It was a gorgeous spring day, with mild temperatures, lots of sunshine, and some really impressive bulls that brought a full house to the Westerner in Red Deer to watch 51 bulls sell on Thursday, March 21st. After six weeks of punishing winter weather, it was great to see and sense the optimism that a taste of spring can bring to the agricultural community.
First in the ring were a pair of matching Virginia’s Duramax sons from Skywest Simmentals in Didsbury. Soggy, low-set with impressive shape, these breeder quality bulls resulted in some very spirited bidding. When the gavel fell, Lot 41 ‘ Skywest Fusion’ was selected by the master breeders of Maxwell Simmentals for $22,000 as the overall high seller. Lot 42 ‘Skywest Fugitive’ is heading to Manitoba after being acquired by Northern Lights Simmentals for $18,000. It was a great start to the sale – and set the tone for the balance of the afternoon.
Due to some weather related setbacks with our bull string, we only brought three of our six bull prospects to Red Deer. All three of our Delmonte sons found great new homes with Dallas & Cindy Phillips of Eckville, AB (Dundee), Chris Young from Caroline, AB (Denver) and JNJ Simmentals at Westlock, AB (Dakota). It is always a treat to have new customers acquire their first APLX bull.
Overall the sale grossed just over $335,000 on 51 lots, for an average of $6,562. We would also be amiss not to recognize Jay Good and the Transcon team for doing a tremendous job working the phones and managing the sale.
A few (or maybe a lot of) other thoughts on Red Deer 2019 and this years’ bull sale season:
- I can’t say enough about how impressive the Skywest string of bulls was. They were penned right beside our bulls, and the amount of consistency in type through-out their seven bulls was remarkable. Jolene and Riley Edwards & family have been building their Simmental operation for several years now, and it was very special to see them both lead off Red Deer 2019 (and top it) for their first time! They are great people – so truly awesome to see their success.
- One of the things I really appreciate about Transcon is the feedback. I do try to have a good honest conversation with Jay or one of his team both before and directly following the sale. Honest feedback is just so important. We might not always like what we are told, but it is important to hear the message and have a conversation for long enough to ensure we understand their reasons for thinking as they do. I hope to expand on this topic in a further blog post.
- Both the heifer bull and polled bull market were strong in 2019. There were clearly some eye-popping sales of polled bulls, but digging deeper into some of the sale reports, there was also a strong demand for heifer bulls – which may partly be caused by the current feed shortage in Central Alberta. Heifers eat less, have more future earning potential and should be genetically superior to old cows, so when feed is short, it makes sense to leverage the opportunity to make the cow herd younger – you just need bulls to use on those heifers.
- Our own shopping needs combined the two, and we were on the hunt for a polled heifer bull this spring. We were disappointed when a couple that we were interested in sold out of our price range. Heifers bulls are so tough to budget for – they have a limited timeframe that they can be utilized on heifers before they get too big – and in order to stay around after that, they need to be ‘good enough’ to use on cows – so on our smaller numbers I find it difficult to determine a price point that works.
- In hindsight though – if we are willing/planning to spend $10,000-$15,000 on an elite outcross heifer each fall (who will only give us one calf a year), maybe the budget for a heifer bull should be a little higher.
- In our case, we ended up moving a different direction. As they say ‘when you are dealt a hand of lemons, make lemonade’, so when one of my favourite bulls in our own pen, APLX Wedge 6F, came up DD on his semen test, we decided to retain him to use on our heifers. Being both a WowEffect son and from our popular ‘P line’, we can’t use him on every animal, but he should be a real neat addition to our bull battery.
- I like having options. I joked that retaining Wedge was ‘Plan E’. (Which is a modification of Plan D, where we AI all our heifers with no clean-up bull). We did have a ’Plan F’, but (thankfully) no need for it this year.
- I do think 2019 will reinforce the value of leveraging AI as a herd management tool. With the brutal February weather (which frankly all of Canada experienced), it will be interesting to see how many natural bred calves will be born next January, as I anticipate that despite all the extra care that has gone into them, that bulls simply won’t be as ready to go (but will recover over time – I guess it all depends whether that recovery period is 3 weeks or 6 weeks as to the amount of impact it has on next years’ breeding season).
- AI takes time and management, but even if you pencil in the cost of semen and (in our case), having an AI breeding technician come to breed heifers (Thanks Donna!), you can sure breed a lot of animals for what you could walk a bull for.
- I also like the diversity that AI can bring – it allows smaller herds like ours to sample of number of different or new/outcross bulls each spring. The drawback is that sample size is smaller, and it can be tough to draw a conclusion from a handful of calves.
- I also think exclusivity (or outcross) in owning a bull outright has a value (in that customers would need to acquire those different genetics from one place), which you wouldn’t have with an AI bull.
- a great example of this would be Starwest Pol Blueprint – two years after a number of his sons were high sellers, there have been both sons and grandsons be readily accepted in 2019 – which potentially leads to people looking for something different if they already have those genetics. I would expect that thanks to the high selling nature of FGAF Radioactive 030E (and his semen!) and the ready availability of his sire may also lead to a spike in Guererro bull calves in next years’ bull sale season – especially as he ties nicely into the theme of polled and heifer bull.
Over the past nine years, it has been great to be part of the Red Deer Bull Sale and 2019 was certainly no exception. Public auction is a great forum to get feedback on the program we are building at Applecross, and we were both humbled and honored with the number of compliments our pen of bulls received throughout the week-end, from both peers in the purebred industry and commercial cattlemen alike. We strive to produce top quality cattle, and can at times be our own worst critic so it is wonderful to hear all the kind words. Not a year goes by that we don’t learn how to do things a little better for next year, and it is equally important to continue to receive tips and advice on how to make improvements to our program. With the bull sale now in the rear-view mirror, and breeding season underway, we look forward to the challenge of developing more and different genetics for future years.
Until next time,