Jim Bradford on Market to Market’s Podcast

We are late in sharing this, but here’s a conversation between Jim Bradford and daughter Colleen Bradford Krantz. It was created as an episode for the MTOM podcast.

Here’s the description from their website: Jim Bradford has long been known for his work in the beef industry. From the farm in Iowa, he’s welcomed business from across the country to his farm. His family has a story to tell so why not let them tell it? Colleen Bradford Krantz is a producer for us and the daughter of Jim. We ask daughter to interview dad in hopefully a regular feature as our producers talk with those that helped give them some inspiration in covering agriculture. Colleen gives a great background to the family business name and the hard work happening still for her father in his 8th generation of life. 

Building the Foundation of a Solid Herd

The year 2022 marks my 64th year of breeding Angus cattle. My father and grandfather were in the Hereford business in the late 1800s. My dad, Joseph Bradford, sold four or five polled Hereford heifers, around 1906, to the Gammons, an Iowa family that helped lead the nation toward raising the naturally hornless Herefords. My dad, however, continued with the horned Herefords, always selling a few bulls and feeding out two or three loads of Hereford steers for the Chicago market. 

In 1954, he had taken a few loads of steers by rail to Chicago and discovered a record run was evident, with over 27,000 cattle on the market that day. The only thing going to the scale all morning, however, was black-hided cattle. We didn’t sell until mid-afternoon, at $3 less per hundredweight than the Angus. Within a year, Dad had gone to Pete Pratt, an Angus breeder in Walnut, Iowa, and purchased a couple Angus bulls. At that time, I was on the Iowa State University judging team and a big advocate of Hereford cattle. So when I heard he had purchased Angus bulls, I was about ready to disown the family. Luckily, despite my slow acceptance of Angus cattle, our judging team still excelled, winning the national collegiate judging competition in Chicago in 1955. And I slowly grew to respect the Angus breed.

We continued to pursue performance cattle in the subsequent decades. In 1968, we came across the Erdmann cattle at a test station in Montana, and eventually purchased “Big John” – Marshall Pride 4 – and some of his progeny from them. We later took Jim Baldridge, a sales manager and Angus Journal reporter, to Erdmanns’ place in South Dakota to show him their cattle, a trip which started events that boosted Baldridge’s visibility in the Angus business. 

Another “find” was the Doran Bros. Cattle of Beaver, Iowa. They had a bull, Black Wintonier 1088, that weighed around 1600 at one year of age, which was about 600 more than typical for most bulls at that time in the early 1960s. I ended up paying attention to that growth potential and later bought a number of Doran heifers second-hand.

We have continued to select for growth, fertility and a desired end product. The aspects of reproduction, disposition and longevity have a high priority in long-term herds. We’ve kept that in mind for more than six decades. We hope you will too.

-Jim Bradford

Brad Z Ranch

When a Tornado Hits Your Bull Barn

Many of you likely heard about the dozens of tornados that tore through the Midwest on December 15, 2021, also a day that featured a rare derecho event in the area. One of the tornados that appeared in Iowa hit Brad Z Ranch during the early evening that day.

Because it was already dark, it was impossible to see where the tornado was coming from or heading to other than what the local news meteorologists had (thankfully) pinpointed on radar. We would later find out that the F2 tornado – called the “Bayard tornado” – luckily passed over or very close to the house. It was not damaged and, as a result, no one was injured. But when Jim went out to check the farm buildings with herdsman Terry Kress that night, they soon discovered that three fourths of the main bull barn had been knocked down. In the dark, they searched through the debris, discovering, as far as they could tell, that none of the young bulls in the lot had been injured or trapped. We assume the sounds of the roof and walls being pulled apart was strange enough that the group of bull calves were spooked and ran into the open area of the lot, which meant they were clear of the falling and flying debris.

