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‘It gets in your blood …’ Anderson family operation turns A.I. competition into a key herd tool

M. Purviance for Progressive Cattle Published on 25 January 2021
Herding cattle

Stewardship is a word often associated with the agricultural industry. From farming operations in the South to the heavily grazed ranching land in the North, stewardship is the focal point of many operations across the country.

JBB/AL Herefords is no stranger to the concept of stewardship, sustainability or even high-quality red cows, for that matter.

“If we don’t have stewardship, we’re not going to have sustainability. And if we don’t have sustainability, we won’t have the cow herd we want. If you take care of the cattle, the cattle will take care of you … and that’s something we live by,” says Dawn Anderson, part-owner in JBB/AL Herefords.

Anderson and her husband, James, are second-generation seedstock producers located in Gooding, Idaho. Dawn grew up raising Herefords with her parents, JBB Herefords, and had a small, registered herd of her own. Anderson says James did not come from an ag background but was a meat cutter at Safeway.

“He knew what the inside of a cow looked like,” Anderson chuckles.

The pair formed a partnership in 1992 a few years after they married in 1987, adding the “/AL,” or “Anderson Livestock,” to JBB/AL Herefords.

The “JBB” side of the operation, however, requires a bit of a backstory.

In 1967, John Bryan (Dawn’s father) bought Dawn’s mother, Beverly, a few registered Herefords as an anniversary gift. What started as an anniversary gift from one spouse to another quickly turned into a business – and that business eventually turned into a legacy.

Anderson and her brother were each given a commercial cow for their college fund, and once they started showing animals, they were given registered heifers.

“We both got to build up our own herds as well as save up money for college; it was a win-win and to this day I am grateful for those opportunities,” Anderson says.

Anderson adds that getting to raise her children on the ranch, just as she was, is the most rewarding aspect of her job.

Her oldest, Bryan, works on the ranch and recently married his wife, Charly. Anderson’s daughter, Jae, obtained a master’s degree in agribusiness from Utah State back in August and works for Intermountain Embryonics while still owning a few cows on the ranch.

The Anderson family

Anderson reminisces of the time Bryan spent his spring break learning how to A.I., which inevitably created a competition between Bryan and James, as James has been an independent contractor for Genex in the past few years, she laughs.

“There’s no doubt, it gets in your blood … and it gets in your blood quick,” Anderson says.

Anderson says the legacy of it all is what gets her out of bed every morning. In tough times, she says she remembers the work put into their ranching operation by her family, and it makes her want to work even harder.

“Mom and Dad worked so hard to get their feet under them; it was an instinctual decision to come back to ranching,” Anderson says. “It’s that legacy thing that just keeps coming back into mind. We want to take care of what’s taken care of us.”

Evolution

Anderson says ranching is their family’s foundation, it’s “what’s kept them on their feet.” And over the years, JBB/AL Herefords has evolved and expanded.

In 2012, JBB/AL Herefords added Red Angus genetics into the mix.

Red cattle

“Those F1 heifers are very popular and just good mamas,” Anderson says.

The operation has also done some conventional embryo transfer work in the past, as well as a bit of IVF as it became more popular. Currently, they do quite a bit of A.I.-ing using a Hereford bull as the clean-up.

As with many other operations, JBB/AL Herefords does participate in a bit of farming, growing hay, corn silage and certified wheat seed which is contracted with an elevator in Gooding. Anderson says they keep about 50% of their hay, while their grains are mostly sold.

Challenges

Anderson says the price of commodities can be challenging in an area so richly populated with dairy cattle.

“On the bright side, we get along with the dairy farmers and they understand us,” Anderson stated. “There’s a number of dairies that will put some beef bulls on their heifers, and we get a few customers through this.”

Anderson says another challenge is being a steward of the land and being sustainable, in all aspects.

“Like I said earlier, you have to be a steward of the land if you want your hard work to pay off for generations, and with that comes sustainability,” Anderson says. “We have to be sustainable, not only on the ranch but as an industry as well, specifically with the public’s perception.”

Anderson says it all comes down to the public understanding what cattle producers do, and that there’s people behind their produce.

On top of battling the public’s perception of the beef industry, Anderson says the cattle market itself is always a challenge as well.

“We’ve got to keep an open dialogue; that will help,” Anderson says. “I don’t know that everybody will be completely happy with the outcome, but we need to be sure that we continue to do business as well as discuss business with one another.”

Anderson says above all else, her priority is to make sure JBB/AL Herefords is still around for her children and grandchildren to one day take over.

Over time, the Andersons have shown that they’re not afraid to change with the times nor shy away from a challenge, and this is what ensures their operation is set to continue on with the legacy of Dawn, James and their family.

From advocating for the ag industry to inspiring friendly A.I. competition between father and son, the Andersons have been successful in paving the way for future generations. After all, as Anderson stated before, “it gets in your blood.” end mark

PHOTO 1: A family affair, the Anderson family works together to keep their operation up and running while grounding the family in their agricultural legacy.

PHOTO 2: From left to right: Jae, Charly, Bryan, Dawn and James Anderson are all smiles after Bryan and Charly’s wedding. 

PHOTO 3: Red cattle flood the grounds at JBB/AL Herefords in Idaho. Photos provided by Dawn Anderson.

M. Purviance is a freelance writer based in Montana.

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