Our Journey as Producers of Fleckvieh Simmental Cattle.

Our Fleckvieh Equation 2022 Sale Report

Our Four Bred Heifers on offer at Equation 2022 – From Left: (hiding) Lydia, Ivy, Pixie and Dotti. All found great homes with some highly reputable breeders!

It was a blustery winter week-end in Central Alberta as Transcon hosted the finale of “Alberta’s Simmental Week-end.” Their two-in-one bonanza of Fleckvieh Equation and Ultimate Red & Black were held at Westerner Park in Red Deer.  With challenging road conditions, it was nice to be back inside the extensive Westerner facilities, where people could view cattle and visit in comfort.  Despite Mother Nature not being overly cooperative, there was a steady stream of traffic throughout the barns all weekend, and a healthy crowd on hand Sunday, to watch 33 Fleckvieh lots pass through the ring to average a very impressive $10,152.

One of the ‘calling cards’ of Equation has been a bit of a focus on polled genetics.  Between ourselves and several of the other consignors who have focused on developing polled cattle over the past number of years, this sale may be gaining a bit of a reputation!  After only bringing open heifers for the past couple years, Beechinor Land & Livestock were back with an exceptional string of bred heifers.  Stefon & Rebecca Beechinor have quickly risen to prominence for producing some of the best full Fleckvieh genetics in the world, so it was no surprise to see their lot 116 heifer, BLL Sugar Rush lead off the sale.  This big volume polled Sugar Ray daughter was a unique blend of power and femininity, and created a palpable buzz in the audience, as she ended up selling to Mason Faulkner of Faulkner Farms from Centre Ridge, Arkansas, for $40,000.  We had the pleasure of visiting with Mason when he was in Alberta touring cattle operations this fall, and are quite impressed with the foundation females he has selected to build his herd.  After the BLL offering were a pair of outstanding heifers from the Keato Meadow string, followed by two powerful heifers from Keet Simmentals.  Both being long term consignors, their heifers also had a robust following, with highlights including lot 102 ‘Keato Pld Ivy 24J’ being selected by West Gold Farms Ltd for $15,000 and  lot 121 ‘Keet’s Harlequin 51H’ selected by Pheasantdale Cattle Company for $18,000.   As Equation represented probably the largest selection of polled full Fleckvieh cattle available all fall, it was great to see the enthusiasm and success of our fellow consignors!

Our very own Lot 114 (Applecross Ivy) and Lot 113 (Applecross Pixie) were next up.  These two NUG Delmonte 81D daughters had been head turners all week-end, so we were rather excited to see how they would perform.  When the gavel fell, Applecross Ivy had been selected by Robb Farms for $17,000.   Robb Farms is part of a truly elite bull sale in SK, (Robb/Hoegl/Greenwood) in late February each year, so we will be looking for Ivy’s progeny to hopefully be future features!.  Applecross Pixie ($10,000) got to enjoy an extended truck ride, as she is headed all the way to Quebec, to Kelvin and Ory Egan of Egan Home Farms.  I had talked to Kelvin a few times over the years regarding our bred heifers, but there was always a fair bit of uncertainty with our late sale date and early calving dates on the heifers.  Pixie fit the bill, being a cycle later gives her more time to adapt to her new environment.  With Ory also spending the summer in Alberta working for Anchor D Ranch, he appears to have firmly caught the ‘purebred cattle bug’ and was the driving force behind acquiring Pixie.  It is always great to see another generation be encouraged enough to invest in the industry!

For Equation 2022, we tried something ‘different’ and brought a pair of open heifers to town.  I am old enough to remember the Fleckvieh sales of the 1990’s predominantly featuring open heifers but, gradually over time, the sales mix across the industry has shifted towards bred heifers.   The combination of a late in the season sale combined with early calving dates, meant we did have some out of province buyers express concern about a heavy in calf bred heifer travelling an extended distance, so offering a few select open heifers was certainly something we had thought about in the past.  With 2022 representing a 2:1 heifer to bull calf ratio, and an exciting new herd sire to showcase, we felt it only made sense to ‘test the waters’ with a couple open of heifers at Equation 2022.  We were not disappointed with our decision!  Our two heifers led off the Fleckvieh heifer calf division, with Lot 110 ‘Applecross Giselle 2K’ receiving the honour of being the lead heifer.  When the gavel fell, she was selected by Robb Farms for $15,500, and will get to head to the same home as Ivy!  A few minutes later, Black Gold Simmentals selected lot 111 ‘Applecross Dixie 20K’ for $10,000.  Randy and Vanessa Noble were in Red Deer after a hectic (and very successful!) few days at the Friday Night Lights event, so it was awesome to see them pick out Dixie to walk their pastures!  Bringing open heifers to Equation 2022 was certainly a smashing success for us, so that option will certain need to be considered again for Equation 2023!

Our two open heifers, Giselle (left) and Dixie busy prepping themselves to look great in the ring!

Overall, the open heifers sold extremely well, with 5 lots topping that $10,000 threshold.  The Skywest heifers were stabled right beside us, so we were able to take a long look at their two exceptional heifers that did very well, with lot 129 ‘Skywest Kamala’ selling to Corley Land & Cattle from Charleston, Tennessee for $13,000, and Lot 130 ‘Skywest Kamilia’ landing at Brock Ranches for $11,000.  Sierra Ebbeson is another ‘next generation’ breeder at Brock Ranches, so super exciting to see that ‘purebred cattle bug’ spread!  