The tornado caused smaller amounts of damage to other buildings on the main farmstead but it could have been much worse. It then traveled a mile to the north and took down one of our hay sheds that was new only a few years ago. A few of the cows in that pasture suffered minor cuts from flying debris, but we were again lucky that none were injured seriously. While all of this was a blow to the farm, it wasn’t long before we were mostly operating as normal. The bulls, Jim thinks, have gained weight rapidly since the week of the tornado and are looking great. (Stress eating?) We hope he doesn’t start analyzing the stats too closely and decide there may be something scientific we need to explore repeating in the future. With all joking aside, we are happy to be able to say that the annual bull sale will be held as usual on March 12, 2022. You may just have a little less roof over your head this year when looking the bulls over. Thanks for all the moral support and encouragement so many of you have offered! It means a lot to us.

Welcome to 2021 Annual Production Sale

Dear Friends:

Greetings to you in this new year that we hope is less challenging than 2020. As I write this, we are living through record-low temperatures. We hope you are also experiencing record achievements in your business and personal life.
The commercial cattleman is challenged to build a highly fertile cow that is moderate in mature size, and that is ready to calve as a two-year-old and every 12 months after. You can breed her to a terminal sire for greater feedlot gain or to a moderate-frame bull for female replacements. Avoid extremely high milk production; it’s too costly to maintain and too demanding of energy to get the cow rebred. The larger-framed cow’s growth continues through the 2nd, 3rd and even 4th calf. But a moderately framed cow will have established her full size by that point, allowing more energy to be directed toward reproduction. Fertility is the most valued trait we have – the most highly correlated to return on a cow.
We look forward to welcoming you at Brad Z Ranch on March 13. Please let us know if we can answer any questions in the meantime.

– Jim Bradford, Brad Z Ranch

Welcome to our 2020 Private Treaty Sale

Dear Friends,

We want to welcome you to our 2020 bull sale! Brad Z Ranch is approaching 65 years in the Angus business. The popular shape and style of cattle have changed multiple times throughout those six decades. Chasing fads, however, does not build consistency in a cow herd. That’s why we do not worry about the latest fad. Our long-time customers keep coming back because they know that our cowherd will produce bulls that have the ability to sire calves that will wean heavy and bring a premium on the rail.

This year we have 50 Angus and Simmental Angus bulls in our offering. Opening day of our private treaty sale is Saturday, March 14th. The bulls will be priced at three different levels. As in the past, we will have a bid-off on bulls that have multiple people interested in them on opening day. If no one else is interested in the bull you want, then he is yours at the set price. We will also have an offering of approximately 20 commercial and registered Angus bred heifers.

As always, please plan on having lunch with us at noon. The bid-off will take place at 1PM.

We would be happy to visit with you regarding your cattle goals and needs. If you want to call and talk you can reach Jim at 641-757-0796 or Dale at 402-429-0911. Of course, you are welcome to stop in anytime to view the bulls. We’ll plan on seeing you on the 14th of March!
On behalf of the Brad Z crew,
Dale Foster

Jim Bradford Inducted into American Angus Association’s Hall of Fame

We are so honored that Brad Z Ranch’s Jim Bradford was inducted into the American Angus Association’s Heritage Hall of Fame this week! He was honored, along with several other new inductees, on Tuesday at the end of the association’s annual conference.

For those who are interested, here’s the bio included in the program:

Jim Bradford, owner of Brad Z Ranch near Guthrie Center, Iowa, has been raising Angus cattle since a few years after his 1956 graduation from Iowa State University. While at Iowa State, he was a member of the 1955 national collegiate livestock judging championship team at the Chicago International Live Stock Exposition. By 1970, Bradford shared ownership of two bulls that would help him begin to build his reputation as a producer of quality cattle: Big John and Atlas Marshall. Jim and his wife, Mary, bought a farm in Guthrie County, Iowa, moving there in 1970. They woud raise their nine children there. Initially known as Bradford Bros. Angus, the farm was renamed Brad Z Ranch in a show of gratitude to Walt Zimmerer, who bought a major interest in the farm during the 1980’s Midwest Farm Crisis. In the 1970s and 1980s, Bradford served on the Iowa Beef Industry Board, the National Beef Board, and the American Angus Association board. He judged many national and state cattle shows, as well as some international, including an Australian show. In 2002, Jim and Mary were recognized by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association as regional Environmental Stewardship Award winners. In 2008, Bradford was recognized with an alumni of merit award from Iowa State University’s Gamma Sigma Delta, an honor society of agriculture. And, in 2011, Wallaces Farmer recognized Bradford with an Iowa Master Farmer Award. Today, the Bradfords continue to raise Angus cattle with a few Angus/Simmental composites.

