Couple continues their family’s Hereford operation that was established in the 1950s

For many cattle producers, their agriculture roots are as deep as the century-old trees that dot the landscape of the Ozarks.
Travis McConnaughy is the fourth generation of his family to live on their Wasola, Mo., farm, which he shares with his wife Sarah and young sons Jett, 3, and Watson, 1.
The McConnaughy’s are continuing a Hereford cattle operation established by Travis’ late grandparents, Calvin and Jean Watson. The “W” in their WMC Cattle Co., which started in 2011, is a tribute to his grandparent’s influence in the cattle operation, and on Travis and Sarah.
Sarah said the first calf she ever tagged was under the supervision of Calvin, and Travis has countless memories of days on the family farm with both of his grandparents, so including them in the name of the farm was important.
“This is a continuation of the Hereford herd that my grandparents started in the mid-1950s,” Travis said, adding that his great-grandparents, Oscar and Beulah Watson, moved to the northern Ozark County, Mo., farm from Kansas around 1926, when his grandfather was only 3 years old. “Me and my granddad were really close. It’s been really fun to carry on with this because, I guess you can say, it’s in my genes; I’ve just always been around here and learned a lot of what (Calvin) knew. If you asked what I learned from him, it would be everything I know. He taught me what to expect out of a cow or bull. He taught me to take care of the land because it will take care of you.”
The base of the WMC operation continues with the bloodlines Calvin established.
“Keeping his genetics has been important,” Travis said. “We could have sold off everything to get to the point where we wanted to be a lot faster, but it was more important to us to continue with the genetics in his cattle. When he went to Kansas and bought his first Hereford bull calf in the early 1950s, he gave $1,000 for it, and granddad’s uncle went to Oscar and told him that if he let ‘that boy (Calvin) keep that calf, you are as crazy as he is.’ It struck everyone funny and they all thought he was crazy. Calvin stepped out and took that chance, and that is what made him in the Hereford industry and we have done the same. We have given a lot of money for some cows, but they don’t owe us a dime now.”
He added that while some in the Hereford world might think the base genetics for their operation are “out dated,” Calvin knew what he liked and bred for the cattle that appealed to him.
“He wasn’t much on EPDs and things like that; he wanted to do what he wanted,” Travis recalled of his grandfather, who passed away in 2012. “He didn’t have to do what anyone said… He was a man of Mother Nature. He had seen AI, liked it and through it worked good, but he didn’t do much of it. ET work almost crossed a line for him.”
Travis became AI certified and began experimenting with new genetics in 2010; and in 2013, they began an embryo transfer program.
“That really helped us excel,” Sarah added.
“It helped us get where we wanted to be a lot quicker,” Travis added. “There is a fine line there because it is expensive to do, so if you can’t sell cattle to pay for it, it’s not feasible. You have to have a market for those calves and we finally through we were to that point.”
While the couple have incorporated new bloodlines in the herd, which consists of nearly 360 head of cattle, it is as important to keep the traits established by Calvin.
“We wanted to keep that really maternal side and we have modernized our cows a little,” Travis said. “Calvin always had really big cows, cows weighing up to 2,000 pounds, or even bigger. We have modernized our cows by adding a little more thickness, a little more depth. Things like good feet and eyes, his cows excelled in and we wanted to keep that going. We’ve been really picky about the new genetics that we have brought in, and they are working really well for us.”
In 2014, the McConnaughy’s decided to take a risk and use some old semen that was collected from one of Calvin’s bulls decades ago. They didn’t know if the semen, which is stored in old glass amulets in their nitrogen tank, was even viable. Calvin had tried to utilize the semen a decade earlier, but had no luck. It worked because in the spring of 2015, they had five heifer calves, four of which remain on the farm.
“My grandpa bought a bull in 1967, I believe, that really put him on the map in the Hereford breed – JB Polled Trojan,” Travis explained. “That bull took him a long way. Grandma would keep a list of people who wanted bulls from that bull and they were backed up more than two years. They collected semen on him in 1970 or 1971, which was really fast forward for that time.
“I had looked to find some semen from him, and its not found anywhere else. We still have about 12 or 15 of the ampules left, but we are going to be pretty conservative with it because we want to keep that line going. It’s a lost line in their Hereford breed, so we want to keep that line in our herd to keep it distinctive, in a good way.”
Sarah, who grew up in Michigan, met Travis at a team roping when she was just a teenager visiting friends in Ozarks, said seeing the calves born from JB Polled Trojan was very emotional for her because she knew Calvin would be pleased.
“Just seeing all of the hard work that (Calvin and Jean) did to get here draws us back here,” she said. “You just have to know Calvin and Jean; they were really down-to-earth, good people who just kind of took you under their wing. They made you one of them. The things they taught me in just the little amount of time I knew them will never be forgotten.”
WMC Cattle Co., calves both in the fall and spring, enabling them to chaptalize on sales almost year round.
“We sell 30 to 40 bulls a year, and we just keep increasing our herd size, so calving out in the spring and fall gives us what some people call a ‘milk check,’ which is that income that keeps coming year around. We will hardly ever run out of bulls before the next crop is weaned off,” Travis said, adding that they typically sell bulls around a year to 18 months of age.
The McConnaughys have partnered with other breeders for sales, consigned in Missouri Hereford Association sales and others over the years, but mostly sell  through private treaty. They hope to one day have their own annual production sale at their farm.
While Travis and Sarah don’t show their cattle, calves produced at their farm do make appearances in the show ring.
“Calvin always said just to produce the cattle and let the people who want to show buy them from you; that’s the cheapest way to go,” Travis said. “My granddad had the national grand champion in 1986, so when he had one that was that good, he would just give someone half interest in the calf to show it. That was his way of not having to travel and mess with it. He was the kind of guy who liked to drive the hills and look at cattle. He didn’t want to have to go into town to take care of a calf all day.”
While Calvin wasn’t into showing his stock, Travis and Sarah think it might be something sons Jett and Watson will enjoy one day, but the main objective for the farm is to build a future for the boys.
“We want to keep building so that, if they are interested, they can carry on the tradition,” Travis said. “I kind of believe that the sky is the limit, so what we do with it or what they do with it, there is no limit.”


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