Family halter-breaks calves to create perfect Hereford

Debby Schoeningh/For the Capital Press Duane Chandler, of the Chandler Herefords ranch, examines a halter on a calf. He says that by the second day of halter-breaking, calves become much easier to handle.

More than a century of breeding creates gentle disposition


For the Capital Press

BAKER CITY, Ore. -- The Chandler Herefords ranch breeds cattle for gentle dispositions, and halter-breaking their registered heifer and bull calves emphasizes that trait.

The tradition has carried through 145 years to the sixth generation of Chandlers.

Though halter-breaking the 130 or so calves every year is a big job, George Chandler, 64, and his son Duane, 41, say it is well worth the effort in terms of marketing and handling.

"We do it as a service to our customers, but it also helps us if we have to restrain an animal for any reason," Duane Chandler said.

Halter-breaking is normally a two-day process and occurs every year around September when the calves are about 5 months old.

On the first day the Chandlers and crew separate the calves from the cows and crowd the calves together into a holding pen where they are haltered. The calves are then separated, about six to a pen, and the crew rubs and pats them all over and ties them to the fence.

The calves are tied for a couple of hours while most of them work through a "pulling stage." The calves are then rubbed and patted again before having their halters taken off and are returned to the pasture with the cows for the night.

"We get close to them so they can see what we're all about," Duane Chandler said. "It's a messy job, but they remember the training throughout their lives."

On the second day, the process is repeated. The calves that give them too much trouble are sorted out and not utilized in their registered breeding program.

"Bloodlines run deep and since we are breeding, in part, for disposition, we identify those without the desired disposition early on," Duane Chandler said.

Chandler Herefords sells about 400 head annually, which includes registered bulls and replacement heifers, and feeder steers and heifers. They also sell about 15 head of their heavier steers as all-natural, grain-fed locker beef each year.

George Chandler said they "chum" prospective locker beef buyers with steaks.

"Once they get a taste, it's a pretty easy sale," he said.

They market their cattle primarily through word-of-mouth based on their longstanding reputation in the Hereford industry, and sell their top registered bulls exclusively by private treaty.

"And that's the way it has been from Day One," George Chandler said. "Any more, selling a large quantity to one outfit is pretty rare."

Most of their 800 to 900 pound feeder cattle head east in semis directly to feedlots, bypassing the weaning lots. They have a consistent history of 3.5-4 pounds of daily gain and have done as well as 5.25 pounds of dry matter conversion.

However, they have had some success selling calves and raising interest in their calf crops through YouTube videos. So far they have about 30 videos posted. They also have a ranch website.

George Chandler said they have "sister herds" across the nation and a large percentage of all registered Herefords in the U.S. can be traced to the Chandlers' 1889 genetics. This year they introduced a "new kid on the block," C Chandler 0100, and have four other new sires with calves on the ground. They incorporate a "little old school and some leading edge genetics" in their breeding program.


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