Oct. 2, 2006

Breeders from four states tour Stibal Herefords in LP

By Ivan Raconteur
Staff Writer

In some ways, Jerry Stibal of Stibal’s Herefords in Lester Prairie is a bit like his cows.

He culls his herd of registered herefords to get animals that are docile and good natured, which seems a good match for his laid-back style, and easy humor.

In other ways though, Stibal and his cows are very different.

He admits that their genetics can sometimes make his cows, “a little bit lazy.”

That description could not apply to Stibal. Below the humor is a layer of energy and determination.

It is only through hard work and careful planning that he has been able to bring his operation to where it is today.

Stibal’s Herefords is the biggest registered hereford breeder in Minnesota.

Producers visit LP

More than 100 producers from Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, and South Dakota visited Stibal Herefords Sept. 23 to tour the farm and learn about the operation.

They talked about genetics, and about culling the herd to get specific results.

Stibal showed them different cattle to illustrate some of the characteristics.

The tour lasted from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Before they left, Stibal and his family served a roast beef dinner for all of the guests.

Stibal said the weather may have kept some people away, but noted that they had been lucky, because the rain held off until about 6:15 p.m., just after the guests were back on their buses.

“It was a success. I got 26 calls the next day from people who were here. They asked questions about some of the things we talked about, and complimented us on the tour,” Stibal commented.

The tour was sponsored by the Minnesota Hereford Breeders Association.

The group rotates tours to different areas of the state each fall.

“I try to get to the different tours to support my fellow producers,” Stibal said.

He said that there are events each year that allow breeders to keep in touch, including an annual banquet and auction in December.

A family operation

Stibal said that his family is very involved in the operation.

His mom, Janet, wife Stacy, sons Tyler, 15, and Jared, 9, and daughter Katie, 8, all work on the farm.

Stibal said his kids love working on the farm, but admitted the work can be demanding.

“They are happy to go to school,” Stibal said, noting that school gives them a break from their duties.

As a reward for their work, Stibal has set his sons up with their own animals.

“The boys now have their own cow herd. We started that this year,” Stibal said.

This has given the boys a sense of ownership, and has kindled the entrepreneurial spirit in even his youngest son.

“Just last week, my 9-year-old told me that his calf could use some more hay, and maybe I could increase the feed a bit. I told him that that calf was getting the same amount as everyone else,” Stibal said, laughing.

Stibal said that having their own cows is important for his sons, whatever they decide to do later in life.

“If they want to go on with farming, this will give them a start. If they want to go to college and do something else, these cows will pay for their whole education,” he said.

A job he loves

Stibal said his family has always been into beef cattle, and specializing in Herefords was a natural progression for him.

“They are one of the most docile beef breeds, and they are fast growers,” he explained.

Other breeds are not so easy to work with, and some of Stibal’s friends keep these other breeds.

“The tell me this, and I keep asking them, ‘when are your going to buy the good stuff?’” Stibal laughed.

His favorite part of the job is the calving season, which starts Feb. 1, and runs through March 15 or 20.

The farm produces about 175 calves per year, and during the peak of the season, Stibal supervises the delivery of 10 to 12 calves per day.

“When it comes to calving, I don’t consider it work. When I get in here, I have a smile on my face,” he commented.

During calving time, Stibal lives in the barn for 45 days. Between deliveries, he sleeps on the couch in the farm office. He is never more than a few feet from the cows.

This dedication pays off.

“We get 100 percent on calving. Some farms are lucky to get 92 percent. By being in here all the time, I get to save the calves if there is a problem,” he explained.

Stibal says he takes care of everything himself, and rarely has to call in a vet.

While he loves the calving, Stibal is not as fond of field work, but he shrugs it off as part of the job.

Stibal owns about 800 acres of pasture, the furthest of which is 25 miles away. This keeps him busy, and he spends a fair amount of time in the truck.

He also rents out bulls to other operations, which frequently takes him to Iowa or South Dakota.

He doesn’t mind the trips though, and said he thinks of them as vacations, because they give him the opportunity to visit other producers, and talk about cows.

Technology is a key

Stibal says he could not run his business without his cell phone and his computer.

The phone keeps him connected, whether he is out on the farm or on the road.

The computer allows him to manage the operation and produce a catalog every spring, which accounts for 80 percent of his sales.

He might take as many as 500 photos with his digital camera, and later, sorts them on his computer when he puts the catalog together.

As good as it gets

“It can’t get any better,” Stibal said of his life. “I don’t see how it could. It would have to be small things, because the big things are taken care of.”

He said it has taken a lot of hard work to get here, but he gets a lot of satisfaction from what he does.

That much is obvious. It is clear from the way he talks, and from the smile that is never far from his face.

The work may be hard, but, as far as Stibal is concerned, it is all worth it.

Want to know more?

More information about the Minnesota Hereford Breeders, and about the hereford breed, is available on the organization’s web site: www.mnherefordbreeders.org

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