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Family operation

Ford family breeds purebred cattle in West Chester

Barbie and Dustin Ford own and operate Ford Cattle Company in West Chester.

Ford Cattle Company is a labor of love for Dustin Ford and his family.

Ford, his wife, Barbie, and their two children run the small family cattle operation in West Chester.

“This isn’t our full-time job,” Ford said. “I have a full-time job with an animal health company. This is a really nice opportunity for us to get hands-on within the industry that we love to work in.

“Most importantly, it’s a great opportunity for us to raise our kids around things that we want them to know and ultimately take forward as they look at careers down the road.”

The primary part of their business is selling seedstock bulls and females to other operations, both in Iowa and out of state.

“Purebred Simmental and SimAngus are the breeds that we focus on,” Ford said. “A seedstock operation is a purebred operation where we’re basically creating breeding stock — bulls and females — for other operations.”

At any point in time, they have about 25 head of cows and a few bulls on their property.

“We use some outside pasture as well,” Ford said. “In addition, we have cattle at other operations that we have ownership in and utilize the recip (recipient) herd that allows us to take our genetics through embryo transfer and get higher quality animals from other operations.”

“Recip” cows are surrogates that carry embryos from another cow.

Ford has been working with cattle since he was a child.

“I first got involved when I was in 4-H, when I was about 8 or 9 years old,” he said. “I really became passionate about the industry. I showed livestock through my 4-H and FFA career.”

At Iowa State University, he was part of the livestock judging team, eventually earning his degree in animal science.

“That led me to a career in animal health,” he said. “I’ve been a part of this industry for probably 30 years. It’s been a really rewarding time.”

Being a family operation means their two children, Peighton, 14, and Preston, 10, are heavily involved with the business.

“The best part of all of this is seeing them, not only enjoy it, but to actually take ownership and some of the day-to-day decisions and management of our herd, the matings, the sale decisions and seeing that progress over time,” Ford said. “For me it’s extremely rewarding to have them want to do this and be passionate about the industry like Barbie and I have been.”

Both children are active in 4-H and show the animals that they raise.

“A lot of what our children will show as part of their 4-H projects are raised right here,” Ford said. “We work with a number of other families in the state with females that we sell that become 4-H projects and junior projects.”

Ford said it is rewarding to send quality animals to others and seeing them succeed.

“Whether that’s our kids being able to show some of the livestock that they raised or selling a bull that goes on and does great things for their new owner or heifers that go on and make great junior projects for other kids, it’s extremely rewarding seeing that all come together,” he said. “I think the most important thing for us is seeing our kids being very active and hands-on in this and hopefully taking it over as their own.”

He said that his children are learning valuable and, hopefully, long-lasting lessons working with the family operation.

“First and foremost, I think it’s just work ethic,” he said. “It’s that drive to get up and make something better. They get an opportunity to do that. It’s ownership and responsibility, because ultimately it’s their projects that they have to put their time and effort into.

“The other thing is seeing something through. For them, this is a multiyear journey, from the time that they breed a cow, have a calf, exhibit or sell that animal and potentially breed that one again, these aren’t short-term decisions. The decisions they make today, three to four years from now, they’ll understand what went into that.”

Peighton Ford, with her dad, Dustin Ford looking on, shows one of her cattle at a recent roundup. (File)
Preston Ford shows one of his cattle at the Washington County Fair. (File)