Steve and Jill Folkman see their Polled Hereford farm as a means of building character and teaching responsibility to their four children.
"We have been working at multiplying desirable genetics in our herd," Steve said, "but here, besides producing quality cattle, we are producing tremendous character-building experiences for our family."
Steve said he and his wife want to provide the same opportunities for their children that his dad provided for him.
"We work with the Polled Hereford breed because they are docile, so they are good animals for children to work with," he said.
Besides raising breeding stock to sell, their children also have their project animals that they show at the National Junior Show and the Waukesha County Fair. This year they will also go to Wisconsin State Fair.
Their oldest daughter, Nicole, is in charge of the feed pens. Ali gets feed ready for the show heifers and cows. Curtis cleans pens, feeds and provides water to the animals. Last but not least, Austin is in charge of one of the barns, including providing water, feed and cleaning pens.
C & L Hereford Ranch dates back to the 1970s when Steve's father Charles Folkman started acquiring land near the west-central Wisconsin community of Blair. The land was developed for both recreational and agriculture purposes, and over the years the farm grew to 1,500 acres of rolling hills, oak and pine trees, contour crop fields, pastures, ponds and creeks.
The family fenced portions of the property and built facilities to manage the herd of 125 Polled Hereford cows. Females were added from such herds as Calderon Curran in Grass Lake, MI, Spring Creek Ranch in Ohio and several prominent breeders in the upper Midwest.
Two sons of the first superior sire Kiyiwana New Trend and the Wisconsin State sale champion SOP Rollo Ruff were the bulls selected to be the core of the Folkman herd bull battery.
Over the years, they used artificial insemination in order to add additional herd bulls and improve the genetic background of the herd.
In 1990, Steve and Jill were married, and in 1995, when Steve's father passed away, they decided to reduce the number of animals in the herd and relocate the herd closer to home in Dodge County.
They added facilities, built fences and set out to build their own herd, involving their children in the process.
Steve and Jill own 250 acres at their current location and use a neighbor's corn field next door for grazing in winter. In the pastures, they have Quonset huts for shelter in the worst weather, but the animals do very well in extreme weather.
Besides pasture, they get supplemental hay and mineral.
The animals are on pasture most of the time, but two weeks before calving, they bring them home to the barn where surveillance cameras are used to alert the family when calving is taking place.
When calving takes place, they weigh each animal, measure them and report the numbers to the Hereford Association. Through comparisons with other animals, they can determine which animals are best.
"We do merit testing to add more genetic value," Steve said. "We found, through testing, one of the best families in the breed with excellent marbling. With this national carcass performance test, we found that Advantage is above average, and we have twelve daughters in our herd now.
"By identifying individuals that are the elite animals, we can multiply more of those genetics in our herd. Three generations of ultrasound data shows how we have improved from one generation to the next."
Mike Stanek of Potosi does the ultrasound work for them. Ultrasound has become a useful tool in evaluating live animals for carcass traits. The ultrasound measurements correspond to the carcass traits evaluated to determine Yield Grade and Quality Grade. Perhaps the greatest advantage of ultrasound data is that the dams, as well as the sires, can be included in an individual's EPDs.
He measures the rump, rib fat and rib-eye area and the percentage of intramuscular fat. The rib-eye image is collected between the 12-13th ribs where the rib fat and rib-eye area are measured. This value would be correlated to the marbling trait for quality grade. The rump fat image is collected between the hooks and the pins of the animal and gives another indication of external body fat.
Stanek said ultrasound data can be evaluated similarly to other performance traits. Ultrasound EPDs should be the best indicator of an animal's carcass trait potential.