity and complete success, Wright believes. That’s one reason he established a Certified F1 program in which he breeds the older Hereford cows to Brahman bulls.
Black baldy program
Heifers and females that fall below standards he sets for his seed stock cattle can be mated to Angus bulls and used in the ranch’s black baldy program, Wright explains. “We can be a place for people to come and get whatever they want.”
Wright acknowledges that it is challenging to get a ranch, such as W4, where you want it to be and keep it there in today’s ever-changing beef industry. “It’s a never ending thing to try to change genetics and keep up with the needs of the beef industry,” he says.
Costs, especially fuel and feed are making it even more challenging to raise cattle today, says Wright.
“The overhead is pretty high, so you need to do things that are more cost effective.” One thing that is helping to reduce costs is the Purina nutrition programs that have been developed especially for the ranch, Wright says. “They help us keep feed costs more economical.”
One of the major limiting factors for the ranch is labor, says Jeff Chaffin, W4 Ranch manager. “In our program, with 1,100 registered cows and only five employees on a day-to-day basis, labor can be one of our greatest challenges.”
Nutrition has major role
That’s where the Purina Accuration® Feed nutrition programs play a major role, he says. These labor saving programs help make available extra time for the employees to devote to continued genetic advances in the herd, says Chaffin.
W4 Ranch’s first experiences with Purina came through using the Accuration® Feed Cattle Limiter program for developing heifers on grass. “That program has just been phenomenal for us,” remarks Chaffin.
“The growth and maturity on those females far surpasses anything we’ve ever done in the past. Not to mention they are running on self-feeders so all you have to do is go look at them because they just pretty much take care of themselves.” They use Wind & Rain® Availa®-4 Mineral tubs as well.
The W4 Ranch recently began a nutrition program for developing bulls using Accuration® Feed Cattle Limiter through the test period and then transition to a total mixed ration/silage mix with Sup-R-Lix® Feedlot 40 concentrate until the bulls are marketed.
The local Purina dealer, Clifton Feed Service, works very closely with the ranch to ensure that all feeders are kept full and consistent. Scott Conrad manages this from the dealer side and is an integral part of ensuring a successful communication process and service plan.
Purina Nutritional Consultant Dr. Chance Farmer formulates the TMR for the bulls and works with Purina Beef Specialist Dalton Nix to ensure the ranch’s goals are being met. This includes frequent meetings with Chaffin and Wright to take samples, inspect cattle and make any necessary updates.
The ranch’s nutrition program also includes use of Impact® Starter Complete for creep feeding to start all calves. The Diamond V XPC™ Yeast Culture product, in combination with high quality nutrients and intake modifiers, has helped developed a physical appearance that is critical to their marketing program, the ranch’s managers believe. The use of Aureo S 700® (Aureomycin® brand chlortetracycline and sulfamethazine combination) helps to transition calves through this critical stage.
“The weaning nutrition program with Impact Starter and the Diamond V yeast culture has been exceptionally good for us,” says Chaffin.
W4 Ranch’s brood cows are supplemented with Sup-R-Lix® 2HL through the winter and run on both native pasture and coastal Bermuda grass hay. This allows for equitable supplement intake for all cows and reduced labor and fuel costs.
Contact your Purina dealer for further information on developing a specific nutrition program for your beef business or for more information on any of the cattle nutrition products and programs mentioned in this article.