A little later on in the sale, our Lot 112 heifer ‘Applecross Dotti 53H’ and lot 115 ‘Applecross Lydia 13J’ also got to share the sales ring.  ‘Dotti’ was up first and she was selected by Jonathan Kittlitz of Keato Meadows for $12,000.  We recall bidding against each other back when we acquired our Anchor T Impact semen at the same sale quite a number of years ago, so perhaps it shouldn’t have been a surprise when he was the successful bidder on a direct daughter!   ‘Lydia’ also found a great home with the legendary Maxwell Simmental program.  We have got to know Glen Maxwell over the past few years, specifically since acquiring our NUG Delmonte bull from them back in 2017.  Delmonte sure shaped our program, so it was pretty cool to have Lydia heading to Maxwell’s.   In all, our six heifers found homes across Alberta, Saskatchewan, and into Quebec.  All five buyers acquired the APLX prefix for the first time, so we look forward to seeing how their progeny develops for their new owners.

In addition to the above noted high sellers, I thought it also worthwhile to share a few additional thoughts:

  1. One of the neat things about being part of a consignment sale is seeing everyone have success.  A quick scroll through the Equation high seller lists represents practically all of our fellow breeders, each of whom have been long term consignors to the sale.  Certainly lots of smiling faces after the sale!
  2. I also want to suggest that despite the number of programs in the barn, the Fleckvieh cattle all lined up in very similar condition.  This is an incredibly difficult feat when there are many different operations coming together to showcase their programs.  We have always found it a challenge to get the correct balance.  We don’t want our cattle ‘green’ nor do we want them ‘fat’ – especially bred heifers that are three weeks from calving – so it was neat to see the consistency across Equation.  
  3. I do wonder if the combination of the Covid pandemic and increased quality of the Internet experience may be leading to a permanent change in attendance at sales.  On a week-end where weather was uncertain, and at a time so close to Christmas, I did notice people tour through the barns that were then content to watch the sale virtually, and either bid online or via phone.  With sales results being posted online within a couple of days (if not sooner), it also improves ‘access to information’ available without needing to be there in person. 
  4. The improvements and acceptance of technology and social media during the pandemic certainly has its pro’s and con’s.  The efficiency gains of immediate access to information and ‘time savers’ can be offset by a seemingly decreased amount of person to person contact.  Which is a change not always for the good!  I may be getting to the stage of ‘old man shaking fist and suggesting things were better in an earlier time’, but sometimes a great conversation can provide nuance and shape opinion – while the internet (or even texting) simply doesn’t provide the forum for deep discussion.  I may not always seem like the most social person, but simply being part of conversations, and listening to great advice have really helped improve our operation over the years.  I do worry that the opportunity is being lost for new to the industry breeders aiming to find their own voice and direction, if there isn’t at least some focus on the ‘in person’ part of the purebred cattle business.
  5. I also wonder if there is opportunity for further evolution of Simmental Week-end itself.  With the highly successful Friday Night Lights, followed by a Saturday sale and then National Trust Saturday night, prior to Equation / Red & Black on Sunday, it is an extremely long (and incredibly busy) week-end, specifically for those of us consigning cattle to any of the events.  For those consigning to FNL – Moving in Wednesday, prepping cattle and then sticking around until Sunday can be an extensive time commitment; with most of us having work pile up back at the farm.  So maybe with increase in online presence, it might make sense to move to a more condensed weekend schedule in the future.
  6. For the first time in a number of years, we weren’t successful in adding a new heifer from Equation.  We always like to ‘save a bullet’ to use to support our fellow breeders at our own sale, but weren’t successful in getting one bought this year.  We did get some shopping done both earlier in the season (Starwest Pol Harmony) and in adding a new AI option via the New Year’s Resolution Sale.  We are always looking to add something different that we think will be an ‘improver’ to our herd, so were happy to achieve this goal again in 2022.
  7. Finally, as we look towards 2023, we will need to dig pretty deep and scour a lot of options in our search for another herd bull.  If 2022 has taught us anything, it is that quality polled genetics (specifically those that are ‘outcross’ to our existing genetic base) command a premium.  It can be somewhat intimidating trying to find options that make economic sense for our smaller cow base, but at the same time, the search is part of the fun! (And a super successful heifer sale certainly puts us in a position to re-invest in our future!)

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 – while walking animals out of their pens to check feet,  and allow buyers to select animals with confidence.  Sales Management is a long term gig – if a prospective buyer on order isn’t happy with their purchase they won’t be back.   It is foundational to have mutual trust in a Sales Management team, and we have that with Transcon.  Another really neat part of the Transcon team, is Jay’s willingness to offer a spot to people ‘new to the breed’.  It might be more recently showcased within Red and Black, but as I mentioned earlier, it is super cool to see new people enter the purebred business.  And everyone needs to get their start at their ‘first sale’; Jay has been tremendous in offering people that opportunity (which he also offered to us back when we first started!)

Overall it was another great year to present Applecross Cattle at auction.  We were honoured by the compliments received, and the amount of interest in our program is rewarding.  With calving nicely underway (the heifers are leading 7-1, so maybe we will have more opens to offer at Equation 2023!), we look forward to the excitement that 2023 will bring, and another step forward in our ongoing efforts to produce high-quality genetics that we can share with the industry.

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