2016 Fall Update
Two weeks of warm weather with only nominal rainfall is just what we needed to start off November. It has been the wettest harvest in our 11 autumns at Applecross, and there is still water lying in the fields. The two week break has allowed us to at least get the bulk of the fall work done – the paddocks are clean, the manure is out, and most of the feed is in the yard, just in time to bring the cattle home to their pre-calving winter quarters. It is always a great feeling to have ‘the necessities’ of fall work done before winter arrives in force.
It will be a different December for us this year – after selecting from our calf crop and evaluating the cow herd, we have decided not to sell bred heifers this year. A 75% bull calf ratio in 2015, meant we only retained 6 heifers of our own and, while we did augment that number with a few purchases last fall, we felt like we would only weaken our herd if selections were made for Fleckvieh Equation. The good news is that a year off with no prep-work will allow us to relax and take in the fall sales as buyers only, as we continue to look to diversify and augment the quality of our cow herd.
We are quite happy with the group of heifer calves we have retained (in sufficient numbers that it appears certain we will only have a one year hiatus from Equation). After a really strong FGAF WowEffect bull calf group in 2015, he turned his attention to a really neat heifer group for this year, leaving us with multiple stand-out daughters. We liked the ‘Wow’ offspring so much that we successfully acquired the walking rights to him for 2016 – you will see plenty more of the ‘WowEffect’ in the future. The bull calf group is also steadily putting on the pounds. We are only wintering 4 bulls for the Red Deer Bull Sale this year, but they continue to showcase our herd philosophy – moderate framed, maternally focused bulls that show a balance of calving ease and strong performance. It is early yet, but we are quite happy with the overall quality of our 2016 calf crop.
With fall sale season upon us, we look forward to a steady diet of fabulous discussions with fellow breeders, and the inspection of plenty of top quality genetics, which are sure to make for some difficult decisions (and hopefully a fair bit of luck that the chosen animals are available at the right price point).
We look forward to visiting at the sales,
2016 Red Deer Simmental Bull Sale Report
A gorgeous week-end with sunny skies formed an appropriate prelude to the 2016 Edition of Transcon’s Red Deer Simmental Bull Sale on Monday March 21st, where a very strong set of Simmental Genetics were presented to an enthusiastic group of commercial and purebred cattlemen.
The excellent selection of quality bulls from both purebred and traditional Simmental breeders led the sale to maintain the strong results achieved in 2015. 62 bulls sold with an average of $6 859, an increase of $100 over last year.
Sale highlights included another great lead-off string from Starwest Farms, who provided the high seller with lot 31 Starwest Pol Combine, an impressive heavyweight that combined their top Fleckvieh and purebred genetics. For the second consecutive year, the renowned JNR program brought 4 of the top bulls to town – averaging a very consistent $12,625. On the purebred side, new consigners Red Top Livestock also had a very exciting debut – their top two bulls averaged $16,000, and they had a very impressive overall line-up.
The Applecross bulls continued to be well received. Some highlights are as follows:
- Our high-sellers on the day were two WowEffect sons, as both APLX Warner 5C and APLX Waylon 8C were selected for $8,000. Waylon is now at work in the legendary Eagle Ridge herd, under the close eye of Danny and Loretta Blain. Warner is headed north to Kaitlyn Matters and 4 Matt Simmentals at Vermillion
- Gordon Leslie ‘swept the page’ and purchased all three of our more moderate calving ease bulls that were lots 68-70. APLX Phoenix, APLX Reno and APLX Cairo will all be making their home near Leslieville, AB.
- In total, 7 of our bulls found homes within 30 minutes of Applecross, so we look forward to being able to keep a close eye on their progeny.
We would like to thank all the bidders and cattlemen who took the time to inquire and inspect the bulls we had on offer. With our larger numbers this year, we experienced a tremendous amount of interest – both in visiting with us on-farm prior to the sale and then through the pens on sale week-end itself. We felt our bull string really showcased our breeding philosophy, so it is very gratifying to see their acceptance in the industry.
Once again we also thank Transcon for all of the work that they do working the phones and managing the sale. Jay Good and his team always put on a first class, professional event that we are proud to take part in.
With bull sale season wrapped up, our attention turns to breeding season, and our never-ending quest to provide new, better and different genetics to share with the industry.
2016 Red Deer Simmental Bull Sale: Our Deepest and Most Diverse Bull String Yet
We are pleased to present nine herd bull prospects at Transcon’s 2016 Red Deer Simmental Bull Sale on Monday, March 21st at 1:00pm at Westerner Park, Red Deer, Alberta. This is our sixth year at this event, and we are proud to be included in the strong offering that is always presented by this progressive group of breeders.
We are proud to say that our 2016 offering will be our deepest and most diverse bull string yet – clearly showcasing our breeding philosophy. We firmly believe that the future will bring an increased herd size on the same amount of available labour. This means that with less labour available on a per cow basis, birth weights will come down to improve calving ease, and that gradually more and more horns will be bred off the cattle. We have moved slowly to incorporate the polled gene into our herd, as our goal is to try and accomplish this while maintaining the strong performance and mothering ability the Simmental breed is known for. In a market that suggests the North American cow-herd is (at long last) expanding, we think our bulls on offer all provide the maternal characteristics that will produce tremendous replacement females.
Individual pages (short-cut links are located in the right-hand column) have been created for all nine of our bulls on offer.
At the top of the pen are the first sons to be offered at auction from FGAF WowEffect, an exciting young sire selected by (my father) Ross Small of Dora Lee Genetics as his pick of the Gagnon 2013 bull calves at their September production sale that year. We were successful in obtaining an exclusive interest in the bull, and these first WowEffect calves are really impressive. ‘Warner’, ‘Waylon’, ‘Windsor’ and ‘Watson’ all come loaded with hair and are heavily pigmented. The bulls showcase plenty of power while maintaining moderate birth weights and we are very excited to see what they will bring to the industry.
The ‘Wow’ sons are joined by 5 other polled herd sire prospects, out of some of our foundation cow families. The youngest bulls in our offering, ‘Sawyer’ and ‘Eastwood’ are sired by APLX Sampson and APLX Escalade respectively, whose daughters were very well received at the recent 2015 Fleckvieh Equation sale. ‘Phoenix’ is a really intriguing son by Dora Lee’s Platinum – another exclusive pedigreed sire developed in Ontario. Rounding out our bull pen are two bulls that bring highly maternal packages to the table; both are out of first calf heifers. ‘Reno’ is a Radium son by a Bronson/Arnold’s Image dam, while ‘Cairo’ combines the calving ease of Sanmar Pol Pharao with Gidsco Appollo and Sunny Valley Sargeant.
We want to ensure our bulls will work for many years, so feet, legs and temperament are very important traits for us. The bulls are housed in a 5 acre paddock to ensure lots of exercise, and have been developed on a ration of free-choice quality first cut hay, combined with a forage based pellet by Country Junction. All nice bulls are quiet and used to being around people. We like working and walking through docile cattle, and feel the herd bull should be no exception.
On the individual pages, we have also pictured the sires, dams and grand dams. Maternal lines are very important to us, and we feel that behind every great bull is an outstanding cow family. 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 2016 Red Deer Simmental Bull Sale promises to be another exciting event. We look forward to a great day on March 21th at Westerner Park
2015 Fleckvieh Equation Sale Report
Transcon’s Fleckvieh Equation Fullblood Simmental Sale wrapped up the Alberta Simmental Week-end with a bang on Sunday, December 20th. Sunny skies and a standing room only crowd watched as 70 lots of Fleckvieh genetics rolled through the ring to average just shy of $9,200.
In what is becoming a sale tradition, 6 heifers from the impressively deep Beechinor Brothers string led off the sale with 4 of the first 6 heifers topping the $20,000 threshold. The highseller was Lot 4, a massively volumed daughter out of the outcross Great Guns TX Mac bull.
After a very successful 2014, the number of herd bulls on offer at Equation continued to expand, with no decline in quality. The lead bull was once again from the renowned JNR program, who presented TITANIUM to the industry, and who in turn sold for $54,000 to Black Gold Simmental and Beechinor Brothers.
Not to be outdone, the selection of heifer calves on offer was the strongest it has been in years. The high seller was Lot 45, an impressive open from Jayshaw Simmentals, that was acquired by Anchor D Ranch / Dan & Karen Skeels for $10,500.
Our six Applecross heifers were very well received, with our high seller, Applecross Candice, being selected by Sunville Simmentals, McCreary MB for $11,750. Applecross Tessanne ($10,000) is also changing provinces, joining Brett Keet’s polled program in Dalmeny SK, and we are quite excited to have Applecross Pearl ($9,000) join the highly regarded Eagle Ridge operation here in Alberta. ‘Carly’, ‘Gabrielle’ and ‘Emerald’ also found great homes in Central Alberta, and it is great that they will be close by for us to keep an eye on.
