Our Journey as Producers of Fleckvieh Simmental Cattle.

Latest

2017 Spring Update – Our Cattle Circle

2017 Spring Update – Our Cattle Circle

One of our favourite warm weather Sunday traditions is a late morning walk.  Starting out the back door, we make a big circle around the property – striding the hills and the valleys – across lowland and wooded areas – until we end the circle at the garden behind our house.  It is a great way to spend an hour, and not a walk goes by without both of us talking about how blessed we are to have found Applecross.

The cows went to grass yesterday, so there was even more to see on today’s tour.  We are very fortunate to be able to pasture all of our cattle here at home, and keep a nice and close eye on how they develop.  All three groups – the bred heifers, the bull calf group and the cows with heifer calves – each have their own multi-paddock grazing rotation, where they got to take their first taste of the season yesterday (finally… in their opinion).

Calving and breeding seasons were both very successful for us.  After a couple of harsh weeks of winter right at the first of the year, the weather become milder and we were able to monitor numerous births outside on the straw-pack.   We pastured our cattle later last fall, so birth weights were lighter to start the season, but picked back up by early February.  We also had great luck with colour – not that it makes a difference from a quality perspective, but it does aid in marketability.  We finished our calving March 12 and moved immediately to breeding.

Breeding season represented a major departure for us.  Although our herd bulls have traditionally carried our own prefix, we were successful in acquiring NUG Delmonte 81D to join our walking bull battery this spring.  His purchase creates such a unique combination of stress and excitement. Stress because we can only wait to see how he passes along all the characteristics he possesses as an individual.  But excitement in what we believe he can bring to our operation. He has been thoroughly tested this year – he got some young cows, some older cows; some tall cows and some smaller cows; some that were polled, some horned; some with lots of hair; some tan coloured; some that throw birth weight, some that don’t.  We should have a great idea what he is all about early next year.

NUG Delmonte 81D – sale picture by cattlepics.com

We walked three bulls total in 2017 – Delmonte was joined by Rambo (our heifer bull), and FGAF WowEffect, who made one final turn with the girls.  With Delmonte on the prowl, we did limited AI (mostly heifers), but did manage to get a few cows synced for recips.

Now that breeding is over and everyone is in their pasture groups, calves can be evaluated side by side.  It is an exciting time to start the assessment process and debate over which ones will make the cut at weaning.  Calves can just change so much as they grow.  They tend to shoot up and get ‘leggy’, then fill out their frames (and look awesome), and then go through the process again.  It all depends on the day as to what I tend to think of them – sometimes they are looking amazing, other times more on the ‘green’ side.  There do always seem to be outliers though; some calves always seem to be at the top of the group – ones that have the potential to become special.   (Our picture girl ‘Brittany’ falls into this category).

For the second consecutive year, we have our best heifer calf crop ever (which, as someone who strives for ‘genetic improvement,’ is a pretty cool thing to be able to say).  In both of the past 2 years, we have skewed to a 60-40 heifer-bull calf split (so there are more to choose from), but we have also got more genetics bounces (where my hair-brained ideas actually seemed to work) in the heifer side.   We will need to make some really tough decisions at weaning to get our heifer calves down to a more manageable number.

Likewise, in the bred heifer group, there are some difficult selections to be made for Fleckvieh Equation.  We wintered 14 heifers this year (quite a lot for us – and we may need to winter as many or more next year), so after a year ‘off’, there should be some exciting options for Equation.  The first WowEffect daughters will sell, and now that the entire group is back together, there are some pretty cool younger heifers that managed to catch up in size to their older pen mates during breeding season.  It is still a long ways from fall sale season, but it is sure fun to start thinking of the choices we will need to make (and of course which ‘veto’ we will each use).

With all my glowing commentary about heifers, I don’t want to imply that our bull calf crop is lacking.  While fewer in numbers, there are some neat bull calves we are keeping our eyes on as well. For the third year in a row, it looks like our bull pen will be anchored by WowEffect sons.  Anchor D Viper and Rambo calves are also strong candidates to winter and make the bull sale.   It is early yet, but there certainly appears to be promise.

