Our Journey as Producers of Fleckvieh Simmental Cattle.

Our 2020 Fleckvieh Equation Sale Report (and related year end thoughts)

Our Four Equation Heifers: From Left – Tanis, Lyanna, Cabernet and Paprika

A gorgeous late December day, with mild temperatures and sunny skies, created ideal weather for Transcon’s 2020 Fleckvieh Equation Sale on Sunday, December 20th, at the Westerner Grounds in Red Deer, Alberta.  Despite all of the uncertainty due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, a respectable (socially distanced) crowd was on hand, supported by busy phones and robust internet bidding.  As usual, Equation was held in conjunction with Transcon’s Red & Black Event, to create ‘Super Sunday’ with 80 total lots on offer.   

We were incredibly honoured to have our lot 115 Applecross Cabernet 14G heifer selected to lead off the sale.  Cabernet had turned a lot of heads all week-end.  Her dark red colour combined with tremendous depth of body and a stacked Virginia-backed cow family, generated a lot of excitement.  When the gavel fell, it was RichMc Simmentals / Jason Mclean & Mylia Richards who had successfully acquired Cabernet for $15,750.  This is the second Applecross female for RichMc, who also acquired Applecross Blossom 11E back at Equation 2018. Blossom has produced back to back sets of twin heifers for RichMc, so while we do wish them as much success with Cabernet, it will be a substantial challenge for her to be as prolific!

The Skywest string of bred heifers never disappoints, and it was lot 101 Skywest Freedom that led off their 2020 offering.  Freedom was the heaviest, largest volume heifer in the barn, so it was no surprise that some very spirited bidding led to her being the overall high selling bred heifer at $25,000.  I admit to having my eye on her, so it is convenient that she is headed to Beechinor Bros at Bentley, where I will hopefully have the privilege of watching progeny sell though either their on-farm bull sale or their annual Western Harvest female consignments.  John Beechinor continues to re-invest heavily in top notch genetics, so it will be pretty neat to see how Skywest Freedom fits into the Beechinor Bros program.

While the Fleckvieh bred heifers created tremendous excitement, it was an open heifer that really stole the show.  Lot 117, BLL Cece 952G was a stone cold stunner that combined feminine neck extension with tremendous length of body, a strong top and plenty of hip.  There was a rousing duel to take her home which, despite the moderate crowd, created a palpable stir in the building.  Century Simmentals / Jesse Pukalo will be taking ‘Cece’ to Spruce Grove, after making a $35,000 investment!  Wow!  Our excitement was only augmented as Cece’s sire, Double Bar D Confidence 179D, now walks the pastures here at Applecross!  We were successful in acquiring Confidence from Beechinor Land & Livestock / Stefon & Becca Beechinor just prior to the 2020 breeding season.  While we don’t have near the maternal depth that Stefon has assembled, the recent success of Confidence’s progeny only serves to create another level of anticipation. We expect his first APLX calves in just a couple of weeks!    

In addition to our lead heifer, our three other Applecross Females all found great new homes.  Lot 113, Applecross Lyannna 26G ($9,000), has made her way north to Lone Stone Farms / Lonnie & Karen, Nathan & Alisha Brown.  Nathan stopped in for a tour just over a month ago, so while we visited, we also took the opportunity to get his thoughts on his own heifers (more on that in a bit).  Our lot 112, Applecross Paprika ($6,500), and lot 114, Applecross Tanis ($9,000), joined Cabernet on a truck to Manitoba, after both were selected by the renowned Bonchuk Farms program.  All of the heifers are now in their new homes, and we look forward to hearing how they calve out for their new owners.  We thought our four heifers on offer all fit together nicely as a set, and were pleased with how they fit into the broader bred heifer group on consignment at Equation 2020.

The Fleckvieh Equation portion of Super Sunday averaged a robust $9,169 on 26 lots.

In addition to the above noted high-sellers, I wanted to share some additional thoughts on the 2020 Edition of Fleckvieh Equation:

  • The current Covid 19 pandemic certainly impacted Equation 2020.  From a good news perspective, the Westerner ensured we had plenty of space; the large pens and numerous alleys allowed for natural distancing between consignors. The downside was that distancing and limiting social interaction is the opposite of why we enjoy cattle sales!  The ability to visit, meet new people and talk cattle is one of our favourite parts of the week-end, and it was unfortunate (but understandable) that such activities were reduced.
  • In that vein, it was great to see the Red & Black portion of Transcon’s Super Sunday have a number of new consignors.  From a breed perspective, it is important to see new people have an interest in purebred cattle and join sales – it was just not as natural a year to strike up new conversations, when distancing and masks combine with a couple of introverts from Applecross!
  • Covid also put a fair bit of a damper on the new National Trust Format.  We thought the split format with a portion live / portion internet only worked really well.  The live portion was over within a couple of hours, which allowed us to adjourn to the barn with plenty of time for some (socially responsible) visiting.  The Saturday night has always been one of my favourites, so despite the limited number of people in attendance, we thought the shorter format worked really well – we look forward to a ‘more normal’ 2021 version!
  • National Trust wasn’t all just social, as we are able to acquire some frozen genetics in units of both Black Gold Elevation and Virginia Spartan.  One of the advantages of being located in Central Alberta is the ability to readily evaluate progeny from the premier breeders in the area.  For complementary reasons, we thought both Elevation and Spartan would add intriguing dimensions to the Applecross herd.   It is also an advantage for our ‘small’ operation that opportunities like National Trust and the similar New Year’s Resolution Sales exist.  We can tap into fairly exclusive AI sires, in manageable increments, in order to add elite options to our herd.   We may not be able to ‘compete’ on purchasing a top herd bull outright, but the opportunity to acquire a semen pack is certainly very tempting!   
  • We were also successful in adding lot 110 in Keet’s Princess Grace 15G during Equation.  We have long admired Brett & Naomi Keet’s work in developing polled genetics, so we were pretty excited to add this moderate framed, homo-polled BEE Vortex daughter to our walking herd. 
  • We also stepped out on a limb (for us), and acquired Lone Stone Miss Haley sight unseen in late November.  As mentioned earlier, we quizzed Nathan Brown on his ‘Cashmere’ heifer calves when he visited us this fall, and reached out to Cody Haney of Transcon to also inspect the heifer prior to the sale.  Cody knows our program, and has evaluated both our bull and bred heifer offerings over the past number of years, so we trusted his judgment as to whether Haley would fit in here.  He thought she would, and she sure does!
  • As people who follow our operation are aware, we are moving to gradually take the horns off of our cow herd.  While this goal hasn’t changed, 2020 was a bit of a switch for us.  In the past couple years we have typically sourced horned females while adding polled genetics on the sire side.  This year, more by accident than design, we ended up adding polled females and horned genetics on the sire side.  We still find the polled gene pool very narrow (specifically within our own cows), and feel it is important to incorporate our picks from the best horned genetics in order to continue to diversify and improve the quality of our walking herd.
  • In reviewing prices of the sale, it was also apparent that open heifers had themselves a day, out averaging the Fleckvieh breds by $164. While there were a couple high-selling outliers that boosted the numbers of each group, open heifers more than held their own and, when adjusted for a year less in development and breeding costs, were probably more profitable for their consigners.  In addition to Beechinor Land & Livestock high seller noted above, the Langer Fleckvieh and Keato Meadows open heifers were very well received. I think part of the reason is the late sale date, with breds often being heavy in calf, and substantial risk in any sort of lengthy transport vs. moving an open heifer.  Open heifers also fit into more programs as breeding dates can be aligned to match the buyers program.  The downside is that breds tend to show up to sale day looking a lot closer to the cow they will become, while Opens still have a fair bit of developing to do – while also potentially being in that awkward teenager phase that can change appearance substantially within just a couple weeks.  As our own numbers continue to increase, we will need to look at the option of including Open heifers in our sales string.  We simply need to ensure we pay attention to what the market and our customers are telling us.
  • We would also like to give an extra shout out to our sales facility, the Westerner Grounds in Red Deer.  The Westerner has really struggled over the past year as virtually all of their events have been cancelled.  It was great to see their increased willingness to work with the Agricultural community to safely host Super Sunday 2020.  Over the past number of years, it has felt like the Westerner had treated AG events as more a nuisance than a source of revenue, so 2020 was a refreshing change.  A number of these facilities were originally built with the intent of hosting AG functions as their primary purpose, so keeping Agriculture top of mind as an avenue to improve revenues going forward should be a priority.  Nothing beats a late December sale than a quality indoor facility that accommodates lots of socializing while inspecting cattle!

Our final comment is to recognize the team at Transcon for doing a tremendous job working the phones and managing the sale – they are always a quality, professional sales management team.   Jay, Darren, Glen and Cody spent the weekend inspecting the cattle while consistently talking on their phones, making evaluations for prospective buyers.  I am sure that the shift to digital and an increasing number of (very successful) online, timed auctions may be creating some angst regarding the future of in-person sales.  At the same token though, there is nothing better than being able to physically inspect a purchase.  And second best, is being able to have someone you trust inspect them on your behalf.  And that is where our sales management team has a potential niche that simply can’t be replicated by technology.   Our own experience from the Lone Stone sale this fall that we outlined above is the perfect example! Sales Management may need to pivot a bit – but there will always be a need for trusted independent experts who know cattle and understand the needs of their clientele. 

Overall, despite the uncertainty heading in to Equation 2020, tt was another great day to present Applecross Cattle at auction. We are honoured by the compliments we received on our cattle from all of our fellow consignors, the sales staff, bidders and buyers that took interest in our program.  Our calving season is underway, and we are set to start clipping bulls for Red Deer County 2021 this week-end.  As we pause to celebrate the New Year, it creates a natural opportunity to reflect on the past, while equally anticipating an exciting future – in furthering our goal of producing high-quality genetics to share with the cattle industry.

Until next time,

Dennis

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