In addition to the above noted high-sellers, I thought we would share some additional thoughts on the 2015 Edition of Fleckvieh Equation:
– we cannot say enough about how impressive the Beechinor bred heifer string was. 8 lots representing 7 different sire groups averaged an awesome $17,280; which amazingly topped their $15,780 average on 8 breds a year ago. Sustained fantastic results for a great family, which only showcases the depth of their program.
– The Big Sky offering was also quite notable. Ever since they started bringing cattle from Manitoba to the first National Trust event, we have kept a close eye on their program, and it was great to see their very deep string have a great day – their 5 Fleckvieh bred heifers averaged just shy of $13,000. We were fortunate enough to bring one (lot 38) home to Applecross, and are quite happy to now have the ‘Big Sky’ prefix walking here.
– Bring back the Bulls! After re-introducing a couple of herd bulls at Equation in 2014, the prices on the 6 Fleckvieh bulls offered in 2015 were very impressive. Even after excluding the $54,000 high seller, the remaining 5 bulls averaged $11,400 – outstanding results for a number of great breeders, and hopefully just a hint of good things to come as we move deeper into bull sale season.
– We were also successful in acquiring lot 63, Parview Ms Rayen to add to our open heifer pen. We have always been impressed with the Bar None Bernadette cow family, and had followed the genetics from Big Sky to Virginia Ranch and then jumped at the opportunity to select this female from Brad Parker. An outcross pedigree for us, with the intriguing JB CDN Windwalker as a sire, gives us plenty of options for this fine little lady.
We would be remiss not 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. I don’t think I have ever seen them as busy as they were this week-end – there was tremendous interest in the cattle, and all of the sales staff were consistently on the phone while inspecting cattle for prospective buyers.
It was another great day to present Applecross cattle at auction, and we are honoured by the compliments received on our cattle from all the bidders and buyers that took interest in our program. With 2016 just starting up, we look forward to calving season and another step in that ongoing effort to produce high-quality genetics that we can share with the industry.
Applecross Presents our 2015 Fleckvieh Equation Females
We are pleased to present six bred heifers at Transcon’s 2015 Fleckvieh Equation Sale on December 20th, at 1pm at Westerner Park, Red Deer, Alberta. This will be our third year selling females at this prestigious event, and we are proud to be part of this progressive group of breeders.
All six of this year’s bred heifers are sired by our two senior walking bulls, APLX Escalade and APLX Samson. Although, it can be a challenge in maintaining genetic diversity when utilizing bulls that carry your own prefix, advantages can be found in having detailed knowledge of the respective cow families. As mentioned many times in the past, cow families are important to us and, for both of these herd sires, we have almost 25 years of experience working with their genetic lines. We feel this approach adds a lot of consistency to our program.
The three Escalade heifers – ‘Tessanne’, ‘Emerald’, and ‘Pearl’- represent three very different cow families that have blended together to form an intriguing group. ‘Emerald’ is from the Dora Lee Elexis cow family and looks very similar to Applecross Emma that was our high seller in last year’s Equation Sale – not a surprise when they are closely related on both sides of their pedigrees! ‘Pearl’ is a direct daughter of Spruceburn Pauline, a powerful Painter cow that has a little more frame than her pen mates. And finally, ‘Tessanne’ is the only polled heifer we have in our offering, going back to the HEMR Tasha cow family that has been very successful for us. Together, these 3 Escalade daughters provide great examples of the kind of offspring he is creating for us.
As you would expect from a star-headed sire, Samson’s three daughters are all dark red and heavily pigmented. From a cow-family perspective, it is now Dora Lee Christina’s turn to shine in the spotlight. Having sired two sons (and a grandson) working in purebred herds, it great to finally be able to showcase her cow-making ability in daughter ‘Candice’ and grand-daughter ‘Carly’. The third Samson daughter, ‘Gabrielle,’ is also out of a Dora Lee dam – and yields an intriguing combination of Arnold’s Image and Sim Roc C&B Western. When you see these three in a pen together on sale day, you will notice the great daughters Samson is leaving us.
Individual pages (short-cut links are on the right), have been created for each of ‘Tessanne’, ‘Pearl’, ‘Emerald’, ‘Candice’, ‘Carly’ and ‘Gabrielle’. On the individual pages, we have also pictured their sires, dams and siblings – hopefully, sharing pictures will provide a better glimpse into the extended pedigree.
The heifers have all been tie-broke and have quiet temperaments. We preg-checked in mid-October, and the vet feels that all six are safe to early breeding dates – if not AI, then only 3 weeks later.
The Heifers are also vaccinated with ViraShield and Covexin Plus. They will be treated with Dectomax and given Scourguard prior to sale day.
The 2015 Fleckvieh Equation promises to be another exciting event. We look forward to a great day on December 20th at Westerner Park.
2015 September Update
This past week-end it was time to process cattle. We pulled hair for genetic testing, took weaning weights, tattooed and started the quiet wean processing for all of our 2015 calves, and then vaccinated every animal on the farm. We had noticed that our weaning weights had declined the past couple of years – so we consciously made some changes to our management program this year. Considering the challenging year for pasture conditions, we were quite pleased with the weaning weights, as the bull calf group all weaned off between 720lbs and 920lbs – right where I think they should be – especially after the weights for the younger bulls get adjusted for age. As I think about what made this year ‘successful’, I took time to reflect on some of the management changes we made for 2015 and tried to determine which decisions made the difference.
One of the thoughts I had on our declining performance, was that maybe our stocking rates had got too high, leading to the decrease in weights both at weaning and on sale day. As our cow herd had been in growth mode since its inception 9 years ago, I thought that maybe our numbers had outgrown our pasture. So last fall, we took advantage of strong cattle prices and culled hard – we sent 1/3 of our cow herd to market. While this will be partially offset by a large group of bred heifers coming in to replace them this fall, we thought the overall reduction in numbers would significantly help our pastures while also strengthen the quality of our cow herd.
I also made sure we had sufficient feed so that we could delay turnout an extra week this spring. Growing up in Ontario, we always turned cows out May long week-end, but our later start to spring in Alberta has made an adjustment in this area a necessity. We had traditionally pushed it back a bit, but this year we ensured we gave it that extra week – which turned to a no-brainer when faced with the combination of lack of moisture with sufficient feed on hand. While I hated to see the cows stuck in paddocks another week (and based on the vocal audience I had when fixing fence this spring, I know they did, too), I think delaying the start of grazing until the pasture was more established was the right decision.
As I have blogged before, we actively rotationally graze, and in 2014 we ‘finished’ (fencing is never done) creating the final paddocks on our home quarter. We now have separate rotations for each of our three groups – bred heifers, cows with bull calves, and cows with heifer calves. The groups are moved every 5 or 6 days and the research suggests that the grass quality and quantity will gradually improve over time. As we have installed and implemented our grazing program on a gradual basis over the past six years, it is difficult to ‘see’ immediate improvement, but from a long term perspective, we should have healthier, more productive grass. And it is nice to be ‘done’ stringing wire creating paddocks at home.
It has been well documented that growing conditions have been a challenge in Alberta this year. We had virtually no moisture from mid-May to mid July, which led pastures to suffer and provided limited re-growth. August, in what is usually a dry month, has been wet, with our soil often becoming saturated. As harvest starts around us, the grass we do have is still green, and (despite an early frost) we hope it will stay that way deep into September.
Notwithstanding of this year’s drought, we have been fortunate on the pasture front – as we were successful in purchasing the adjoining grass quarter in July. While we didn’t get a full year of usage, being able to add it to our rotation certainly eased the pressure on our home quarter, and should allow us to pasture the cows (dependant on snowfall) right through to December. There has been a lot more wire to string as we try to implement a rotational grazing program ‘on the fly’, and I am cognizant to keep future stocking rates in my mind as we determine how best to utilize the additional grass, but it has truly been a blessing to be able to acquire the land next door for years to come. The purchase wasn’t exactly planned for, but was one we were prepared for, which create a great outlet valve to release grazing pressure the weather had otherwise produced on our home quarter.
Another management decision we made was to gradually introduce a transition creep ration to the bull calf group. We have historically been hesitant to creep feed, both from a desire to ensure the dams are measured on their individual milking ability, but also from a logistical perspective in trying to control their intake while the cattle are managed within a rotational grazing system. When touring around a number of herds, we had discussed the pros/cons of feeding creep with fellow breeders, with it being unanimous that getting bull calves on at least partial feed prior to the start of weaning substantially eased the transition. The logistics came together at our place thanks to one thing: water. We are firm believers in the importance of maintaining water quality for each of the cow groups, and have gradually fenced the cows out of all the slough areas on the farm. The well water source for the bull calf group is in the yard, so no matter what paddock they are in, they need to come up to the yard for water and mineral. Recognizing this, we were able to create a creep area that allowed for controlled feeding. Starting mid-July, the group were pail fed roughly 1 lb of formulated pellet per day, increasing to 2 lbs Aug 1, and 3 lbs for the past 2 weeks. While the big calves in the group can boss their way around and eat a little more, we did ensure there was enough bunk space for all of them. It isn’t much supplement, as we still wanted them to do as much ‘work’ as possible on their respective dams, but we are hopeful that the new transition strategy will pay off. This test is still to come, as hopefully with the quiet weans in, the switch to a diet of pellets and hay will be substantially easier, and they will continue to gain weight as they adapt to the different diet.