So, that’s our cattle circle.  We tend to walk it the opposite direction to my description, though – bull calf group first, followed by our walk through the woods, and then on to the heifer calf group as we start our turn for home.  As we cycle back towards the buildings, our bred heifers greet us (with Jeanne at my side, they greet us both figuratively and literally.  Several of her favourites need their scratches!).   On the genetic front, it seems like a constant period of evaluation.  We have lots of thoughts as to future combinations.  There is some satisfaction, but also thoughts on where we need to be better – and refocus on my 20-60-20 rule.  Overall though, there is a general sense of contentment.  We are truly blessed to be able to pursue our passion in the cattle business, and to spend our Sunday mornings watching them work in their natural environment – turning grass into meat and milk.

Until next time,

Dennis

2017 Red Deer Simmental Bull Sale Report

APLX Pharaoh 2D – our high selling bull

2017 Red Deer Simmental Bull Sale Report

March 23rd was another great day to hold the Red Deer Simmental Bull Sale at the Westerner Grounds, Red Deer Alberta.  A little bit of fog cover started the day, but the sun soon poked through and combined with mild temperatures to create beautiful travelling weather to see a great group of bulls sell.  Customers had the opportunity to have a hot beef lunch and inspect a high quality group of bulls presented by a number of great consignors, before watching them strut their stuff in the sales ring.

In all, five bulls ended up topping the $10,000 threshold at this years’ event with the high-sellers being a pair of Fleckvieh bulls.  Lot 18: Starwest Density is Manitoba bound after this dark red meat machine was selected by Triple T Diamond of Lundar for $15,000.  ‘Density’ was closely followed by Lot 65: Keato Pld Directors Cut, a moderate birth weight rascal selected by Swantewitt Simmentals for $14,000.  Overall 49 lots sold for an average of $6,100.

The highlight of the day for Applecross Cattle was the return of one of our commercial clients, Barney Beechinor.  Barney had selected APLX Edge from us at the 2013 Red Deer Bull Sale, so it was pretty special to watch him pick up two more bulls from us this year.  First Barney selected Lot 49: APLX Pharaoh 2D from the opening group of fullbloods, and then later on in the sale, Barney also selected Lot 51: APLX Wagner 10D.  It is always a great feeling when, after having success with their previous purchases, clients return for a replacement (or in this case two).  We look forward to watching Pharaoh and Wagner’s genetics contribute to the really strong Beechinor commercial herd.

It was also fantastic to see Lot 52: APLX Raider 22D head south to Glen Ball at Millarville.  Glen was looking for a new heifer bull to walk the foothills south-east of Calgary, so we are quite happy he found the traits he was looking for in ‘Raider’.

Once again we need to recognize the team at Transcon for doing a tremendous job working the phones and managing the sale.  Jay Good and his team are always a quality, sales management group – constantly on the phone while inspecting cattle for prospective buyers.  We look forward to working with them again later in the year at Fleckvieh Equation!

With both the bull sale and calving now behind us, our thoughts move directly to breeding season.  We have some recips this year, a couple of new options for AI and a brand new walking bull to test out.  It is an exciting time for Applecross Cattle to continue in our quest to provide new, better, and different genetics to share with the industry.

2017 Red Deer Simmental Bull Sale: Our Maternal Focus Shines Through

2017-bull-sale-headshots-1

We are pleased to present four herd bull prospects at Transcon’s 2017 Red Deer Simmental Bull Sale on Thursday, March 23rd at 1:00pm at Westerner Park, Red Deer, Alberta. This is already our seventh year at this event, and we are proud to be included in the strong offering that is always presented by this progressive group of breeders.

This year’s group consists of two FGAF WowEffect sons (Wagner, Weston), and one from each of Sanmar Polled Pharao (Pharaoh) and APLX Rambo (Raider).  All four bulls showcase our program very well – we strive to produce bulls that are highly maternal and will calve out moderate birth weight progeny, while still having strong performance numbers.

We have been very happy with how FGAF WowEffect has worked for us – he has proven to be extremely consistent regardless of what type of cow he gets bred to.  The WowEffect sons both combine their sires’ explosive performance and maternal strengths, and each are backed by outstanding cow families.  Both Wagner and Weston have maternal brothers working in purebred herds.

