COCHRANTON, Pa. — It didn’t fit under the tree, but Bill Dunn’s Christmas present in 1976 set the direction for his life.
Bill Dunn received his first registered Hereford — that 1976 Christmas present — from his parents. They knew he liked cattle and they knew he wanted to show. What they didn’t know is that the cow would be a stepping stone in his life as cattle producer.
“I don’t know if they realized then what an obsession it would become,” Dunn said.
Dunn’s grandfather had been in the cattle business. In fact, he received his first shipment of cattle by railcar in the 1940s when they were shipped to Cochranton, Pa.
However, Dunn said the family’s beef connection jumped a generation and now he is the cattleman in the family.
Dunn Herefords is now owned and operated by Bill, his wife, Bobbi, and their two children, Walker and Reagan.
Dunn currently has a commercial operation that focuses on selling pre-conditioned calves. He sells about 180 calves per year.
He’s continued to raise primarily Herefords for a simple reason — the efficiency the breed shows in weight gain with little feed.
“The breed just survives and thrives easily,” Bobbi said.
Bill said their goal is to raise cattle ready for feedlots, as well as for smaller producers.
“We realize if the guy down the road doesn’t make money, they aren’t coming back and we will eventually lose out,” Bill said.
Herefords are also the family’s cow of choice because of their docile personalities. Bobbi said no cattle can be completely trusted, but docility is very important so her children can work with the cattle.
Bobbi said the farm uses a vaccination program, and dehorning and castration as needed.
Their goal is to have cattle that can get off the trailer, start eating right away, and gain weight the next day. A hands-on approach to raising cattle, they say, is the only way to do it.
“You have to make the customer happy and that’s the best way to do it, by helping them to make money right away,” Bill said.
Currently, there are about 200 cattle on the farm. They have one full-time employee and focus on hay making in their operation. They bale between 350-400 acres of hay a year.
The family also plants 100 acres of corn, 40 acres of oats and 40 acres of beans. In total, the family farms 1,500 acres and some of it has the dual purpose of being a pasture part of the year and a hayfield another part of the year.
In addition, the family is also excited about studies being funded by the American Hereford Association concerning heterosis, and they’re studying the results to tweak their genetic program.
The study involves breeding Angus-Hereford cross cattle to develop black baldies. Angus cattle are bred with Hereford bulls and the results are showing boosts in feed efficiency, average daily gain, and conception rates.
The family also participates in an annual Hereford Influence sale in the fall.
Dunn met Bobbi through horse shows where his sister participated.
When they got married, financial reality set in, and they both realized showing her horse was becoming too expensive, plus Bobbi hated being away from her husband and son on the weekends.
Bobbi proposed the idea of showing cattle instead. She thought it was an idea that could include the whole family.
Today, Walker, 10 and his sister, Reagan, 7, both show registered Herefords.
Walker took two cows to the 2011 Ohio Expo Sale to be auctioned off and both of them were in the top four spots in the Hereford sale.
He wants to get more involved in the cattle business, but his parents said they are making it clear that if he wants to show them, he also has to be able to make money with them.
Walker and Reagan participated in the Pennsylvania Junior Hereford Association Preview Show, May 21-22, and brought home the award of champion cow-calf pair. In addition, the family also showed the champion bull.
The Dunns have also showed at the Pennsylvania Farm Show and won several titles, as well as being named division champions at the Keystone International Livestock Exposition.
Now, that it is Bill who is putting gifts under the tree for his children, the wishes have changed. Walker isn’t shy about asking for the chance to show at the National Western Stock Show in Denver in the near future.