August 18, 2017
Bred to Be the Best: Worrells Modernize Ranch with the Latest Breeding and Marketing Methods
Hard-working family roots run deep in the rolling hills north of Mason, Texas. They reach back to 1919 when newly married George and Meta Kasper partnered with the then-new Federal Land Bank to buy the rugged land. For years, they ran livestock and eked out a living.
Today, on that same rocky land, great-granddaughter Shannon Worrell and husband James continue her family's rich ranching heritage — but with a modern flair. They have integrated social media with the latest in reproductive techniques to keep their polled Hereford and black Angus operation both relevant and sustainable.
"We use social media, like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, to promote our cattle," Shannon says. "The new thing nowadays is to host online sales, which allows us to reach a broader audience. They're less expensive because they save on labor. So far, we've had six annual sales, and the last four were online."
In the pasture, things have changed, too.
"We have a good bull that we breed some, but we artificially inseminate the majority of our cows," James says. "We also work with a certified embryologist and do embryo transfers for ourselves and customers."
The couple — both of whom are Texas A&M University graduates — started their operation in 1999 after they moved to the Mason ranch, where Shannon grew up raising and showing cattle. At first, they lived in the old Kasper homestead while Shannon worked as a loan officer for Capital Farm Credit and James sold animal pharmaceuticals. As soon as they could, they tore down the old barns.
"When I won a pickup, I traded it for cash and used that as a down payment for a new show barn with an office, sale ring, pens and embryo facility," says James, who also grew up showing livestock in nearby Fredericksburg. "Capital Farm Credit financed the rest."
Today, the couple and their 5-year-old son, Jarrett, live in a comfortable rock home that they had built on the ranch. James still sells pharmaceuticals, and Shannon is employed with an agricultural recruiting firm. Together, they run their own company called Worrell Enterprises, which provides artificial insemination (AI) and embryo-transfer services.
The company also sells show animals, holds production and club calf sales, and hosts show camps for junior exhibitors. Their cattle have won dozens of awards at state and national stock shows, including most recently the grand champion horned female and grand champion horned cow-calf awards at the 2017 Fort Worth Stock Show.
"We attend shows as a way of marketing our animals," James says. "We're raising exceptional animals. To get paid what they're worth, we have to get them in front of people. We also meet potential clients. One time, we met a breeder from Denmark at the Fort Worth Stock Show, and he later bought a flush of embryos from us by text. We wouldn't have met him in Mason, Texas."
After a severe drought in 2011, the Worrells partnered with Capital Farm Credit to buy an irrigated hay field located two miles away.
"That year was rough," James recalls. "We had to buy hay from Kansas. We couldn't pick the quality, and we had to pay their prices. We could have sold our cattle like a lot of ranchers did, but we'd been working on our Hereford genetics for 15 years so we didn't want to do that. Now if it doesn't rain, we make it rain ourselves."
Rain or shine, the Worrells are always on the lookout for top-quality genetics to improve their Hereford herd.
"We do a lot of embryo work with our embryologist," Shannon says. "We have calves on leased recipient cows. We may not be able to buy a $100,000 cow, but we can buy a flush of embryos from one. Since we're a small operation, our cattle have to be darn good."
The technology is advantageous for a smaller operation, they say.
"We have to do something different like embryo transfers because we're new to the Hereford business," James adds. "Some families have been in Herefords for a hundred years, so we're trying to catch up. We won't ever be large-scale, but for the number of head we have, we're raising superior cattle. There's no doubt about that."
The Worrells, who are both certified in AI, perform more than 1,000 reproductive procedures annually for customers. In May 2015, one job jetted them across the country.
"At 10 a.m., Dr. Brad Stroud, our embryologist, flushed a red Angus cow, and then we jumped on a friend's plane to Wyoming, where our customer had a recipient cow ready to go," James says. "We finished the procedure, got back on the plane, and were home that night. It could have all flopped, but everything worked."
"One Team, One Dream"
The approach is captured in their slogan, "one team, one dream."
"Worrell Enterprises isn't just about us," Shannon says. "We have a great team, like Dr. Stroud and Capital Farm Credit, who work alongside us."
Always with the future in mind, the Worrells have mentored at least 20 area school kids in raising and showing cattle. Jarrett, their son, has already exhibited nearly two dozen bulls and heifers and won numerous awards.
"We want to make sure there's someone behind us who will continue our family's ranching heritage on this land," Shannon says. "That's very important to James and me." - SSR