Red Deer’s Westerner Grounds were home to the stylish conclusion of ‘Alberta’s Simmental Week-end’ as Transcon’s ‘Two in One’ bonanza of Fleckvieh Equation and Red & Black wrapped up a hectic week of Simmental sales. Despite the onset of the holiday travel season, there was a strong crowd of enthusiastic bidders on hand (and online) to watch 49 total lots pass through the ring to a solid average of $5,794.
For the first time, it was Keet Simmentals of Dalmeny, Saskatchewan who had the honour of being selected to lead the sale. Brett & Naomi Keet have been regular consignors at Equation the past several years, and have showcased the continued development of their program; specifically with their focus on polled Fleckviehs. Two dark red, heavily pigmented, homozygous polled stunners in Lots 1 and Lot 4 were the first two heifers to enter the ring and sell on choice. After some spirited bidding, Lot 4 was selected by Barry Labatte for $9,750, and Lot 1 was selected by MAVV Farms (Mike and Allison Imler) for $7,500.
Our very own Lot 8 (Applecross Penny) and Lot 9 (Applecross Catrina) were next up. These two FGAF WowEffect daughters had been head turners all week-end, so we were rather excited to see how they would perform. When the gavel fell, Applecross Penny had been selected by Virginia Ranch / Harry & Michelle Satchwell for $14,500. Harry had toured our place and recognized the dam, and also watched the full brother sell 18 months earlier at Red Deer 2018, so he is quite familiar with the consistency of this cow family. Applecross Catrina ($10,000) is headed a few miles north to Bentley, to the home of Beechinor Bros Simmentals. John Beechinor has certainly made a statement over the past few months, both with his heifers on offer at Western Harvest, and with his commitment to diversifying his program. After a busy week, which included John selecting a number of high sellers and being the volume buyer at the Skor dispersal, it will be pretty neat to see the continued evolution of the already elite annual Beechinor Bull Sale. It is always rewarding when animals brought to town are acquired by highly regarded purebred breeders!
In a change from previous years, the purebreds and Flecks were intermingled in the barn, which allowed for more visiting and a true showcase of the diversity the Simmental breed brings to town. From a Red & Black sales results perspective, the spotlight was firmly on the City View string, SIBL Simmentals and the female sale debut of Red Top Livestock. Blane and Tina Barnett of City View made the journey from Moose Jaw and showcased a matching pair of red heifers in lots 106 and 107 that ended up being the high selling purebred heifers at $11,500 (Bar CAL Farms/L&J Farms, Sundre) and $8,000 (MAVV Farms) respectively. A year after his ‘half the herd’ event, Barkley Smith was back to Equation with an impressive black open heifer in lot 120 that sold for $10,000 to KD’s Simmentals of Jenner. And finally, it was great to see Red Top showcase the female side of their operation, with two really neat open heifers in Lot 103 ($9,500 to Ashworth Farm and Ranch) and Lot 104 ($9,000 to KD Simmentals). Red Top has been part of the Red Deer Bull Sale group for a number of years now, so great to have Ben and Kassandra present their high end red program at Red & Black 2019! There was great balance between the two portions of the sale – with the top end purebreds matching up well with the best of the fullbloods.
The balance of our Applecross Cattle string also found awesome new homes. Applecross Yvonne headed south to Didsbury to join the ascending Skywest program. Dan Slingerland from Coaldale, AB added some sparkle in Applecross Paulina to his polled integrated cow herd and feed lot operation, while Sheldon Doerksen of Carrot River SK selected Applecross Rose, who has successfully calved a sweet little bull calf here at home (and will make her journey once she and her calf are ready for travel). Loralta Farms / Leslie Botten from Boyle selected a few lots during the afternoon, including our own Applecross Brienne. And finally, Barry Labatte was the successful bidder in adding Applecross Noelle. In an interesting twist that goes back many years, Noelle’s great, great, great, great, great grand dam was also the dam of Dora Lee Franchesca that Barry selected from Dora Lee way back in 1997! It is amazing how cow families can turn out that way – that is a lot of ‘greats’! In all, our seven heifers found homes across Alberta and Saskatchewan, and we look forward to seeing how their progeny develops for their new owners.
