History of Ken Baker Herefords

The Ken Baker Hereford Ranch was founded shortly after Ken Baker returned to Ada, Minnesota from his tour of duty in World War II. He began farming raising wheat, barley, corn and sugar beets, along with milking cows and starting his purebred Hereford herd.

Foundation cattle for this new herd were purchased from the Pronger Brothers in Texas and the famed Turned Ranch in Oklahoma. From the beginning Ken selected only the very best cattle that he could find, regardless of the distance he had to travel.

Early herd sires came from the Turner Ranch as well as the notable Hull Dobbs Ranch in Texas. Several sons of the historic HDR Real Onward 166 were used as well as Mark Donald bulls and Mark Piegan 73. These cattle served the industry well but from the middle 1960’s to the late 1960’s a change was in the air for Ken. With his sons now being active in both farming and the livestock, Ken set out to take his herd to another entirely new level. It was their desire to make this herd one of the premier performance oriented herds not only in the US but worldwide as well.

In 1969 with the historic Madison Type conference concluded, breeders were beginning to evaluate their herds and search for cattle that would meet the criteria laid down by the conference. Ken Baker had already traveled extensively for several years to put together a herd that the conference was pointing to. He was the first breeder in Minnesota to add the Line One influence to his herd with the purchase of CL 1 Domino 716, a great bull he found in a commercial herd in Montana. Another great early Line One bull added was CH Domino 045 that was a 7/8 brother to the legendary CH Domino 053. 045 and 716 progeny dominated the show circuit as well as being outstanding producers. An extensive AI program was put into place in 1969, again one of the first in Minnesota and has been in use ever since. It was never a goal to focus on the successes of the show ring although it allowed the Bakers to display the kind of cattle they thought could benefit the industry. Many highlights came from the ring but customer satisfaction in their cattle is what has kept the Bakers going for more than 50 years.

Ken realized from the very beginning that it took more than just great bulls to build a herd, it took exceptional cows. Some significant cow purchases in volume were from SS Herefords in Washington. These cows were old line Mark Donald as well as old line Selkirk breeding. A Denver top seller in L1 Domino 241 came from these cows that sold and left his mark in the Sellman herds in Nebraska. A pot load of the top cows from the Higgins Brothers herd in Montana was also added, these were great cows of Mark Donald, Don Hartland, and Mark Piegan breeding that crossed extremely well with the Line One bulls. Ken also took the opportunity to purchase two large groups of cows from the Miles City Research Station that included some of the very top cows they had at that time. A purchase of historic importance also came from Montana when Ken went to the herd of Stan Lund and purchased two groups of some of his top producing cows. Ken’s purchase of the Lund cows marked the first that any Lund cattle had sold out of Montana. The Miles City and Lund cows marked the first straight Line One cows to come to Minnesota and then some of the first to be in South Dakota where Ken relocated the ranch in 1975. Ken was later able to purchase nearly an entire cow family from Stan Lund that the Bakers thought was his best. From that cow family came KB L1 Domino 249 purchased in Denver by Norgren Cattle Co. of Colorado. 294 set a record in Denver for having the highest WDA at that time. The 241 bull mentioned earlier to Sellmans also set a Denver record for ribeye measurement. 294’s maternal brother 350 sold to the noted V Bar Ranch in Texas the next year in Denver.

Not only did Ken get some great cows from Stan Lund but also some great herd sires most notably Goliath. Goliath rewrote Hereford history in the late ‘70s. The Hot Springs Ranch in Idaho purchased the first semen interest when Goliath was just a three-year-old. "We took him out of the cows and hauled him to Big Sky Genetics in Billings where right off the trailer and off the cows he tipped their scale at 3000 pounds. Goliath set the standard for the AHA genetic outreach program in both feedlot and carcass traits. When Pruett Wray purchased a half interest in Goliath he became a record priced bull. Goliath was out of a great cow and he left some great females.

Another notable bull that came from the Lund cows was KB L1 Domino 7212, Super Slammer as he was known. He left his mark in the Baker herd as well as the TSR Ranch and Messersmith Ranch of Nebraska.

Other cows purchased in volume came from TT Herefords in Washington. These were Mark Donald and Line One cows including a terrific daughter of the legendary Larson Lady 76 that stayed in the herd for 18 years and was an ET cow for Bakers. ET has played an important part in the development of the herd since 1979. Other very top cows have been continually added from Jack Cooper, Les Holden and Scott Holden in Montana as well as an array of Herd Sires.

Numerous Ken Baker bulls have gone out nationwide and semen on Baker bulls has been used worldwide. To mention just a couple high priced bulls would be to mention KB L1 Domino 907, the record setting yearling bull to the Lone Star Ranch in Texas and KB L1 Domino 4015 to the K74 Ranch in Oklahoma. It has been Baker’s goal from the beginning that their cattle should be of the quality that could benefit anyone who uses them whatever the circumstances.

Some of the more recent herd sires in use have been the best the Bakers could find or raise. They include: CL1 Domino 501, 8164, 958 and 5101; HH Advance 011Z, 311C, 6046, 7046 and 0072; several KB L1 bulls including the great KB Stockman 903; and several out cross bulls, JNHR Diamond 414B, 11J and Centurion, that are siring fantastic calves and performance.

One thing has held true in the Ken Baker herd from the beginning, that being, every herd sire used in the herd would come from an outstanding cow and cow family. "We feel that this more than anything else has had a lasting impact on our ability to stay in business," says Jim Baker. " We have never selected for "a trait" but rather for cattle that have the ability to make people money wherever they are used in the food chain. Hereford cattle have done that for us."

Since 1946 Ken Baker’s dreams and goals have become realities but more than anything else his love of God, family and hard work have made Baker Hereford Ranch what it is today.

E-mail Jim and Karn Baker for more information: jkbaker@rap.midco.net