The final thing that changed in 2015 was the use of some different genetics. From a breeding philosophy perspective, our program is focused on moderating birth weights while trying to maintain the legendary performance Fleckvieh is known for. We are also gradually introducing the polled gene to our herd. We have used various combinations and permutations of genetics we like over the last number of years, without significant variance, but are always looking to incorporate different genetics that meet those breeding objectives. 2015 saw the first calves born from FGAF WowEffect, the exciting new sire that Dad selected for Dora Lee as his choice of the Gagnon bull calves back in 2013. We were drawn to the JB Kananaskis cow family when we saw her at the Hiemstra dispersal, so it was exciting for us to obtain an exclusive semen interest on a son. ‘Wow’s’ EPDs were certainly impressive, and while backed by a power dam, his 92lb birth weight, made him an ideal fit for our herd (at least on paper). In order to get an idea of what he could produce, we took the opportunity to utilize him on a cross section of different (but all proven) cow families. We have not been disappointed. The ‘Wow’ calves weaned off at the top of their respective groups, and are easily identifiable in the pasture. While their BWs do vary (as they should) along with the size of their dam, their performance has been consistent across the board. The early look suggested we breed a larger group back to him this year, so we are anticipating a bigger, even more diverse group of calves in 2016.
So with processing done, and the results of the summer now measured and down on paper, the question I posed at the top remains – we are happy with our results – but which management decisions made the difference? I think the answer is twofold: planning/preparing and balancing short/long term decisions. We knew our pastures were getting abused, so we proactively cut numbers and extended our feeding season before turnout. We didn’t plan on acquiring more land or to suffer through 2 months of drought, but we were prepared if it happened, and could adapt accordingly. And finally – improving rotational grazing or introducing new genetics aren’t a one year fix, but hopefully will provide extended benefits over time. Given our industry’s reliance on weather, I think having a lot of different levers that can be utilized to adjust on the fly, that can be shifted based on what nature gives you each year, may be the solution. And as far as what next year might bring, I don’t think purebred breeders are ever satisfied (our whole reason for being revolves around improvement), so I am sure our management program will continue to evolve and adapt dependant on what each year brings.
Before closing, I did want to provide an update on our upcoming marketing plans. With an almost 3:1 bull to heifer calf ratio in 2015, we currently have our largest, deepest and most diverse group of herd bull prospects in development. We are wintering 9 bull calves (8 polled), that include some really neat individuals (including 4 WowEffect sons) that we are really excited about. More information and pictures will be provided as they develop this winter. On the female front, we have a bumper bred heifer group, from which we plan on selecting 6 for Fleckvieh Equation in December. The downside of 3:1 bull calves is that our heifer calves are down in numbers – but this also presents an opportunity to potentially acquire some outcross genetics via purebred sales over the next year.
You deal with the hand nature deals you, but hopefully we have enough management levers we can utilize to give us the results we are after.
Until next time,
2015 Red Deer Simmental Bull Sale Report
After a snowy week-end, sunny skies and mild weather welcomed the 2015 Edition of Transcon’s Red Deer Simmental Bull Sale on Monday, March 23rd, where a very strong group of Simmental Genetics were presented to an enthusiastic group of commercial and purebred cattlemen.
The record cattle prices were reflected in both an increased number of bulls in the sale, as well as much stronger prices. Almost 70 bulls sold averaging $6,753, which was a substantial increase over the 50 and $4,800 from a year previous.
Sale highlights included a very strong lead-off string from Starwest Farms, which included the high-selling Lot 31 “Starwest Bryck” for $33,000 to Black Gold Simmentals. The renowned JNR program also brought a great set of 4 bulls to Red Deer this year – that averaged more than $10,000 each.
Applecross bulls continued to be well received:
The legendary Virginia Ranch program selected APLX Clancy for $9,500. Harry and Michelle Satchwell are no stranger to Clancy’s genetics, and we are honoured to have a bull working in their program. We look forward to seeing Clancy’s progeny in future Western Harvest and Bull Spectrum Sales; not too far from home
Bruce and Marie Eisenbarth from Lacombe selected APLX Encore for $9,000. Bruce looks forward to crossing the tremendous length of Encore on his commercial herd.
We would like to thank all the bidders and the cattlemen who took the time to inspect the bulls we had on offer. Pen traffic has never been brisker. It is our goal to bring a set of bulls to town every year that showcase what our breeding philosophy is all about. We feel we accomplished this objective in 2015, and it is reassuring for us as producers when long time purebred and commercial cattlemen express interest (and are successful) in acquiring our genetics
We would be remiss if we didn’t also recognize the job that Transcon does in working the phones for bids, and managing the Red Deer Bull Sale. Jay Good and his team always put on a first-class event that we are proud to take part in.
With calving done, and our bull sale now behind us, our attention switches to breeding season and our never-ending goal of developing new, better and different genetics to share with the industry.
Our Entries to Transcon’s 2015 Red Deer Simmental Bull Sale
We are pleased to present four herd bull prospects at Transcon’s 2015 Red Deer Simmental Bull Sale on Monday, March 23rd at 1:00pm at Westerner Park, Red Deer, Alberta. This is our fifth year at this event, and we are proud to be included in the strong offering that is always presented by this progressive group of breeders.
Our 2015 offering continues to showcase our breeding philosophy. We firmly believe that the future will bring an increased herd size on the same amount of available labour. This means that with less labour available on a per cow basis, birth weights will come down to improve calving ease, and that gradually more and more horns will be bred off the cattle. Our goal is to try and accomplish this while maintaining the strong performance and mothering ability the Simmental breed is known for. In a market that suggests the North American cow-herd is (at long last) expanding, we think our bulls on offer all provide the maternal characteristics that will produce awesome replacement females.
Individual pages (short-cut links are located in the right-hand column) have been created for our four bulls on offer: ‘Clancy’, ‘Encore’, ‘Boston’ and ‘Stirling’.
At the top of the pen is Clancy – a well-made Canyon son from Virgina Ms Zillow, the high selling Fullblood at the 2013 Cow-A-Rama Sale. Heavily pigmented and cherry red to his hooves, Clancy packs a punch while also strutting out with style. With two generations of calving ease stacked in his pedigree, we have been very impressed with the thickness and depth Clancy has developed.
Our second bull, ‘Encore,’ is this years’ standout Dora Lee’s Equinox son. This is the fifth year in a row that an Equinox son has topped our performance tables. We may be biased, but we believe Equinox to be the best homozygous Fleckvieh bull available. Like his sire, Encore showcases the tremendous volume and length of spine that Equinox is known for.
‘Boston’ has the most frame of our bulls on offer, and has developed a massive square hip that extends well down his leg. A direct Bronson son, Boston is out of a very moderate dam who puts everything into her calves – she also produced our high-selling heifer at the 2014 Fleckvieh Equation sale. Boston will be fully filled out at sale day, and we expect him to be very impressive.
The last bull in our offering is ‘Stirling’ who, while almost a month younger than his pen-mates, has kept up with the big boys all winter. A unique, double polled package comes together in this cherry-red, heavily pigmented bull.
We want to ensure our bulls will work for many years, so feet, legs and temperament are very important traits for us. The bulls are housed in a 5 acre paddock to ensure lots of exercise, and have been developed on a ration of free-choice quality first cut hay, combined with a forage based pellet by Country Junction. All four bulls are quiet and have been tie-broke. We like working and walking through docile cattle, and feel the herd bull should be no exception. All four bulls have also been tested free of the diluter gene via Igenity.
On the individual pages, we have also pictured the sires, dams and grand dams (Boston’s page in particular has 6 generations of the cow-family pictured). Maternal lines are very important to us, and we feel that behind every great bull is an outstanding cow family. 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 2015 Red Deer Simmental Bull Sale promises to be another exciting event. We look forward to a great day on March 23th at Westerner Park
2014 Fleckvieh Equation Sale Report
The 2014 Alberta Simmental Week-end wrapped up with a bang on Sunday December 22nd, with Transcon’s Fleckvieh Equation Sale placing the exclamation point on an amazing week-end for the Simmental industry.
Unseasonably mild temperatures, combined with a record cattle market and very deep set of cattle, led to the largest crowd in attendance for quite a number of years. The sale was led off by the first four lots (lots 2-5) from the high-end Beechinor Brothers string, which averaged an incredible $19,000. Their group was highlighted by Lot 5, a Radium x Viper bred heifer carrying a BRINKS BULLETPROOF pregnancy, that sold for $31,000 to Starwest Farms of BC. Overall, the first string of 13 bred heifers showcased the incredible depth to the sale, averaging just under $14,000.
For the first time in a few years, two elite herd sire prospects were put on offer. JNR brought two burly rascals to town; JNR’s Philosophy sold to Crossroad Farms for $40,000 and JNR’s Warrior sold to Ricochet Stock Farms for $11,500.