Thanks to all who helped Brad Z Ranch by trusting us with your herd’s genetics.

Jim Bradford after being inducted into the American Angus Association’s Heritage Hall of Fame.


Pre-Sale Thoughts from Dale

There have been a lot of changes in the beef industry since I was an Animal Science student in the early 1980’s. Genomic-enhanced EPDs, sexed semen, new regulations and consumer demands are just a few.

Three things have not changed though: the importance of getting a live calf, the necessity of producing a quality product for the consumer, and market fluctuations. The first two haven’t changed because it’s obvious that you have to produce the product in order to sell it. And, we need an end product that the consumer readily wants to purchase.

We can help on both those accounts. In our offering this year we have quite a few calving ease bulls to select from. These are the kind of bulls that make for worry-free nights during calving season.


Dale Foster of Brad Z Ranc

We also offer proof of the quality end product that our cattle are capable of producing. Below you’ll find carcass data from our animals that were harvested in 2017. These steers were the cull end of our 2016 calf crop. We are selling some 2016 bulls on the sale this year. These are bulls that we intentionally held back to offer as two year olds. You can see how their contemporaries performed and the quality of the final product as it headed to retail outlets.

So whether you sell your calves at weaning or feed them out, we have a bull that will fit your operation. Oh, and market fluctuations? We’re working on that.

We sincerely thank you for your interest in our cattle.

On behalf of the entire Brad Z crew,

Dale Foster

Head(ed) West, Young Man

Landon Foster, grandson of Jim and Mary Bradford and son of Dale and the late Madonna Foster, is the guest blogger this week:

I am currently representing the third generation here at Brad Z Ranch. I am a senior in high school this year with plans to make my career in the beef industry. I am going into the Marine Corps Reserves immediately after this school year. After I get all my training done, I plan to go to Iowa State University to study Ag Business and Animal Science.


Dale and Landon Foster in Wyoming

This summer I had an excellent opportunity to get some ranching experience in the west. I was able to spend two months working at the Hoodoo Ranch in Cody, WY. The Hoodoo is a working ranch of about 250,000 deeded acres along with thousands of acres in BLM and Wyoming State Trust leased land. The ranch spans from six to twelve thousand feet above sea level. It is a cow-calf operation. The herd consists of 3,500 Charolais-based cows with some purebred and some Red Angus cross. Hunt Oil Company owns the Hoodoo. The Hoodoo is the largest of their five ranches. Their brand is the Palette brand. It is the shape of a painter’s palette. Hoodoo means “pointed rocks” in Shoshoni.

During my time at the Hoodoo, I lived in a bunkhouse on the ranch. I learned a lot in my short two months there. One of the first things I was told was that the old saying holds true in the west today. “Whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting.” Water rights are a big issue in that part of the country. It’s something we don’t think anything of here in the Midwest. That area of northwestern Wyoming typically receives about 6-10 inches of precipitation per year so water rights are very important, and it can be a touchy subject. I had never been around irrigation before either. That was interesting to learn about. The Hoodoo has about 3,000 acres of irrigated ground in the valleys, which is mostly used for hay, but some grazing as well. Most of the irrigated ground is under pivots. The rest of it is flood irrigated with ditches and dams or gated pipe. Irrigation is time consuming, labor intensive, and expensive. River water is especially difficult to irrigate with because you can’t keep debris out. However, crops would be impossible to grow without irrigation. When the mountain snowpack has all melted and is gone, and the reservoirs begin to dry up, water becomes scarce and there are often death threats and tension over water.

