Started in the late 1800s by Rufus Jack Bradley, the ranch originated using Texas Longhorn cattle and then commercial Hereford cattle.

Scherer robyn
Freelance Writer
Robyn Scherer-Carlson is a freelance writer based in Colorado.

Starting in the early 1950s, Minnie Lou Ottinger began integrating the Angus breed into their genetics, which was considered by many as a radical move.

Mary Lou Bradley-Henderson, Minnie Lou’s daughter and current ranch manager, explains why they like the Angus breed.

“They just work in a lot of environments, and do their job well.

It is a good feeling to see where we have been and where we are at: We can have it all with moderation as part of the overall plan.


Bradley bulls are known for their added muscle and fleshing ability.

We can have a smaller cow, bigger weaned calf, on less grass, with a better breed up and a better-quality meat,” she says.

The family purchased a second ranch for their black baldie herd, and after Billy Jack Bradley returned from the service, the family purchased a third ranch and Bill and Minnie Lou were married.

By 1956, they were a purebred Angus seedstock operation. Spanned over three ranches and three generations of Bradleys, the Figure 3 brand was then registered.

“At Bradley 3 Ranch, our goal is to produce predictable genetics for commercial beef producers that wean the most quality pounds from cows exposed to calves weaned.

Therefore, we concentrate our breeding efforts on the beef industry’s most basic traits while employing the industry’s latest technology: fertility, easy calving, easy fleshing, soundness, high performance, muscle and carcass value,” says Minnie Lou Bradley.

In 1986, they built a beef processing facility, called B3R Country Meats, Inc. They produced one of the first branded beef products that rewarded ranchers through a value-based marketing system.

The plant was sold in 2002 to Booth Creek, and the family officially left the plant in 2004.

“Our experience in the meat business has helped us develop an understanding of the entire food chain, from the cow-calf producer to the consumer at the meat case,” Minnie Lou Bradley continues. “These valuable lessons are used in our ranch management decisions every day.”

Mary Lou Bradley-Henderson and James Henderson manage the genetics, marketing and day-to-day operations of Bradley 3 Ranch.

Genetics and expectations

Today, the ranch is run by Mary Lou Bradley-Henderson and her husband, James Henderson. Minnie Lou Bradley still works on the ranch, and is a co-owner.

“The process really started in 2004; it took some time to define roles and responsibilities and over a period of years where James and I each have our duties,” says Mary Lou Bradley-Henderson about the way the ranch is managed.

“Minnie Lou certainly will speak up if she thinks we have lost our way, and we certainly have our failures.”

The entire ranch is grass, and cows are expected to maintain themselves on some of the roughest terrain in the Texas Panhandle.

“We do feed a liquid feed supplement to help our cattle better utilize our standing forage. Supplemental hay is only fed during extreme weather events such as a drought or winter storm.

Believing in taking care of the country and the country will take care of the cows has been our philosophy for many years,” says Minnie Lou Bradley.

She continues, “The philosophy of the Bradley 3 Ranch is that our cattle work for us rather than us working for them. And they must be efficient.

We believe our cows should make a living on grass, calve at 2 years old and wean at least 50 percent of her weight the day the calf is weaned.

“While nursing her calf, our females are expected to breed back while on pasture. We do not creep feed. The heifers are to breed at 14 months old, no exception, and continue to calve every 365 days to stay in the herd.

“Our genetics have proven to work in a variety of climates and production systems. And we’ve never wavered in our belief that balanced traits are necessary for continuous profitability.”

This system has allowed the Bradleys to produce some of the highest-quality bulls in the business. They also utilize technology in their herd through the use of DNA markers.

“DNA markers have been obtained on every Bradley bull since 1994, and we take responsibility for every calf sired by our bulls in a multi-sired herd,” Minnie Lou Bradley states.

“We’ve collected ultrasound and carcass data since 1986, helping us develop a more predictable genetic package.

Recent feedyard and carcass data revealed in a set of cattle, representing only 29 percent Bradley-sired calves, that six of the top 10 were sired by Bradley bulls. A recent closeout also showed a set of Bradley-sired calves averaged a premium of $95.”

Their background in the meat packing business lends to a focus on muscle in their cattle.

Eye on healthy return

The family also focuses on herd health and knows the value of a healthy herd. “We work with our vet to develop a program that we administer, for each type of animal: a calf at branding, pre-wean, pre-breed, pre-calving – and we also have a plan for mature animals,” says Mary Lou Bradley-Henderson.

She continues, “It is well documented that sick cattle cost a lot of money, in several ways from labor, stress on the animal and time.

We will do all we can to prevent any type of sickness.

However, one needs to understand how their environment plays a role in the health of the cattle and nutrition or lack thereof.

Our poor water quality does not help, but is one more thing to be aware of.”

This is not the only challenge the family has faced when raising their cattle.

“The drought that we have been in certainly presents challenges in most all forms, from financial strain, mental stress – and how do you hold a historic herd together?” Mary Lou Bradley-Henderson says.

“We are one of the few registered Angus herds that has more than 250 cows and has been around more than 50 years.

What do you do when all the grass reserves you have worked so hard to hold on to are depleted, your main customer base has sold off their cows, and you have the responsibility to provide for your employees and other family members? It is a heavy load.”

She adds, “It’s rewarding when we have happy customers, however.”

The drought has played a role in the ranch’s future plans. “We are going to find a grass solution for the cows and rest the ranch,” she says.

She continues, “We have been clearing the brush off a little bit each year, and we hope to keep on that path. We have attempted to put a percentage of money back into improvements, such as fences, roads, corrals, all which are just little steps each year.”

No matter what challenges the family faces, they have a defined goal and strive to meet that goal each and every day.

“As a seedstock producer, we take our role very seriously, knowing we need to stay out front of the industry at least five years and with a common sense approach and not get caught up in a fad or popularity contest,” Mary Lou Bradley-Henderson explains.  end mark


PHOTO 1: Established in 1955, Bradley 3 Ranch is one of the longest-term ranches that has continually registered over 200 head of Angus.

PHOTO 2: Bradley bulls are known for their added muscle and fleshing ability. Photo courtesy of Bradley 3 Ranch.

PHOTO 3: Mary Lou Bradley-Henderson and James Henderson manage the genetics, marketing and day-to-day operations of Bradley 3 Ranch.

PHOTO 4: Their background in the meat packing business lends to a focus on muscle in their cattle. hotos courtesy of Bradley 3 Ranch.