Our five Applecross Females were all in the second group of bred heifers to move through the ring. Dora Lee Eclipse continues to get it done for us, as his two daughters led off our string, with Applecross Emma being selected for $9,000 (our high seller) by the Beechinor Brothers of Bentley, and her running mate, Applecross Alicia ($6,100) is slated to join the polled program of Brooks Simmentals from Turtleford, SK. O Double E Simmentals from Grande Prairie purchased Applecross Whitney for $6,750; Applecross Rhianna was acquired by Riley Edwards, Skywest Simmentals, from Didsbury for $6,700. We were especially pleased to see repeat customer, Barney Beechinor (who is currently walking APLX Edge in the renowned 400-cow-strong Beechinor commercial herd), select Applecross Glory for $6,000. Overall, it was a tremendous day in Red Deer on December 21st. Once again Transcon put on a tremendous event – working the phones and showcasing the cattle to ensure a top quality, well managed sale.
It was a great day to present Applecross genetics for auction, and we were humbled and honoured by the amount of interest we had in our program. With 2015 just around the corner, we look forward to the start to calving season, and another step in that ongoing effort to produce high-quality genetics that we can share with the industry
Applecross Cattle Present our 2014 Equation Females
We are pleased to present five bred heifers at Transcon’s 2014 Fleckvieh Equation Sale on December 21th, at 1pm at Westerner Park, Red Deer, Alberta. After an exciting debut in 2013, we are proud to once again be part of this prestigious event.
Our 2014 sale string really showcases the genetics that form the core of our walking group. Cow families are very important to us, and as such we have taken a slow approach to building our herd. This way, the maternal lines can develop, and we can watch and compare as the younger generations work alongside their matriarchs.
Progeny from three of our founding cow families will be represented for the first time – Applecross Emma is a barrel of an Eclipse daughter tracing back to the Dora Lee Evangaline (Sim Roc C&B Western) cow family; Applecross Glory is a very feminine Anchor T Ikon daughter going back to the Dora Lee Gretchen (Arnold’s Image) cow family; Applecross Rhianna is a dark red, heavily pigmented Bronson daughter, out of our Dora Lee Jewel (Rangemore Carrousel) cow family. Not to be outshone by their running mates, we are also offering Applecross Alicia who represents progeny from the JB CDN Amethyst cow family, as well as Applecross Whitney, who is descended from the master breeders at Brock Ranches. All five heifers are solid coloured with moderate frames, yet tons of volume – exactly the types of females we think will turn into awesome cows.
Individual pages (short-cut links are on the right), have been created for each of ‘Rhianna’, ‘Emma’, ‘Alicia’, ‘Glory’ and ‘Whitney’. The heifers have all been tie-broke and have quiet temperaments. We preg-checked in late October, and the vet feels that all five are safe to their AI breeding. With a later sale date this year, we do expect all five to be very heavy in calf, and should any purchasers be from out-of-province, we would be happy to bring them back to Applecross and calve them out. The Heifers are also vaccinated with ViraShield Gold and Covexin Plus. They will be treated with Scour-Guard prior to sale day. On the individual pages, we have also pictured their sires, dams and siblings. Maternal lies are very important to us, and we feel that behind each outstanding female, is an outstanding cow family. As some people prefer paper copies, we also have individual heifer profiles 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 2014 Fleckvieh Equation promises to be another exciting event. We look forward to a great day on December 21th at Westerner Park.
One of the perks (or drawbacks, depending on your perspective) of my off farm profession, is that I get to spend a lot of time listening to presentations about new leadership techniques that suggest different approaches to people management. While these presentations can often be a little dry, (and since my mind tends to wander towards our cattle operation anyways), one of the things I like to do is see whether these ‘business management theories’ can relate back to how we operate our farm.
One suggestion that we heard about this spring, was the 20/60/20 Concept. It turned out to be an idea that I thought could be readily applied to the cow herd.
The idea of 20/60/20 is fairly straight forward:
20% of the people you manage (or coach) are self starters, and always do what is needed to be done
60% of the people generally do what need to be done, but need to be reminded, coached or encouraged in order for them to reach their full potential.
20% of the people are consistently poor performers and often become time sinks, with improvement only ever occasionally happening.
The challenge to coaching this diverse group of people is that our tendencies are to spend all of our time coaching and working with the top 20% and bottom 20%, while spending very little time with the middle. The reality is, that from a performance improvement perspective, changing the management focus from the 20’s on either end to that 60% in the middle, is where you will generate the biggest improvement in overall team results. By coaching that 60% in the middle, and ensuring that they are successful, you will provide a much broader base of success for the entire group.
I think it is only human nature that as ranchers, we like to focus on our top end cows or that top 20%. These are the ones that often get flushed, and we spend hours trying to decide the perfect mating to cross. These cows have pictures on our phones. They anchor our program, are highly visible and often produce those high sellers in our bull sale. They get the attention, other breeders follow their cow families, and we often get interest from other parts of the country. They are truly elite individuals. The other perspective about them though, is that they are so strong and such powerful individuals, that at breeding time you could close your eyes, pick a straw out of the tank at random, and she would still have a top-end calf. This brings to mind one of the great lines that dad has always used growing up. When describing some of our top cows, he would often say: “she could be bred to a billy-goat and still have a great calf”. So if these strong individuals are ‘foolproof’, and will have a good calf regardless, despite how much fun they are, maybe we should instead be focusing on other areas of the cow herd.
The 20% at the bottom of the herd also stick out. They are the ones that you always find yourself making excuses for (“we kept her around for a recip, but she bred back to the bull; commercial prices are good, so now we’ll keep her another year…”) or keeping because she has that one good trait (polled, outcross) that you are hoping she’ll pass along to a (better) next generation, while hoping all those traits you don’t like will magically disappear. The challenge is that these bottom end cows also take up a lot of time. Trying to find that awesome bull to make them better, working with them to be a recip, or even just treating cows for bad feet on a regular basis, all tend to use up precious management hours that could better be utilized elsewhere.
Every fall, we also make a list ranking our cow herd; sorted by age and what they have produced – both sold and retained. At the bottom of the ranking is a simple question: If I had to ship 5%, 10% or 20% of the herd tomorrow, who would go?
Perhaps counter-intuitively, I think that with the current cattle market prices, this question of who (and how many) should go to town this fall is more important than ever. It always seems that herds get culled hard during low cattle prices, and then tend to expand while prices are strong. I hope to work this the other way – we were fortunate enough to be able to expand during a period of weak prices, so now that prices are strong, we can do a thorough cull of the cow herd. We should get paid adequately in the meat ring; with stocker prices where they are at, keeping fewer bulls and replacement heifers around this fall should also tighten up the quality of our sales strings. In my mind, strong prices are the perfect time to cull.
That leaves the 60% in the middle, that I think often get overlooked. These are the good, trouble-free cows that tend to float under the radar when fantasizing about the potential of a stud bull calf on the top end, or explaining away the poor performance of a (probably steered) calf at the bottom. These 60% in the middle are the ones who produce the offspring to fill out the bull sale string after the first cut has sold and, in reality, are probably where most of the money can be made. I think that by shifting focus away from the top end cows, focusing on improving the middle of the cow herd, and ensuring they get bred right, may provide greater return over the long run. Don’t get me wrong – high sellers are great – and provide a fair bit of promotion in their own right – but improving the middle 60% of the cow herd should result in a stronger, more consistent sales string from top to bottom. From a consistent profit perspective, I believe it is just as important to get the last animal through the sales ring sold for a fair dollar, as it is the lead lot. The added attention to the middle 60% should pay dividends down the road.
I think the middle 60% of the cow herd can also provide future top end genetics. If we are doing our job with genetic improvement; each generation of cattle should be better than the previous one. A great example of this might be some of the younger cows in the cow herd, that don’t produce quite the same as the older cows in the group simply because they get bossed around and are lower in the pecking order when it comes to feed bunk space. The younger cows are also at a distinct disadvantage when measuring eye appeal while on grass – they just don’t have the volume that cows develop as they hit their prime at ages six or seven, and thus may not stand out during the pasture tour. I think there may be an opportunity to consciously take a closer look at these younger cows, (as well as some of the others that may be overlooked), and focus on trying to move them from ‘good’ to ‘great’; a task that should be substantially easier than trying to move that bottom 20% from ‘ok’ to “awesome’.
So for this past breeding season, I made a determined effort to focus on the ‘middle’ of the cow herd. I will always have my favourites at the top of the herd, and (assuming Jeanne and I both agree on a list) we have a plan in place to clean up the bottom, once weaning is done in September. I am hopeful that the increase in attention to the 60% will lead to an improvement in the quality of our entire program. . . . a larger, more consistent bull string, and potentially more top end genetics down the road.
2014 Red Deer Simmental Bull Sale Report
Sunny skies, and mild weather welcomed the 2014 edition of Transcon’s Red Deer Simmental Bull Sale on Monday March 17th, where a very strong group of Simmental genetics were presented to commercial and purebred cattlemen alike.