Farming in Wyoming is a lot different than in the Midwest. They level the ground and roll in rocks every spring. The barley farmers in the area are able to get their tillage work done during the January thaw because there is no mud to stop them. There are a lot of specialty crops grown in that area. Some of the more common crops are: barley, hay, pinto beans, sugar beets, wheat, and a little corn and canola. Not much farther west you would see a lot more potatoes.

The Hoodoo’s farm ground is spread out a lot, so it is divided up under five foremen. These foremen are responsible for farmland, and two of them each have half of the replacement heifers. There are thirteen full-time employees and several part timers at the Hoodoo. This includes a manager, assistant manager, office secretary, five foremen, and five cowboys.

This year they kept back 850 replacement heifers. Most of the other calves are marketed through stocker and feedlot operations. The Hoodoo retains ownership on most calves. I was able to help with AI on the heifers. Working cattle on large-scale operations is pretty cool. Things have to flow well and keep moving in order to get anything done. We bred 425 heifers each day for two days. I thought they would be really long days, but we were really efficient and got them done fast. We did each group in about four and a half hours. We only had four chutes, but we kept a steady flow of cattle and switched out AI technicians on each one, so we never stopped moving.

I was fortunate enough to get to do some cattle work, but I spent most of my time making hay. My job was to switch back and forth working for two different foremen. I spent a lot of time making hay, fixing fence, and working on equipment. The fencing can be fun because sometimes you have to get creative with it since you can’t drive posts into rock very well. Making hay is a much different scenario in that dry of a climate. However, the hay is usually of better quality. It is easier to get dry hay put up and it is done with less work because you don’t have to rake. Self-propelled swathers are really cool as well. They are simple to run and move fast in the field. The best part is that you don’t have to look over your shoulder the whole time. Irrigation is time consuming and expensive, but you can put the hay up right because you can control the water and it won’t get rained on. However, we don’t live in a perfect world, so we still have problems. We cut one field and checked it early the next afternoon. It was still really wet at that point. By that evening it was too dry to bale. It just turned to dust, so we decided to wait for some dew. Unfortunately, the dew never came. After about a week of waiting, we decided to make a dew machine.

Our dew machine was fairly simple. We mounted a sprayer tank on a flatbed trailer, hooked it up to a pump, and ran a pipe across it, then hooked a hose to the pipe. Then we put spray nozzles on the ends. It took us most of the day to get it right, but we had it down by dark. So, I sprayed “dew” all night while Ron raked behind me. We raked it to hold the moisture in long enough to bale it. It took us two full nights, but we finally got the field done. Most of our baling was done at night when we had dew otherwise it was too dry. So, we baled all night, and mowed, picked up bales, and worked on equipment all day.

Other than being arid and brittle, the climate is a lot different in other ways too. That is quite the adjustment when you are used to the Midwest. The other main differences are the elevation and growing season. The growing season is a lot shorter. At about six thousand feet elevation, we started cutting hay the third week of June. At seven thousand feet, we started the second week of July. They usually get two cuttings.

The Hoodoo spans from six to twelve thousand feet above sea level. That is a really good range to have because during the summer the cows graze the higher mountains and let the lower stuff grow, then as things dry up and get eaten down, they work their way down and graze the lower stuff. It is all hard, nutrient dense, native, short grasses. Most of the ground is covered with rock or greasewood. However, there is some really good grazing land as well. The only problem with trying to graze the higher elevations is that the wolves and grizzly bears kill some calves and end up scaring the herd back down the mountain.

The Hoodoo has a plane that they fly every morning to check for wolf and bear kills. It is also handy for spotting cows to round up in that rough country. If they spot a wolf kill, they report it to Wyoming Fish and Game, who then comes in and kills problem wolves. I was surprised to find out how well they work with ranchers in spite of environmentalists and animal welfare groups pushing against us.