Pharaoh is also a really neat individual; pedigree and BW suggest heifer bull, but both the scale and visual inspection certainly suggest a lot more than ‘just’ heifers.  We are also excited to introduce the first progeny from our junior herd sire APLX Rambo in ‘Raider’; our youngster in the group that also showcases curve bending performance backed by two strong cow families.  All four bulls show lots of muscling, have tremendous hair coats, and have been tested for the dilutor gene.

Individual pages (short-cut links are located in the right-hand column) have been created for ‘Pharaoh’, ‘Weston’, ‘Wagner’, and ‘Raider’. The bulls have been developed on a ration of free-choice quality first cut hay, combined with a forage based pellet by Country Junction. The bulls are housed in a 5 acre paddock to ensure lots of exercise, and all have quiet temperaments.  On the individual pages, we have also pictured the sires, dams and grand dams. Maternal lines are very important to us, and we feel that behind every great bull is an outstanding cow family.  As some people prefer paper copies, we also have individual bull profiles available in PDF format that can be e-mailed and printed, or sent by regular mail. Please let us know if you would like any additional information on any of our animals.

The 2017 Red Deer Simmental Bull Sale promises to be another exciting event. We look forward to a great Thursday on March 23rd at Westerner Park.

How We Select Cattle: Our Five (Six) P’s

6-8

Virgina Ms Zillow – Our selection from the 2013 Cow-A-Rama sale pictured in 2014 with APLX Clancy at side. 

How We Select Cattle: Our Five Six P’s

Fall sales season is in full swing and there has been a steady diet of catalogs released online and arriving in the mail.  Perhaps it is because we aren’t marketing our own females this fall, but it does seem like I am spending a lot of time looking at catalogues and figuring out a schedule that can get me to as many cattle sales as possible, prior to the onset of calving season.  Taking a step back today, I started thinking about my own selection process and the criteria we use when selecting an animal to join our herd.  I think the following ‘5 P’s’ (and in our case 6 P’s) can be utilized to determine our interest in an animal available at auction.

The first “P” is picture.  Thumbing (or these days clicking/scrolling) through a fresh new catalogue, it is usually the pictures that jump out first.  A good picture may not make you buy an animal – but a bad or mediocre picture can sure make you pass over one without spending any time on them.  This is an area we really focus on when selling our own cattle.  A few years ago, we were told by both a fellow breeder and a cattle marketing rep that our cattle were a better quality than what they showed in the pictures – and that it was something we needed to improve on. We really appreciated the honest feedback, and ever since then we have tried to focus on how to get better pictures.  We schedule time for ‘re-shoots’ into our pre-catalog deadline calendar, and hire a 4-H kid, who the cows are unfamiliar with, to assist with pictures. We love walking our cattle, so since they ‘know’ us they tend to keep their heads down – which isn’t very ideal for pictures.  A new person in the pen (that still knows cattle), tends to be just enough to help get their attention, and often leads to a quicker, better picture.  Hopefully, we take a picture that makes our animals worth a longer look in the catalog.

With a good picture at the top, our gaze tends to shift to the Pedigree below.  I think every breeder has genetic lines that they follow; often either new genetics they wish to incorporate or genetics that they know just work in their herd.  As we have been around the Simmental breed for a long time, there are also quite a number of cow families I recognize (and while most people have either a good/bad/indifferent opinion of a sire, when you recognize a cow family it is usually a good thing).  So if I can find desirable outcross or proven genetics stacked across a pedigree it certainly piques my interest.  Thanks to the CSA database, I also spend a fair bit of time tracking some of the animals I was interested in but wasn’t successful in acquiring in the past.   Sometimes if you watch closely, there is the opportunity to acquire descendants in the future.  Back at the 2010 National Trust sale, I was really drawn to an awesome lighter coloured open heifer from the Big Sky string.  We didn’t end up getting her, as she landed at Virginia Ranch, but just last December we were able to acquire a grand-daughter – this time from the fine folks at Parview (who had purchased a daughter from Virginia Ranch at National Trust in the interim).  It doesn’t always work that way – but keeping an eye on genetics I really like can certainly help trigger interest.  EPD’s also get a glance – but I’ll delve into them in a future post.  Overall though, the pedigree plays an important role when we consider an animal.