Almost 50 bulls were on offer, and averaged a very respectable $4,800. Sale highlights included a very impressive string of bulls from Starwest Farms of Chilliwack BC, who led off the sale with the $13,500 high seller going to Eagle Ridge Simmentals of Olds, Alberta, and had several other high sellers through-out the day.
We were quite happy with how our three Applecross bulls were received:
– Our high seller of the day was APLX Javar 18A, who sold for $8,000 to Troy Cerny / Diamond T Simmentals of Barrhead. We think Javar has tremendous potential, so it will be exciting to see what he does on the strong cows at Diamond T.
– APLX Bradshaw 20A was selected by the Letts Family / Bar None of Westlock for $6,200. We are excited to see our genetics go to work at such a legendary breeding program.
– Connie Crouch of Sundre selected APLX Elway 5A for $4,000 – Elway was our ‘heavyweight’ bull of the day, weighing in at 1565lbs.
We would like to thank all of our bidders and buyers for supporting our program. It is our goal to bring a set of bulls to town every year that showcase what our breeding philosophy is all about. We feel we accomplished this objective in 2014, and it is reassuring for us as producers when long time purebred and commercial cattlemen express interest (and are successful) in acquiring our genetics.
We would be remiss if we didn’t also recognize the job that Transcon does in working the phones for bids, and managing the Red Deer Bull Sale. Jay Good and his team always put on a first-class event that we are proud to be a part of.
With our bull sale now in the rear-view mirror, we look forward to the start of breeding season and our ongoing challenge of developing more and different genetics for future years.
Our Entries to Transcon’s 2014 Red Deer Simmental Bull Sale
We are pleased to present three herd bull prospects at Transcon’s 2014 Red Deer Simmental Bull Sale on March 17th at 1:00pm at Westerner Park, Red Deer, Alberta. This is our fourth year at this event, and we are proud to be included in the strong offering that is always presented by this progressive group of breeders.
This year’s group features the Dora Lee Christina cow family. Christina was one of the founding females we selected from Dora Lee (with daughter Caitlin at side) to form the core of our herd. She has two daughters working here, but is probably best known for being the dam of APLX Santana, the $11,000 bull selected by Vaughn Gibbons at Cow-A-Rama in 2011. Christina sends a Dora Lee Jake son to town this year – ‘Javar’ is a really intriguing dark red, heavily pigmented, moderate frame bull that has developed into a real head turner (and is pictured above). Her daughter Caitlin also has a neat bull on offer – ‘Bradshaw’ a dark red Bronson son, loaded with volume and style. We think you will be impressed with what this cow family has to offer.
Our third bull, ‘Elway,’ is this years’ standout smooth polled Dora Lee’s Equinox. Like his sire, Elway showcases the tremendous volume and length of spine that sire Equinox is known for. We may be biased, but we believe Equinox to be the best homozygous Fleckvieh bull available. Now with four calf crops on the ground, his daughters are also coming into production, suggesting that Equinox also excels as a cow maker.
Our 2014 offering also showcases a glimpse into our breeding philosophy. We firmly believe that the future will bring an increased herd size on the same amount of available labour. This means that with less labour available on a per cow basis, birth weights will come down to improve calving ease, and that gradually more and more horns will be bred off the cattle. Our goal is to try and accomplish this while maintaining the strong performance and mothering ability the Simmental breed is known for.
We also want to ensure our bulls will work for many years, so feet, legs and temperament are very important traits for us. The bulls are housed in a 5 acre paddock to ensure lots of exercise, and have been developed on a ration of free-choice quality first cut hay, combined with a forage based pellet by Country Junction. All three bulls are quiet and have been tie-broke. We like working and walking through docile cattle, and feel the herd bull should be no exception.
Individual pages (short-cut links are located in the right-hand column) have been created for ‘Javar’, ‘Bradshaw’, and ‘Elway’. Please note that all three of the bulls are later born (Jan 27-Feb 7) so they will be almost a month younger than a lot of their peers at the sale barn. The tightly grouped birth dates, and moderate birth weights (92-95lbs), should allow for ready appraisal of the different characteristics these three bulls possess. On the individual pages, we have also pictured the sires, dams and grand dams. Maternal lines are very important to us, and we feel that behind every great bull is an outstanding cow family. 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.
Transcon’s Fleckvieh Equation Fullblood Simmental Sale wrapped up on Sunday, December 15th, and overall we are quite pleased with how our first ever female sale turned out. Despite a prior-to-event setback, which resulted in Cassie withdrawing from the sale, Iris and Mariah carried the Applecross prefix very well.
A gorgeous, sunny December day meant a capacity crowd was on hand to see this triple header – 44 lots of fullbloods and 44 lots of purebred Simmentals were joined by a massive frozen genetic selection to create a unique genetic opportunity in a one day event. A pair of awesome bred heifers from Langer Fleckvieh of Edson, AB led off the sale with Prospect Hill earning the right to pick for $20,000. The Beechinor Brothers of Bentley followed that up by presenting a pair of donor caliber breds, the choice of which was also selected by Prospect Hill for $19,750. Our very own Applecross Iris was next in the ring, and sold for $7,500 to James Creek Simmentals of Heaton, North Dakota. We are quite pleased with the result, and will be calving out Iris prior to sending her to her new home. We are also quite happy that later on in the sale, Applecross Mariah was selected by Ashley Berkholtz of Berwest Simmentals at Bittern Lake for $4,800. Mariah is already at her new home, and we look forward to hopefully seeing some progeny at future Fleckvieh sales.
In addition to the above noted high-sellers, other Equation highlights include:
– Crossroad Farms selected a powerful bred heifer from Wolfe Fleckvieh for $12,000
– Keato Meadows sold choice of herd bull prospects to Jason Boone for $11,500
– Alliance Simmentals were successful bidders on an excellent bred heifer from BLI Simmentals for $11,000
We found it quite impressive that the nine high-selling lots came from 6 different programs, showcasing the tremendous depth and diversity of this Fleckvieh event. Including semen and embryos, this years’ Fleckvieh Equation Sale grossed just under $350,000 on 68 total lots, for an average of $5,147. We would be remiss not 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.
As this was our first time selling females to the public, we were both humbled and honored with the number of compliments our heifers received throughout the week-end from peers in the purebred industry. We strive to produce top quality cattle, and it is truly wonderful that both heifers landed in top quality programs where, hopefully, we will see their genetic influence down the road. With our first ever females now sold, we are currently enjoying a short break over the Christmas season, which will be followed directly by the onset of calving. Next years’ calf crop is just around the corner!
Applecross Cattle Present our First Three Females to Sell
We are pleased to present three bred heifers at Transcon’s 2013 Fleckvieh Equation Sale on December 15th, at 1pm at Westerner Park, Red Deer, Alberta. This will be our first time selling females to the public, and we are proud to be part of this prestigious event.
For our first year, we thought it important to showcase females with genetics that form the core of our herd. Applecross Mariah is a polled, moderate framed heifer out of a Wellhouse Kestrel dam and sired by Dora Lee Eclipse – A bull that has certainly left his mark on our program. Applecross Iris is a powerful Sanmar Polled Pharao daughter that cranks up the volume in an intriguing double polled package. The youngest heifer, Applecross Cassie, may represent the only opportunity to publicly purchase a Spruceburn Starfire daughter. All three heifers are dark red, heavily pigmented females with moderate frames yet tons of volume – exactly the types of females we think will turn into cow-makers. It is also no surprise that the two females from the Eclipse line are bred Pharao, and the other is a Pharao bred Eclipse. Good bulls that are more than just ‘heifer bulls’ are extremely hard to find, so when we find ones we like, it is no surprise they get crossed back on each other. We like predictability!
Individual pages (short-cut links are on the right), have been created for each of ‘Mariah’, ‘Iris’ and ‘Cassie’. The heifers have all been tie-broke and have quiet temperaments. We preg-checked in mid-October and the vet feels that all three are safe to their AI dates. The Heifers are also vaccinated with ViraShield 6 and Covexin Plus. They will be treated with Dectomax prior to sale day. On the individual pages, we have also pictured their sires, dams and siblings. Maternal lines are very important to us, and we feel that behind each outstanding female, is an outstanding cow family. As some people prefer paper copies, we also have individual heifer profiles 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 2013 Fleckvieh Equation promises to be another exciting event. We look forward to a great day on December 15th at Westerner Park.
Herdbull Section – Update
Over the past month we have managed to get a few updated pictures of APLX Escalade 9Y and APLX Samson 10Y, and have refreshed their individual pages in our Herdbook / Reference Sire section.
While we were very successful with our AI program in 2012, we did receive a few calves from Samson and Escalade. While limited in numbers, we are quite happy with the calves, and the bulls themselves have continued to develop their own promising characteristics as herd bulls. As a result, Escalade and Samson will make up our largest sire groups in 2014.
