Our Journey as Producers of Fleckvieh Simmental Cattle.

Archive for February, 2011

Our Entries to 2011 Red Deer Bull Sale

APLX Ensign 2X - headlines our entries

Individual pages (short-cut links are located in the right-hand column) have been created for our three bull entries to the 2011 Red Deer Bull Sale to be held on Monday, March 21, 2011 at 1:00pm at Westerner Park, Red Deer, Alberta.  The 2011 edition will represent our first genetics to sell by auction, and we are pleased to be a part of this great event.

The three bulls selected represent the best of our 2010 bull calf crop.   We weaned September 3rd, 2010, evaluated the calves, and then culled thoroughly.  These three bulls are all solid colour, heavily pigmented, have moderate (90-100lb) birth weights, show lots of muscling, have tremendous hair coats and are backed by strong, often unique, pedigrees.  The bulls have been developed on a ration of free-choice quality first cut hay combined with 10lbs/day of mixed grain, formulated to 12% protein.    To ensure they are in shape for breeding season, the grain ration was increased to 12lbs/day on February 1st.   The bulls are housed in a 5 acre paddock to ensure lots of exercise, they have all been at least tie-broke, and all have a quiet temperament.  In short, we have raised them to be the type of bulls we would wish to buy for ourselves, and feel they will go out and get the job done.

Thanks to their sire, all three bulls are scurred and may pass the polled gene along to their offspring.  In 2009 we were selected to help ‘prove’ an exciting new homozygous polled bull that was the result of 10 years of development – Dora Lee’s Equinox.  We are very pleased with how his first calf crop has performed, will continue to use him extensively.   Thanks to his development in Ontario, we also believe his genetics are outcross to the vast majority of Fleckvieh lines in Western Canada.  These three bulls will also represent the only Equinox sons to sell publicly in 2011.

On the individual pages, we have also pictured the dams.  Maternal lines are very important to us, and we feel that behind every great bull is an outstanding mother.  We also have additional information and pictures available about the maternal grand dams; should it be of interest.  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 2011 Red Deer Simmental Bull Sale will be a very exciting time for us.  We look forward to seeing the first Applecross genetics sell March 21 at Westerner Park.    

Picture Note:  The above picture of ‘Ensign’ taken in October of 2010.  We really like this picture of Ensign, as it showcases his tremendous volume and heavy muscling, but wanted to use a current ‘winter’ picture in order to have consistent maturity with the other bulls in the catalogue and on his web-page.

Reference Sire Page Added

We have just added a reference sire page, located under the Herdbook tab at the top right of our website.  Our reference sires consist of the three bulls that we have utilized that are privately owned and/or only selectively available through AI; and therefore may not be as familiar to those in the industry.  We expect the number of ‘reference sires’ to grow as our herd continues to develop and evolve.

Why February is the best time of the year

On the morning of February 1st, it was -36 here.  Call me insane, but I think February is the best time of the year to be in the purebred cattle business, despite the temperatures.  (Of course, I also think June and October are the best time of the year, but I will get to those months in the future).   Why February?  Only because it is probably the most important month of the year for purebred breeders.    It is the month major breeding decisions get made – and those decisions will impact your breeding program for at least the next 5 years, and potentially shape it for decades.  In short, it is the month of opportunity.

In February, there are January/February calves on the ground that are developing, and providing an early glimpse of their potential.  They create a short window to determine what matings from last year appear to be working.  There are so many questions to be asked and answered:  How easily did they calve? Were the calves vigourous? is the colour/pigmentation what you expected?  Is it the sire? Is it the dam? Was it just the wrong combination of genetics? What is the early performance/muscling/femininity like?  All of these questions impact the decisions that must be made this month.

In the mail there is a steady stream of bull sale catalogues, followed by sales to attend, and fellow breeders to chat with and learn from.  Not only are bulls to be selected for your own use, but also the inspection of different bloodlines, cow families and breeding programs are very important.  Not to mention the constant comparing to your own bulls back home – how do your bulls stack up against those of your peers?  What can you learn from your peers to make your breeding decisions/marketing program better in future years?  What are the current industry trends?  Should you follow those trends within your operation?  What are your customers telling you about the genetics they purchased from you last year, or the year before that?  February provides the opportunity to network, and obtain this important feedback.

Finally, after doing the evaluations and answering all of those questions in your own mind, the breeding decisions have to be made.  At Applecross, we continue to expand our numbers, so we continue to utilize AI as much as possible in order to broaden our genetic base, before turning out the bulls to finish things off.   In February, a lot of time is spent with our projected breeding chart, the chart that highlights the all of our options and our best ideas.  But potential matings can still change half a dozen times between February and mid-March.   We don’t always get what we want either – AI matings can come back; we can change our mind at the last minute and then regret the change a day later, but all in all, February is the month of opportunity.  Stressful at times trying to make a good decision – one that you won’t know the answer of for 5 years; but an awesomely exciting time to get to pull the trigger and make your choice.

