We are pleased to present three herd bull prospects at Transcon’s 2018 Red Deer Simmental Bull Sale on Thursday, March 22nd at 1:00pm at Westerner Park, Red Deer, Alberta. This is our eighth 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 years’ offering can be summed up in a word: three. We are in the middle of three consecutive years where our heifer calf numbers have dramatically exceeded our bull calves, which has resulted in three intriguing herd sire prospects being offer for Red Deer in 2018. This is also the third consecutive year that FGAF WowEffect sons will lead our string, and we have been extremely pleased with his consistency. His calves all show lots of length, great muscling and have tremendous hair coats, and our customers have been very happy with their purchases.
Our three bulls are backed by very strong cow families. ‘Wrangler’ comes from the same ‘P’ line that created waves at Equation 2017, and his dam ‘Poppy’ is our heaviest cow. ‘Wyatt’ is the third straight full brother to be headed to Red Deer – the Cassie x WowEffect cross has been popular in the past – and she seems to be the one cow we can always count on for an awesome bull calf. ‘Rocky’ is also an intriguing individual – a smooth polled head comes courtesy of his sire, APLX Rambo, while the dam ‘Eva’ combines Pharoa and old C&B Western into a real stylish package.
Individual pages (short-cut links are located in the right-hand column) have been created for ‘Wyatt’, ‘Wrangler’ and ‘Rocky’. 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 2018 Red Deer Simmental Bull Sale promises to be another exciting event. We look forward to a great day on March 22nd at Westerner Park.
One of my favourite weekly hockey columns is Elliotte Friedman’s “31 Thoughts” on sportsnet.ca. Since his days on the Score, Hockey Night in Canada and now Sportsnet, I have always found his articles to be articulate and nuanced; attributes that may come across better in print instead of in the ‘loudest voice wins’ sound-bite discussions that often appear on TV.
While I am far from being an ‘insider’ or expert on anything (other than perhaps writing extremely long blog posts), I thought a ‘31-Thoughts’ format might work to share some opinions on the fall female sales, the start of calving and the upcoming bull sale and breeding season that have been derived from the busy past few months:
- We are still processing our results from Equation. Still shocked. We never expect / try to sell a heifer for that much money. Sure, we thought our ‘Pippa’ was good – but our goal is the same for all of them: find good homes for a fair price where, hopefully, they will all be successful (and profitable) for their new owners. That’s it. That’s all.
- Crazy fun when one goes through the roof though. Once I got past the ‘stunned’ look, I don’t think I stopped smiling for days. (Last time I smiled that long was probably our honeymoon!)
- It was a very busy fall for us… we added a major piece to our calving barn that was completed Dec 7th. I finished lagging the stabling in on Dec 13th; had our first calf on the 16th, while we were busy fancying up cattle in Red Deer at Equation.
- We traditionally don’t start calving until Jan 1, but we did plan an earlier start to calving this year. With a new herd sire purchase, and not wanting to mix bulls and risk injury just before breeding season, we sorted our cows into 3 breeding groups on March 5th – two weeks earlier than usual.
- Our other thought behind earlier calving was that we are already pretty tied to the farm during the holidays. As we both have time off work, why not take advantage of time on the farm to be calving?
- Next year we may move it back a week, but still start early. As my dad (and his dad) would say, ensure you ‘take time to smell the roses’. And with the barn construction flowing into Equation and then calving, we didn’t get the break we needed. Next year there will be a gap before calving starts – even if it is only for a day or two.
- We really enjoyed the additional barn space last week during the extreme cold. Several nights we had 9 cows in at once (and 5 calves arrived in 26 hours), so it was really nice to have ample room when it is -40 outside. Not sure what we would have done during the same situation a year ago when our indoor space consisted of 3, 10×10 calving pens.
- We also took the plunge and put in a camera system this week. We went with a local security company, primarily due to local customer support which ensured Face to Face training to setup camera access on our phones and tablets. We put in four cameras for the cows and then two additional security cameras for the yard. Rural crime has become a major concern in our area, so some 24 hour ‘eyes’ were an inexpensive addition when they were already here wiring cameras.
- With the early start, we were half done calving on the 7th of January. Currently we are running 2 heifer calves for every bull calf born, and already I can see that there will be some tough decisions to be made in September when we whittle down the numbers to the group that will become sale heifers and replacements.
- I am fascinated to watch a ‘Battle Royale’ that should shape up between the progeny of three of our top cows. They each gave us polled bull calves within 24 hours between Jan 1st-2nd. With one each from our Delmonte, Rambo and WowEffect sire groups (and a 5lb spread in BW), the few-day-old bulls are already bouncing around the yard like they own the place. Keep an eye out for the names ‘Dundee’, ‘Riptide’, and ‘Wildcard’.