We finished breeding season on June 1st when our walking bulls were pulled and moved to their summer paddock. June 1st is earlier than usual for us, but we wanted to shorten our calving season up, and reduce the number of March calves. We were also successful in dividing our herd into three groups (AI and two herd bulls) for breeding season, which should allow for earlier natural service calves to compete directly with the AI group, without such an age discrepancy in future years.
There are both advantages and disadvantages to walking bulls carrying your own prefix. I think that one of the benefits is that you know the cow families, and their respective backgrounds very well. The down side of walking your own bulls, of course, is that you can back yourself into a genetic corner a few years down the road, once they have daughters working. While AI can certainly mitigate part of this, the easiest way to add new genetics is via an outcross walking bull. With these two herd bulls, and the capacity for three walking groups, we continue to search (365 Days of the Year) for those outcross genetics that will fit our myriad of criteria. In the interim, we are quite pleased with the job these two young bulls have done.
The Possibilities of Polled
I think that it is obvious to anyone who follows our program, that the polled gene forms part of our selection criteria. While we don’t breed for exclusively polled cattle, we do think that the future will include more and more polled cattle, both within our own herd and in the entire beef industry. The primary reasons for this are twofold: First, as herds get bigger, being able to genetically remove horns instead of having to physically complete the dehorning task saves considerable time. Secondly, the animal welfare concern about pain management throughout the dehorning process is also eliminated. While this may not seem like a ‘big deal’ impacting Canadian Agriculture at the present, a quick peek to Europe and their transformation towards polled cattle, combined with the precedent currently being set with the ‘farrowing crate’ issue in hog production, would suggest that Animal Welfare concerns do have the ability to change farm production methods.
With these two thoughts in mind, we were very fortunate to be involved with my parents operation and their introduction of the polled gene back in 1998. The rationale for introducing the polled gene was debated at length around the kitchen table, and projecting the future of the breed was discussed many times. The past 15 years have been an invaluable learning experience surrounding the polled gene, so it only made sense to continue to leverage that knowledge and genetic base into our own operation here at Applecross.
For us, having patience is probably the most difficult part of our polled program. A constant theme throughout this blog has been the time it takes to develop new genetics, and introducing the polled gene to a genetic base is certainly no exception. As we think that we are still in the formative years of introducing the polled gene to quality Fleckvieh cattle, we still try to breed the majority of our polled cows to the best horned genetics we can acquire. While there is only a 50% chance of polled offspring, we can be patient waiting for that successful cross. In this fashion, adding proven bloodlines improves the genetic consistency of our polled cattle, and utilizing the best in horned genetics also diversifies our genetic base.
Perhaps that is a larger part of the challenge with polled Fleckvieh – there have been some really awesome horned cattle over the past 20 years. It may sometimes be seen as a step backwards to add the polled gene to a herd, which may not have the depth of pedigree or consistency to the offspring when comparing to the best in horned genetics. When weaning time comes around, it has to be a pretty awesome polled calf to keep up with the best of the horned ones.
In some regards, I feel our work with polled genetics shares a number of similarities with the breeding of Red and Black Simmentals. When I look back at pictures from the Simmental Country magazines from the mid 1990’s and compare them to today’s purebred animals, there is a tremendous difference in phenotype. Red and Black genetics have certainly progressed a long way! In that way, maybe the purebred breeders had it easier – they dealt with removing the horns (and changing the colour) first, and then concentrated on making the quality better. With Fleckvieh cattle, the quality was already established.
One of the other reasons for moving slowly is that by keeping horned cattle beside our polled also ensures that we keep ourselves honest. Is your best polled heifer your best heifer? Is the top bull in your bull pen polled? Or is there work to do? How much work is there to do – is there a significant quality gap? We do try to evaluate and rank each calf crop; at weaning and again as yearlings. The point of the exercise is to not only place the calves, but also to evaluate the dams and sires. Obviously, even with selection criteria, a person can be a little biased, but I think it is very important to continually assess the quality of your cattle. The cattle industry is full of historic examples regarding the dangers of single trait selection, so keeping an ‘open mind’ about which ones are ‘the best’ is very important to ongoing genetic improvement.
I think that it is only once you get these top end animals that you can afford to start breeding polled back to polled, with the goal of developing different strains of Homozygous polled cattle over time. There are always exceptions to our own rules though – the majority of our AI ‘heifer bulls’ tend to be polled and, for the sake of getting that successful first calf, I’m more than happy to breed polled on polled. The challenge is ensuring that your top end animals are your best – not just because you hope them to be – but because they actually are.
In closing, I guess one of my goals is to, over time, change the status quo. The most constant refrain I still hear when breeders are in looking at a group of cattle is ‘pretty good . . . for polled’. Hopefully, if we do a good job of genetic improvement, that ‘polled’ disclaimer will disappear, and the cattle will just be known for their overall quality. That is the challenge of breeding cattle – making animals better – and something we look forward to accomplishing over time.
Circle of Awesome
One of the greatest perks of my day job as an Agricultural Finance Specialist is the opportunity to work with some really dynamic farm families over the years. I don’t think I have met a customer that I haven’t learned from! However, that being said, there are always those clients that you just ‘click’ with, and over time you develop a strong, trusting relationship. As a relationship grows, it changes from being simply fulfilling financial transactions (how much, how long, how cheap), to becoming a key advisor who is sought out for advice and counsel well before any major operational decision is made.
In this regard, agriculture has evolved. In the past, I think farmers predominantly relied on family to provide a lot of the advice and guidance. As farming has become more complex farmers still engage family, but also involve specialists in order to ensure they have a good understanding of the intricacies of any potential issue. As a result, one of the trends I have noticed among my best clients is that they tend to surround themselves with key advisors that they can talk to whenever they are looking at making a strategic change to their operation. This is where the specialists come in – whether they are professional (accountants and lawyers), production oriented (nutritionists and veterinarians) or personal (family, friends). On a combined basis, these key people form what I like to call a ‘circle of awesome’ around your operation. Why awesome? Simply because, if they weren’t really good at what they did, chances are they wouldn’t be key advisors in your circle
As you can see, Circles of Awesome tend to occur on multiple levels. The professional circle, made up of your lawyer, accountant and banker, are relied on for the ‘business’ side of your operation – managing tax issues, ensuring you are legally protected and arranging financing are all essential (if generally boring) parts of a successful operation. If done right these parts are invisible; if done poorly, they can each create substantial headaches for both the business and the owners. These are the professionals that can cost a fair bit of money in the short term, with the hope that they save you a lot of money in the future.
The operational circle tends to be more hands on – your nutritionist, veterinarian, mechanic and (in the purebred business) sale management team. These are the key people that help make your business tick. One of the biggest changes over the past 20 years is that a lot of industry people who previously only provided a service, are also now sales people. Most nutritionists now work for feed companies; vets make substantially more of their revenue on drugs than on farm calls; accountants have software and succession planning seminars to sell. In order to gain access to your circle of awesome, you need to feel comfortable that they aren’t going to sell you a product or service that doesn’t fit your needs, just to make that sale. That being said, you have to be aware that their time is valuable as well. The best relationships are formed on mutual trust and are mutually beneficial – they are only going to recommend the products and services that fit – you are going to understand that there is value in the services they provide and compensate them for the work they do. These operational experts are essential – and their impact on the day to day management of the operation requires a strong level of trust.
The final circle is one of family, friends and peers. As mentioned above, farmers have always relied on family for advice – and based on the unique dynamics of the industry I don’t think this will ever change – simply because the line between the business of farming and personal life is so blurred. Farmers live on the land, and tend to think about farming 24/7 – there is often very little separation between the ‘business of farming’ and the ‘life of farming’. As a result, friends and industry peers that form part of this circle also tend to think the same way. By surrounding yourself with like-minded people, there is a tremendous wealth of knowledge, a sounding board for ideas, and an understanding of similar challenges facing your farm. It is this circle that is there to help you up when there is a problem, and a steady shoulder to lean on during the challenging times that often face our cyclical industry. While the time and advice from the personal circle is often considered ‘free’, I think it is important to be aware of the implicit two-way street. Don’t ask them for time or input if you cannot return the favour when they ask the same of you. It can be extremely easy to take advantage of friends and family so it is very important to make sure that there is an eventual balancing in the relationship when they may also need a hand up.
Good relationships also have the strength to respectfully disagree, to have differences of opinion, and tactfully get their respective points across. There isn’t much value in having an advisor that is just going to agree with everything you say and tell you how great you are. That is what your spouse is for! But in all seriousness, the people that you want in your circle are people that are going to add value to your operation. While having a ‘yes-man’ around might make you feel good, it certainly doesn’t add any tangible value. The balance to this is that there always needs to be tact involved when disagreeing. Being able to have a constructive and open dialogue without getting argumentative is a tremendous skill. I guess the easiest way to describe it is simple: give the type of advice you would wish to get in return . . . be constructive in your criticism, and be equally generous with your compliments.
One of the challenges of building a ‘circle of awesome’ is that not only is the industry becoming more and more complex, but change is happening at a much quicker pace. In a lot of cases, farmers used to be able to get away with finding a single mentor that could be a go-to person for most of their advice and counsel. Now it is more important than ever to have a group of key advisors – you just never know when someone you rely on for advice decides to retire or relocate. It is always essential to have a back-up plan to ensure that a void doesn’t form in your circle of advisors.