On my last day, I finally had the chance to go to a branding. That was a cool experience. I really enjoyed it. If you are like most people from the Midwest, you probably haven’t been to one before. It is more of a social event than work because there is usually a BBQ or picnic afterwards. People from other ranches come to help, and in return we help them too. It is sort of an honor to be invited to a branding. I met some pretty cool people that day and it was a good chance for me to do some more socializing. Brandings really show off the best that the ranch lifestyle has to offer. Everyone there is working hard and having fun. Women and children also help as much as they can. Even two year olds are out riding horses and practicing their roping skills on a dummy. There is no such thing as a lazy ranch kid. They are all out there pulling their own weight. They don’t sit around and watch TV or play video games. Ranchers have strong family ties and high morals. I would like to see more of that in the world today.

The only thing I didn’t like was that because it is a large-scale operation, there is a lot of repetition. I would prefer to do something different every day, which is why I like farming and ranching so much. I’m sure I could work round that problem if I needed to though.

I’m not sure where I’ll end up down the road, but it sounds like I would have a pretty good shot at working for the Hoodoo. I would like to come home to the farm. I will just go wherever my opportunities take me. I had a great summer and I learned a lot. Part of my reason for wanting to go out there in the first place was that I have been skeptical of how well cattle ranching in Iowa works. Iowa isn’t really ranch country, but I realize now that it does work. Every place has its own pros and cons and if Iowa is where you have an opportunity to get started in the cattle business, I wouldn’t pass it up.

An Interview with Erin Bradford

I see you finally agreed to do a Q&A for the Compost Pile. Explain who you are in relation to Brad Z Ranch.

A: My Dad and Mom, Jim and Mary Bradford, operate Brad Z Ranch.

Q: And tell us about this new venture you’re about to launch.

A: Bodoga Terra is a heifer development facility; in short, Kaleb and I will take heifer calves in to care for, develop, and breed for cow/calf producers around the country.  When these critters arrive back at their home ranch, they will be confirmed artificially insemination bred and in excellent condition to begin a long, productive life for their owners.

Q: Hmm. I thought Bodoga was a grocery store in some Latin countries. But it seems that word is bodega so I guess I can’t come there to buy plantains or tortillas or black beans. So please explain the name.

A: Bodoga is Gaelic for Heifer and Terra is Gaelic for Land, so….that’s how we came up with Bodoga Terra Heifer Development.  I’m proud of my Irish roots so it seemed like a great, fun, creative fit.  Plus, nobody can say it or spell it so it makes for a great conversation piece.

Q: Don’t properly tended heifers need more attention than any almost other category of bovine? Why would you want to do that?

A: Yes, heifers require a lot of extra attention, second only to the 1st calf heifer.  Our service provides a two-fold system that benefit your animals and long-term ranch profitability. Our nutrition and health development of the heifers allows for absolute optimum performance without sacrificing long-term productivity. In addition, by artificially inseminating producer’s heifers twice, we are using genetic selection to weed out the critters with poorer fertility.  By providing this exceptional service, cow/calf producers know they are adding value to the product (heifer) they originally started with and utilizing the additional ranch space to give extra TLC to those at home that might need it, ie, old cows, 1st calf heifers.

Q: Who is doing this with you?  Why did he agree?

A: Kaleb Kuck is my partner in crime;  we are getting married in December.  Kaleb knew that starting a heifer development was a dream of mine and sought out locations in his home area that might function appropriately for this specific service. He is equally excited about working with cow/calf producers in this faucet.  He has a purebred Angus operation that we will also be looking after.

Q: Explain more of the reasons why cattle producers might consider working with you?

A: We love to work and sincerely care about sending your heifers back to you in higher quality form than when they arrived.

Q: Do you think women understand female cows better than men? Wait, don’t answer because it will be more fun for me to answer. Author’s answer: “Of course, how many men do you know who really understand the women in their lives? Why do you think this is much different?” Okay, Erin, you can answer now if you think you can beat that.

A: I can’t beat that; it’s true.

Q: How can people find out more information if they want to check out your new heifer development center.

A:Our website is the most concise place to find information: www.bodogaterraheiferdevelopment.com or I can be reached anytime at 515-494-8619.