February.  The month of decisions.  The month of opportunity.  The best time of the year.

Of (Gorgeous) Gretchen and (Amazing) Grace

Dora Lee's Gretchen with dam Geneveve on pasture - summer 2009

In 2009, while on a short summer visit to Dora Lee in Ontario, Dad and I took several tours of the cow-herd.  It is sometimes nice to be away from the home farm for a while.  When you come back, you notice changes more readily – specifically the younger cows who have developed a lot in the course of a year.   The summer of 2009 was wet in Ontario, and in mid July the cows were still up to their bellies in grass (indeed, in the river flats, we were peering through grass that was over the height of the gator to see cattle).  This was a sharp contrast to the dry year we were having in Central Alberta, where the pastures were already beginning to show stress.    

Jeanne and I were still only a couple of years into developing Applecross and, despite an amazing set of heifer calves of our own, I was determined to continue to expand our numbers – and add at least one more Dora Lee female.  Mom and Dad had developed quite a number of impressive cow families over the years.  Although I had already tapped into a number of them, there were still a couple of others that I wanted to try and obtain genetics from.   2009 was also the year Dora Lee Eclipse came into his own – he put a clear stamp on his heifer calves (they always seemed to stand with their heads up; showing off their long neck with lots of power).  He also had quite a number of impressive bred heifers and first calvers.  We already had three Eclipse females of our own, but all three were horned.  Thus, my objectives were defined – find a polled Eclipse female from an outcross cow family.  If I was really lucky (and the price was right), maybe I’d be able to find two heifers (or even better, an instant cow family in a cow-heifer calf pair).

After touring the herd several times, I held my cards close. I had my eye on three calves and one pair – but what was Dad willing to sell?  He named a price and gave me pick of the entire heifer calf crop.  While the price was higher than I had hoped (and eliminated the pair idea), I couldn’t have asked for more selection, from what was an amazing group of heifer calves.  Dad, knowing we were in drought and short grass, also offered to winter her, AI her to the bull of my choice and then have her delivered in the spring.   It was a really great opportunity – but what to pick?

I took Jeanne out for one last tour.  Jeanne gives me a pretty free hand in selecting cattle, but always has (good) input, and has a big influence on naming the calves (both here at Applecross and previously at Dora Lee).   After seeing the four calves I was interested in, we selected a polled Arnold’s Image daughter from an Eclipse dam.  She was a younger (March) calf, but exuded femininity and was cherry red to her hooves.  I am also a sucker for older proven genetics, and had always wanted an Arnold’s Image female to walk beside some of the other classics we already have (King Arthur, C&B Western and Antonius).   Picking an AI sire was easy – LJB Jade.  I was with dad when he bought the semen, and we had debated his merits many times.  The combination of outcross genetics, calving ease, and knowing he sires powerful females himself, made Jade a quick decision.       

While Jeanne and I name calves at birth, Mom and Dad usually wait until weaning is done; which also gave us the ability to name our new heifer.    Our new calf’s mother was named ‘Geneveve’, and traditionally we follow the dam for daughters and the sire for bulls; leading to the requirement of a ‘G’ name.     This led to the inevitable sit-around-the-kitchen table and throw names out.  It often gets quite silly, but is always a lot of fun – especially since Jeanne and I each have veto power over names.    Dad came up with ‘Gorgeous’ – simply based on her appearance, and how she stood with her head up – as if she knew she was gorgeous, too.  Unfortunately, Jeanne vetoed ‘Gorgeous’, and we eventually settled on ‘Gretchen.’  Although for the rest of that year, Dad and I both talked about ‘Gorgeous’ and how she was developing.

In May 2010, Gorgeous – I mean Gretchen – made her trip west, safe in calf to Jade, and settled in nicely at her new home in Alberta.  She was the first cow due for us, and we anticipated a New Years baby.  Early on January 2nd, 2011, Gretchen gave us an unassisted heifer calf.  Cherry red, with a single goggle, she has lots of neck and is already showing  thickness.  She also appears polled.  While in some ways I was hoping for a bull calf (seems hard to find outcross, calving ease herd sires), I am not disappointed in the least.  She has been named ‘Grace’, and was promptly nicknamed ‘Amazing’ by Dad.  She is amazing – and we are amazingly lucky!  Grace had a 25% chance of being a polled female, with the odds even lower that she would also have the colour pattern and phenotype that we think will make a powerful cow.

Thinking back to 2009 and our goal of adding an outcross cow-calf pair to our program; 2 years later we have been incredibly lucky to have turned the purchase of one, top-end heifer calf into just that.  We really enjoy developing cow families, and a polled Arnold’s Image female walking beside her polled LJB Jade daughter is exciting for us.  They are a great young pair to help anchor our herd, and an ‘Amazing’ start to the ‘Gorgeous’ cow family here at Applecross.