The next step is validating Phenotype – most often in the form of a visual inspection in the time leading up to the sale itself (and ideally in the form of a summer tour when we can take a peek at the cow family behind them).  We have had good fortune in utilizing order buying ‘sight unseen’ in the past, but we are much more comfortable and confident (and have a willingness to bid higher) when we get a chance to view the cattle in person.  What are we looking for?  Generally, we mostly look at temperament and feet (getting them out to walk away from that straw pack if possible), and then look at the udder development or scrotal area.  The fact is, for most consignment auction sales, the conditioning/fitting can hide a lot of potential faults in an animal – so it is no surprise that I did have a fellow breeder tell me that they ‘trust pedigree almost more than visual inspection’ when selecting animals.   I think there is a lot of validity in this statement – but I still need to really ‘like’ an animals’ physical appearance/style in order to bid. (Jeanne also always asks if the heifer in question is ‘Pretty’ so maybe that is the 7th ‘P’).

Probably the most complex ‘P’ to accurately articulate is the prefix or people behind the cattle.  Let’s face it:  Breeders develop reputations – good and bad – for customer service and the quality of their cow herds. Your own personal experiences (and past purchases) shape that reputation, and it certainly can contribute to interest in adding genetics from a herd.  I also think that it is important to recognize breeders that have supported your program in the past, which is something distinctly different from simply ‘trading cattle’ back in forth with another breeder.  If an excellent customer of yours has a really strong animal on offer, it only makes sense to take an extra hard look to see if there is an opportunity to add another piece to your program.

Polled (our 6th P).  We are gradually taking the horns off of our cattle.  I don’t think that statement is a surprise to anyone who follows our program or blog.  I think that in 10 years there will be substantially more polled cattle, so that is the direction we are taking our operation.  It is absolutely something we look for when evaluating animals.  But just because an animal is polled, it doesn’t mean it is better than the horned one on the page beside it – and improving the overall quality of our herd is our absolute goal.  In 2015, we were successful in purchasing 3 heifers – 2 of which were horned.  We absolutely bred horned cows back horned this spring.  It is important to us to keep our focus on quality, and the polled will happen over time.  Not everyone will agree with selecting with this ‘P’ (and that is perfectly cool), but polled is certainly an aspect we include when assessing cattle.

Price is obviously the final determining factor when purchasing an animal.  How much is that animal worth to you?  What is your budget?  I am very fortunate that Jeanne is supportive of my cattle habit – but the trade-off is that I try to be very clear on what our budget is, so that there aren’t any surprises (and I don’t have to find a couch to sleep on) when the gavel falls and I am the high bidder.  The other component with price is in being ‘ready to bid’ – something I have learned (much to my chagrin) over the years.    Earlier in my career I would ‘give up’ on an animal (or even worse a prefix) thinking they’d be too expensive to bring home and move my attention on to the next one on my list – only to see on sale day that the original animal I had picked out did indeed fit within our budgeted price range.  As a result, now I try to take a hard look at every animal I am interested in and be ready should an opportunity arise.  We priority rank all the animals we are attracted to; and as long as the sales order co-operates, pick away starting at the top of our list.  At an auction sale you just don’t know how it will unfold – so being ready, and being clear on budgets has paid dividends.

While we are fortunate to be in a position where we aren’t really looking to expand our herd numbers, I think our fellow purebred breeders would agree that there is always room for ‘one more’ (and then ‘one more’, and then one more after that).  So after all my P’s have been evaluated, the final question before deciding whether to bid or not, is one of my dad’s favourites: “Does she make your herd better?”  I think that this a great question – as if she doesn’t either improve your herd or diversify your genetics – what value does she add?  If she doesn’t pass the ‘make herd better’ test, I am simply better off re-allocating or saving those funds for a future sale.