On the acquisition front, Applecross Cattle also enjoyed a great week-end and were successful in acquiring our picks at both Trust and Equation. After enjoying a front row seat to Skywests’ Duramax sons at the Red Deer bull sale in March, we were successful in acquiring our choice of his daughters on offer in lot 24 ‘Skywest Franceca’, who has already provided us with a promising star-headed heifer calf. (Riley and Jolene of Skywest also presented the strongest string of bred heifers on offer as their 5 bred heifers averaged an impressive $9,500!) We also dipped our toes into the National Trust frozen genetics pool, with the acquisition of 10 doses of FGAF Electric Avenue from Beechinor Land & Livestock (who were also quite successful with the two open heifers they brought to town!) We have been looking to diversify our polled line-up, but with the prices of elite polled herd bulls soaring this past spring, adding to our semen tank seemed like a more feasible approach. Electric Avenue combines the power of French Attack, with a cow family we know well, so we look forward to trying to determine how to best leverage him during AI season this spring.
In addition to the above noted high sellers, I thought it also worthwhile to share a few additional thoughts:
- I do think that the late sale date impacted both attendance and the number of animals consigned to the sale. Family Christmas events, and the onset of calving, meant a number of breeders who usually attend were absent, and certainly missed from the circles of conversation that form at such events. One of our heifers looked extremely close to calving at the sale (she did hold out for 4 days longer), and even now only ~10 days after Equation, both the heifer we purchased and roughly half of our sale heifers have calved. As a consigner, we want our buyers to be happy with their selections, and an unexpected early calving can certainly impact this. It may have just been how the week-end timing lined up with the other events, but the late sale date does give us pause when bringing heavy in calf bred heifers to town.
- I also think that there is room for changes in the National Trust format on the Saturday night. The lead lots always generate a tremendous amount of excitement, but once the proceedings get to ‘tank clean out’ phase, the auction can slow considerably. Despite a 6:30pm start time, the auction didn’t end until after 10pm. And while we did acquire some vintage semen (Dora Lee Jake), the length of the sale took away from a lot of the Saturday night social time that we find so valuable. My attention wandered considerably throughout the evening (and I actually remember most of the bulls on offer!). Despite the ‘Simmental Week-end’ nature of the event, actual attendance at National Trust has dropped the past few years – and I think the length of the auction may be a big reason why – specifically as vintage Fleckvieh Semen has such a select following. With today’s technology, there should be a way to move a portion of the proceedings to online only; speeding up the auction, while still having a great meal and awesome conversation.
- I have always considered buying heifers a discretionary purchase – a ‘nice to do’ instead of a ‘need to do’. Buying bulls take priority (can’t breed cattle without one!), and while it is nice to acquire outcross females, it is somewhat optional depending on how the year has gone. While we are an exception, most cattle producers in Western Canada rely on both cattle and crops to generate income. With a very challenging harvest season translating to a significant portion of crops still unharvested, overall I would think that means there is less cash available to make those discretionary heifer purchases. It has been a tough year in Western Canada – so it is perhaps surprising that heifer sales held as strong as they did throughout female sale season.
I can’t close without saying a few words about Transcon, our Sales Management team. Jay, Darren, Glen and Cody always do a quality, professional job – and spend significant amounts of time on the phone – talking – taking pictures or ‘fresh’ videos for prospective buyers – and in Cody’s case – during the sale itself – racing over to me to ensure we’d calve out a heifer before taking a prospective buyers telephone bid. It is foundational to have mutual trust in a Sales Management team, and we have that with Transcon.
Overall it was another great year to present Applecross Cattle at auction. We were honoured by the compliments received, and were humbled to have our Applecross Penny recognized as the overall high seller at Fleckvieh Equation 2019. It is the first time we have ever topped a female sale! With calving in full swing (we are already 40% complete), we look forward to the excitement that 2020 will bring, and another step forward in our ongoing efforts to produce high-quality genetics that we can share with the industry.