In this regard, I think that Circles of Awesome can also relate back to building a stronger purebred cattle herd. It is often tempting to build a herd around one elite genetic line that has done well. While it is great to have that one foundation cow or herd bull that is renowned for the quality it produces, I think it is beneficial to ensure there continues to be diversity in your herd from a long range planning perspective. In order for commercial customers to become repeat buyers, they require diversity in their selections. Likewise for fellow purebred breeders kicking tires on genetics, they are always on the lookout for something different. From a herd management perspective, it also creates a built in succession plan – if you happen to lose a cow/calf/bull all your eggs aren’t in one basket. This process can be a major challenge for smaller producers like ourselves, where there just isn’t the capacity to run too many cows (or bulls). Our ability to maintain outcross strains is reduced, but diversity remains something that we try to continually focus on. In the long run, having a ‘constellation of stars’ (ideally unrelated) should create a deeper, more flexible herd that doesn’t rely on that one awesome superstar animal.
While it is important to have a group of people that you can count on for advice and counsel, it is equally important to remember that you as an individual are responsible for making that final decision. Advisors do just that: advise. While the issues may vary from being extremely complex (tax or estate planning) to the mundane (such as which AI sire to utilize), it is you as a farmer/business owner that not only gets to make the decision, but will also still be there to manage the consequences – no matter how they turn out. A great example of this is in the current lending environment – just because you can borrow additional funds, it doesn’t mean it represents a good business decision to spend it. Borrowing money is easy – it is paying it back that is the hard part! (And not something your advisors are going to do for you!)
Probably the best thing about forming these networks is that they often happen intuitively on their own – the respective circles develop over time, and contacts naturally grow among people you have a good working relationship with. The key is perhaps to periodically take a step back and ensure that you have all the bases covered before you actually need the guidance – having time and space to consider your options prior to making decisions always helps. And when emergencies arise and the time isn’t there – you already know who to talk to.
So in summary, I think developing all three circles – professional, operational and personal – with people you trust can provide tremendous value to an operation. Together they create a diverse sounding board that creates a combined wealth of ideas and knowledge on everything from big picture items like succession planning to immediate items like how to deal with a calf that refuses to suck. The best relationships are mutually beneficial – and often a lot of fun. Building long term relationships are always more than just business – especially since farming permeates so much of what we do.
Applecross Cattle – Now also on Facebook
We have decided to add an Applecross Cattle page on Facebook to supplement our blog/website. Our goal is to utilize Facebook for quick updates and as a forum to share a number of the pictures we take through-out the year specifically on our frequent ‘cattle tours’. To check us out and ‘like’ us on Facebook please head to http://www.facebook.com/ApplecrossCattle
We will continue to use www.applecrosscattle.com for all of our lengthy ramblings, and this will still be home to all of the detailed information on our program. We expect our Facebook page will contain links back to the website whenever new posts are made.
The Value of Exclusivity
With our AI program wrapping up this week, and spring (finally) in the air, it is always a great feeling to have the bulls go out. While we still watch for activity to ensure dates on all the cows, the ‘active management’ part of the year has predominantly drawn to a close. We are walking the same two herd bulls as last year – both APLX Escalade and APLX Samson have continued to develop and have matured well over the past year. With a couple of calves from each on the ground, we look forward to a bigger impact from each bull next calving season.
Selecting a walking bull is perhaps the biggest decision that we purebred breeders make when shaping our herds. Those bulls are what will impact your herd for at least the next 5 years; not only in siring top replacement females for your own operation, but also in producing highly marketable sons for your customers. As a result, making a mistake in bull selection can have a dramatically negative impact to your herd – one that can take a long time to fix. This is one of the reasons that we kept back two of our own bulls in 2012 to utilize – we knew the cow families and their respective backgrounds. Having the privilege of watching their maternal lines develop and evolve over the past 20 years certainly decreased the risk in utilizing these two bulls.
The challenge with utilizing your own bulls is that, for smaller operations like ourselves, we can back ourselves into a genetic corner very quickly. We do continue to utilize AI for 4 weeks at the start of breeding season, with the goal of introducing both proven and outcross genetics, while also ensuring the heifers are bred (early) to a bull we know will calve out. The downside is that anyone can access those genetics – they are far from exclusive. As a result, I seem to be spending more and more time paging through bull sale catalogues, looking for that perfect outcross herd bull that will fit the myriad of criteria that we try to select for.
One of the questions I try to continually ask myself is simply: why would someone purchase genetics from our operation? What brings customers to our yard? I recognize that strong customer service is essential, but setting that aside, customers want to buy something that will both improve their herd, and – especially in the case of bulls – is outcross to their existing genetic base. I think it is important to recognize that both traits are important; bulls have to be good and different. This ‘different’ generally comes from your walking bull, which is traditionally exclusive to your operation. If bull buyers want those genetics, they have to get them from you (not your neighbours or your fellow breeders in the area). It is this genetic exclusivity that plays an important part in marketing of genetics.
We are very fortunate to have been able to tap the genetics from my parents operation at Dora Lee. When we started Applecross, we selected a package of females that contained some older genetics (King Arthur, C&B Western, Carrousel, Antonius) that by virtue of their scarcity, are now essentially outcross to most of the current Fleckvieh breeding lines. We also have been blessed with the ability to help prove both Dora Lee Eclipse and Dora Lee’s Equinox. While not necessarily exclusive (Dad sells some semen privately and via their annual Fleckvieh Forum Sale), having a comfort with the genetics has allowed us to incorporate these exciting young sires into our herd quickly, and evaluate them for ourselves. It is the combination of older outcross genetics with some outcross polled sires that hopefully differentiates our program (not better – just different), from our peers – with the hope that being different will provide additional marketing opportunities. In this regard, I think geographic location can also aid in exclusivity – with Dad in Ontario and us in Alberta, it is not as if we are competing for the same customers!
The degree of difficulty in trying to produce quality cattle while staying different only seems to increase when looking for that new ‘walking bull’. I know I am not unusual in this (apparently wives compare horror stories about husbands who talk cattle non-stop). Hours are spent paging through bull sale catalogues, old female sale catalogues, the CSA database and breeder websites all looking to reduce the guesswork on finding new, good, outcross genetics. It is tremendously difficult to judge the potential of a 14 month old bull that was developed in various management programs, across several provinces (and climates), when the proof (of success) will not arrive until 5 years down the road when those daughters are milking. No wonder finding a good, outcross bull takes so much work!
One of the big challenges to exclusivity that I have noticed recently, is that it seems that more and more sales catalogues include a note at the front indicating that the breeder of the bull retains the right to collect semen on any of the bulls he is selling at sellers cost and buyers convenience. With the value I place on exclusivity and being different than my peers, this is not a trend or sentiment I agree with. As a result, I would think twice about purchasing a bull from programs that have adopted this policy. I guess I can understand the value to retaining semen on that one elite bull in the calf crop that might have a unique set of circumstances behind it, as this also indicates to the potential purchaser that you feel the bull is truly elite and worth retaining use of. That being said, putting a blanket policy in place to retain and interest in the genetics of the entire bull offering seems a little excessive. If I am going to invest the years into proving a bull in my program, there is a tremendous amount of value in retaining exclusivity. There should be sufficient benefit to the breeder in selling that bull for a fair price, and having their prefix on that successful bull.
So as spring (slowly) returns to central Alberta, after successful calving, bull sale and breeding seasons are over, the planning and evaluating stage of the cycle kicks into gear, and the focus on finding different, outcross genetics only seems to intensify. It is always a challenge and a risk to try to incorporate something both new and different, but even a turtle wouldn’t get anywhere if they never stuck their head out from under their shell! That search for good genetics that you can make exclusive to your operation just goes on and on.
2013 Red Deer Simmental Bull Sale Report
After stormy weather on the week-end, it was nice to see sunny skies and a good crowd in Red Deer to watch 65 bulls sell on Monday, March 18th. First in the ring was a pair of excellent red Simmental bulls consigned by sale stalwarts, Oh Kay Farms.
The two reds were followed into the ring by our very own APLX Axel 5Z who was the lead off fullblood bull. After strong interest from some fellow purebred breeders, Axel was purchased by MI Simmentals – Mike Imler for $11,200. Axel ended up being the overall high seller of the day and we look forward to delivering him to Okotoks to his new home this week-end. It is great that he is staying here in Alberta, where we will be able to see future progeny in the Southern Alberta Simmental Round-up Sales.
Axel was followed in the sale by APLX Edge 4Z, who sold to Barney Beechinor of Bentley for $3,000 and APLX Ajax 15Z who sold to Conostoga Farms of Oyen for $5,500. We look forward to these two bulls going to work in commercial herds here in Alberta. We have added all three bulls to our ‘Applecross @ Work’ section, and hope to provide updates on their development in the future.