So I think that is the list.  Picture. Pedigree. Phenotype. Prefix/People. Price. (and then, in our case, Polled).  And ‘Pretty’ (Jeanne checks my grammar before I post these, so I CAN’T forget ‘Pretty’).  Lots of P’s in the process to possibly pick potential purebred purchases!

See you at the sales (I’ll be minding my P’s)

Dennis

2016 Fall Update

emily-2016

Applecross Emily 11C – One of our top bred heifers we will be retaining

2016 Fall Update

Two weeks of warm weather with only nominal rainfall is just what we needed to start off November.  It has been the wettest harvest in our 11 autumns at Applecross, and there is still water lying in the fields.  The two week break has allowed us to at least get the bulk of the fall work done – the paddocks are clean, the manure is out, and most of the feed is in the yard, just in time to bring the cattle home to their pre-calving winter quarters.  It is always a great feeling to have ‘the necessities’ of fall work done before winter arrives in force.

It will be a different December for us this year – after selecting from our calf crop and evaluating the cow herd, we have decided not to sell bred heifers this year.   A 75% bull calf ratio in 2015, meant we only retained 6 heifers of our own and, while we did augment that number with a few purchases last fall, we felt like we would only weaken our herd if selections were made for Fleckvieh Equation.  The good news is that a year off with no prep-work will allow us to relax and take in the fall sales as buyers only, as we continue to look to diversify and augment the quality of our cow herd.

We are quite happy with the group of heifer calves we have retained (in sufficient numbers that it appears certain we will only have a one year hiatus from Equation).  After a really strong FGAF WowEffect bull calf group in 2015, he turned his attention to a really neat heifer group for this year, leaving us with multiple stand-out daughters.  We liked the ‘Wow’ offspring so much that we successfully acquired the walking rights to him for 2016 – you will see plenty more of the ‘WowEffect’ in the future.  The bull calf group is also steadily putting on the pounds.  We are only wintering 4 bulls for the Red Deer Bull Sale this year, but they continue to showcase our herd philosophy – moderate framed, maternally focused bulls that show a balance of calving ease and strong performance.  It is early yet, but we are quite happy with the overall quality of our 2016 calf crop.

With fall sale season upon us, we look forward to a steady diet of fabulous discussions with fellow breeders, and the inspection of plenty of top quality genetics, which are sure to make for some difficult decisions (and hopefully a fair bit of luck that the chosen animals are available at the right price point).

We look forward to visiting at the sales,

Dennis

2016 Red Deer Simmental Bull Sale Report

Waylon 2

APLX Waylon 8C- our co-high seller selected by Eagle Ridge / Danny & Loretta Blain

2016 Red Deer Simmental Bull Sale Report

A gorgeous week-end with sunny skies formed an appropriate prelude to the 2016 Edition of Transcon’s Red Deer Simmental Bull Sale on Monday March 21st, where a very strong set of Simmental Genetics were presented to an enthusiastic group of commercial and purebred cattlemen.

The excellent selection of quality bulls from both purebred and traditional Simmental breeders led the sale to maintain the strong results achieved in 2015.  62 bulls sold with an average of $6 859, an increase of $100 over last year.

Sale highlights included another great lead-off string from Starwest Farms, who provided the high seller with lot 31 Starwest Pol Combine, an impressive heavyweight that combined their top Fleckvieh and purebred genetics.   For the second consecutive year, the renowned JNR program brought 4 of the top bulls to town – averaging a very consistent $12,625.  On the purebred side, new consigners Red Top Livestock also had a very exciting debut – their top two bulls averaged $16,000, and they had a very impressive overall line-up.

The Applecross bulls continued to be well received.  Some highlights are as follows:

  • Our high-sellers on the day were two WowEffect sons, as both APLX Warner 5C and APLX Waylon 8C were selected for $8,000. Waylon is now at work in the legendary Eagle Ridge herd, under the close eye of Danny and Loretta Blain.  Warner is headed north to Kaitlyn Matters and 4 Matt Simmentals at Vermillion
  • Gordon Leslie ‘swept the page’ and purchased all three of our more moderate calving ease bulls that were lots 68-70. APLX Phoenix, APLX Reno and APLX Cairo will all be making their home near Leslieville, AB.
  • In total, 7 of our bulls found homes within 30 minutes of Applecross, so we look forward to being able to keep a close eye on their progeny.

We would like to thank all the bidders and cattlemen who took the time to inquire and inspect the bulls we had on offer.    With our larger numbers this year, we experienced a tremendous amount of interest – both in visiting with us on-farm prior to the sale and then through the pens on sale week-end itself.   We felt our bull string really showcased our breeding philosophy, so it is very gratifying to see their acceptance in the industry.

Once again we also thank Transcon for all of the work that they do working the phones and managing the sale.  Jay Good and his team always put on a first class, professional event that we are proud to take part in.

With bull sale season wrapped up, our attention turns to breeding season, and our never-ending quest to provide new, better and different genetics to share with the industry.

2016 Red Deer Simmental Bull Sale: Our Deepest and Most Diverse Bull String Yet

Eastwood

2016 Red Deer Simmental Bull Sale: Our Deepest and Most Diverse Bull String Yet

We are pleased to present nine herd bull prospects at Transcon’s 2016 Red Deer Simmental Bull Sale on Monday, March 21st at 1:00pm at Westerner Park, Red Deer, Alberta. This is our sixth year at this event, and we are proud to be included in the strong offering that is always presented by this progressive group of breeders.

We are proud to say that our 2016 offering will be our deepest and most diverse bull string yet – clearly showcasing our breeding philosophy.  We firmly believe that the future will bring an increased herd size on the same amount of available labour.  This means that with less labour available on a per cow basis, birth weights will come down to improve calving ease, and that gradually more and more horns will be bred off the cattle.  We have moved slowly to incorporate the polled gene into our herd, as our goal is to try and accomplish this while maintaining the strong performance and mothering ability the Simmental breed is known for.  In a market that suggests the North American cow-herd is (at long last) expanding, we think our bulls on offer all provide the maternal characteristics that will produce tremendous replacement females.

Individual pages (short-cut links are located in the right-hand column) have been created for all nine of our bulls on offer.

At the top of the pen are the first sons to be offered at auction from FGAF WowEffect, an exciting young sire selected by (my father) Ross Small of Dora Lee Genetics as his pick of the Gagnon 2013 bull calves at their September production sale that year.  We were successful in obtaining an exclusive interest in the bull, and these first WowEffect calves are really impressive.  ‘Warner’, ‘Waylon’, ‘Windsor’ and ‘Watson’ all come loaded with hair and are heavily pigmented.  The bulls showcase plenty of power while maintaining moderate birth weights and we are very excited to see what they will bring to the industry.

The ‘Wow’ sons are joined by 5 other polled herd sire prospects, out of some of our foundation cow families.  The youngest bulls in our offering, ‘Sawyer’ and ‘Eastwood’ are sired by APLX Sampson and APLX Escalade respectively, whose daughters were very well received at the recent 2015 Fleckvieh Equation sale.  ‘Phoenix’ is a really intriguing son by Dora Lee’s Platinum – another exclusive pedigreed sire developed in Ontario.  Rounding out our bull pen are two bulls that bring highly maternal packages to the table; both are out of first calf heifers.  ‘Reno’ is a Radium son by a Bronson/Arnold’s Image dam, while ‘Cairo’ combines the calving ease of Sanmar Pol Pharao with Gidsco Appollo and Sunny Valley Sargeant.

We want to ensure our bulls will work for many years, so feet, legs and temperament are very important traits for us.  The bulls are housed in a 5 acre paddock to ensure lots of exercise, and have been developed on a ration of free-choice quality first cut hay, combined with a forage based pellet by Country Junction.  All nice bulls are quiet and used to being around people. We like working and walking through docile cattle, and feel the herd bull should be no exception.

On the individual pages, we have also pictured the sires, dams and grand dams. Maternal lines are very important to us, and we feel that behind every great bull is an outstanding cow family.  As some people prefer paper copies, we also have individual bull profiles available in PDF format that can be e-mailed and printed, or sent by regular mail. Please let us know if you would like any additional information on any of our animals.

The 2016 Red Deer Simmental Bull Sale promises to be another exciting event. We look forward to a great day on March 21th at Westerner Park