Other sale highlights included:
– Lot 28 ‘Champs Richlar’ – a nicely pigmented LRX Jiro son that sold from Champ Simmentals to Big Sky Simmentals of Treherne MB for $7,100
– Lot 41 ‘Starwest Pol Gravity’ an impressive JNR Gravity son that sold from Starwest Simmentals to Clearwater Simmentals of Olds for $6,000
– Lot 35 ‘Keato Pol Revved Up’ a powerful JNR’s Secret son from Keato Meadows Simmentals that was selected by Eagle Ridge Simmentals for $5,800.
Overall the sale grossed just over $236,000 on 65 lots, for an average of $3,632. We would be remiss not 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.
Over the past three years, it has been great to be a part of the Red Deer Bull Sale and 2013 was certainly no exception. We were both humbled and honored with the number of compliments our pen of bulls received throughout the week-end from peers in the purebred industry and commercial cattlemen alike. We strive to produce top quality cattle, and can at times be our own worst critics, 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, we look forward to the start of breeding season, and the challenge of developing more bulls for future years.
Our Entries to the 2013 Red Deer Simmental Bull Sale
We are pleased to present three herd bull prospects at Transcon’s 2013 Red Deer Simmental Bull Sale on March 18th at 1:00pm at Westerner Park, Red Deer, Alberta. This is our third year at this event, and we are proud to be included in the strong offering that is always presented by this progressive group of breeders.
This year’s group consists of two Gidsco Appollo sons (Axel, Ajax), and one from Dora Lee’s Equinox (Edge). The Appollo sons both combine their sires’ dark red colour and maternal strengths and each are backed by outstanding cow families. Ajax also has the intriguing twist of being scurred/polled. As an Equinox son, Edge is also scurred/polled, and showcases the tremendous volume and length of spine that Equinox is becoming known for. Please note that both Ajax and Edge were registered as polled calves, but since that time they have each developed small scurs, which we have left on and that you will notice in the pictures. All three bulls show lots of muscling, and have tremendous hair coats.
Individual pages (short-cut links are located in the right-hand column) have been created for ‘Axel’, ‘Ajax’ and ‘Edge’. The bulls have been developed on a ration of free-choice quality first cut hay, combined with a forage based pellet by Country Junction. The bulls are housed in a 5 acre paddock to ensure lots of exercise, have been tie-broke, and have quiet temperaments. On the individual pages, we have also pictured the sires, dams and grand dams. Maternal lines are very important to us, and we feel that behind every great bull is an outstanding cow family. 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 2013 Red Deer Simmental Bull Sale promises to be another exciting event. We look forward to a great day on March 18th at Westerner Park.
Update: As of February 28th, all three bulls measured up nicely and have passed their semen test. Scrotal Circumferences have been addded to their respective individual pages. Next Stop: Red Deer.
Calving is in full swing here at Applecross, which means it is a really exciting time of year – and makes all those night checks at 40 below worth it. Months of anticipation have led up to that instant when we first get to see a calf. Bull or heifer, coloured right or not, getting that healthy calf up and going is always a great feeling.
We have been blessed with a solid start to the season, and after a recent run of bull calves, we now have a balanced mix. On the heifer side, we have a couple of exciting Bronson daughters (including Giselle pictured above) that we hope to develop into the awesome cows Bronson is known for. There is also a really neat polled Gidsco Appollo heifer (also a cow maker), and Eclipse has passed along some really nice daughters from our first calvers. It is great to know that a service sire is going to calve out and give consistent calves that are up and going in a hurry. There also looks to be great competition shaping up to make next years’ bull pen. Our ‘Dora Lee’ sired group of Eclipse, Equinox and Jake all have provided us with sons that are already strutting their stuff.
We are about 60% through calving, and should be finished up by the first week of March. There are plenty more interesting calves on the way – both AI and the first calves from our walking bulls – so that sense of anticipation will stay for a while yet. With a nice group of calves already forming, it will be great see the complete crop and to compare each calf as they develop on grass this summer.
The Applecross Year In Review
2012 was an incredible year for Applecross. We hit a lot of milestones and are very pleased with how our operation continued to grow and evolve during the year.
We had some mild weather to begin the year, and that certainly made calving easier. It is not every year that calves can be born outside on the straw-pack without losing their tails or freezing their ears! We were almost three-quarters heifers to bulls in 2012 – which is great when you are trying to increase your herd numbers. While the mild weather created its own set of (health) challenges with the calves, we were quite happy with how they developed.
Bulls sales in 2012 far exceeded our expectations. Unexpectedly, at the end of 2011, Envoy was selected for the National Trust sale. As a result, we began the year with a visit to Lonnie & Karen Brown in late February, to deliver him to his new home and tour their operation. Not long after that, we got the chance to deliver Santana up to Edson, giving us the chance to see both the Wa-Na-La-Pa and Langer herds (and check out APLX Ensign in his home). Touring herds is one of my favourite things to do, so it doesn’t matter if it is February – seeing good cattle and visiting with great people is always a great way to spend a day. We were also pleased by how our bulls sold at auction in 2012. We were both honoured and humbled to see both Jackson (who sold in March at the Red Deer Sale for $12,000 to Westgold Simmentals) and Santana (who Wayne sold in the 2012 Cow-A-Rama sale for $11,000 to Vaughn Gibbons) represent the APLX prefix so well. It always takes time for bulls to make an impact in a breeders program, but we look forward to visiting all of these operations in 2013 to see how Envoy, Jackson and Santana are doing.
Lots of moisture in June and July led into a warm August and plenty of grass for the cattle. We didn’t vacation this summer, so there was plenty of time to halter break calves in July and complete farm improvements in August. We added space to winter mature bulls this year, so that was a major accomplishment for us. We also spent time improving our rotational grazing program, and making more efficient use of space and labour to help us manage additional cow numbers.
Heading into the fall sale season, it was great to see such excellent results, and see our fellow breeders having the success that they enjoyed. On the home front, we were successful in aquiring an additional bred heifer privately from my parents operation. Dora Lee Martina is a big, strong Broadway daughter that I think will fit in nicely with our young herd. The sale season also brought the opportunity to travel to Brandon to the National Trust sale, and while there I really enjoyed both visiting with fellow breeders and touring some world-class purebred operations. The sales seemed to get stronger as the year went on, and we weren’t successful purchasing females closer to home. The market for quality cattle has become very strong, and it is a great sign for the Simmental breed as the cattle market takes a much needed turn for the better.
I commented last year on the success of our website – and I thought it only fitting to provide an update again this year. 2012 brought additional visitors; with almost 10,000 views from over 87 countries during the year. We also worked with my parents to launch an updated Dora Lee website (www.doraleegenetics.com) utilizing the WordPress platform. Mom and Dad are able to manage and post updates to their site themselves, so it is another example of how easy establishing and maintaining a current web presence has become. We look forward to another exciting year in 2013 of providing updates on our operation, and sharing our perspective on topics that interest us.
Looking forward to 2013
For 2013, we are excited about what should be our largest, most uniform calf crop yet. We start calving about the 10th of January, and thanks to some good luck with our AI program, and having our walking bulls go right to work, we should be done calving in 2 months. We are expecting calves from 10 different sires, so there should be lots of diversity, but the similar ages of the calves should allow us to effectively compare the genetics. We have a number of cows bred to sires that have proven to work here in the past (Eclipse, Equinox, and Pharao to name three), but have also added some new sires, including a group bred to the great Bronson bull, as well as the first calves from our two young walking bulls – APLX Escalade and APLX Samson. It should be a awesome 2 months.
Early in the new year has also become the time of bull sales, and it appears like several events have moved earlier in the season. Based on how purebred heifers sold this fall, strong cattle prices, and the gradual rebuilding of cow numbers in the industry, I expect bull sales to be exceptional. Getting a different catalogue in the mail (seemingly) every day, is an exciting part of our search for new and outcross genetics. We also look forward to watching our three bulls develop in preparation for the Red Deer Sale in late March. We think Axel, Edge and Ajax all have something to offer the industry, so it will be great to watch them continue to develop.
Hard on the heels of bull sale season, comes some tough breeding decisions. While we still plan to AI extensively, we are planning on increasing our use of both of our walking bulls. With Escalade and Samson wintering here, they have continued to impress, and I think they will be more than up to the challenge of breeding a few more cows each in 2013.
In a lot of ways, the next few months are critical to the success of an operation. Getting healthy calves on the ground (and off to a good start), followed immediately thereafter by breeding decisions that can shape a program for years to come. Those night checks might get old after a few weeks, but the excitement that comes with seeing that healthy new-born calf, from a mating that you had such high hopes for, will make it all worthwhile.
As 2012 wraps up, and 2013 is about to begin, we pause during this holidays season to reflect with family and friends on the challenges and successes we have enjoyed over the past year. We are blessed to live in an amazing country, with fresh air, clean water and the means to put food on the table. We have a passion for breeding quality Fleckvieh cattle, and we are very fortunate to be able to pursue this dream through our operation here at Applecross. We look forward to an awesome 2013!