- We had some tough luck near the start of calving when two of my favourite cows lost their calves within 24 hours of each other. It made for a very difficult day and some (ok, a lot of) second guessing as to what we could have done differently. It happens though. All we can do is try our best, and learn from it so our best is even better next time.
- Not sure of the reason, but this year there seems like there are so many more pregnancies that are exciting. Maybe it is the first Delmonte calves. Maybe it is a sign that there is more depth to our cow herd, that there is more excitement to see what can happen. But half way through calving it is hard to pick a favourite – and there are plenty of great cows left to calve!
- Sure is nice when we don’t have to dehorn a calf – still a work in progress, but with new pain-management regulations on the horizon, keeping things simple and skipping a step (for both us and them) is a good thing.
- I try to keep notes on how each cow calved. Even if it is just ‘unassisted on straw-pack or ‘unsettled for hours before finally calving’, the notes remind me if a cow has never calved inside before, or if she just likes to take her time. Knowing when to intervene always seems to be a judgment call, so having notes on past behaviour helps the decision making process.
- Likewise, the breeding chart also starts to get made during calving – not just for calf size, but also to (attempt to) keep some outcross calving lines in our herd. With our smaller numbers, the whole herd tends to get fairly closely related. Trying to develop our own replacement bulls can then become a challenge. Especially if it is a year like this where ideal heifer bull candidates only give heifers.
- As a result, it is looking more and more like we will be shopping for a heifer bull in 2018. While we don’t ‘need’ one until 2019 (we think Rambo has one more year before he is too big for heifers), we prefer to shop early so we aren’t to a point where we are ‘desperate’ to find a bull.
- What are we looking for in a heifer bull? Strong maternal lines that we think will yield great replacements (more than ‘just’ a heifer bull, but still calve easily). I will be using all 6 of my selection “P’s” from my blog post a year ago.
- While probably unrealistic at this time, we would also love to see a full DNA genomics test prior to purchase, as this is something we follow, specifically for ADG and Feed Efficiency. It isn’t ‘mainstream’ yet, but we believe genomics will happen for beef – and when it does we hope to be ahead of the curve.
- As an add-on to genomics, we have seen an increased interest in a dilutor test. More of our commercial clients are asking us about it (and we do test our own bulls), so it would make sense on a bull purchase. (We tested Delmonte post-purchase, and we were quite happy he came back dilutor free – and his genomics were pretty great too!).
- We are fortunate to be located in Central Alberta where there are plenty of bull shopping options. While Transcon is awesome, and I am comfortable with their understanding of our program if we had to purchase sight-unseen, nothing beats physically seeing the cattle so they can be evaluated in person.
- So I will be keeping a close eye on sales catalogs and social media in the lead up to bull sale time. Jeanne often comments that my ‘news feed’ is ‘all cows’ (unlike hers), but I must admit that I keep a much closer eye on Facebook than on individual websites. (So it is no surprise that, for that same reason, I link all my website blog posts to Facebook).
- The ‘immediate information’ era of platforms such as Facebook has substantially changed how customers consume advertising – but I think that the ubiquitous nature of ‘always connected phones’ has changed it more. More than once at Equation I utilized my phone to grab cow pics from our website to show potential buyers the extended cow families and service sires of our bred heifers – all while standing in the pen with the heifers.
- I hope to dig into that topic deeper on a future blog post, as utilizing social media to market cattle has its advantages, but it can also create challenges. Farmers have always blurred the line between the ‘business of farming’ and the ‘life of farming’, so it’s no surprise that posts can mix personal views and opinions with cattle pictures.
- With my eye on a heifer bull purchase this spring, and the rising cost of elite herd bulls, there seems to be more and more bulls owned in partnership. It may be an approach we need to take in the future, but sharing a bull can be tough when the breeding season is so short (and breeders tend to all calve at the same time)
- And when it comes to partnerships, I am always reminded of a couple more sayings I heard growing up, “Partnerships are easy to get in to, but hard to get out of,” and, “Most people struggle to remain in a partnership with their spouse, let alone anyone else,” as words of caution.
- I also like the idea that people have to come to us if they would like to incorporate our genetic selections into their herd. If there is the right genetic mix, exclusivity does increase demand.
- That being said, with a small herd, we will continue to utilize AI in 2018. As I mentioned earlier, we are pretty narrow genetically, and will need to continue to search for outcross bulls to incorporate into our herd. We are fortunate to have a professional AI expert willing to assist us with syncing groups of cows every spring (Thanks Donna!)
- There are many benefits, being married to Jeanne. Benefit #4,264. She can make sure that I don’t veer too far into ‘banker-speak’ or ‘farmer-speak’ when I am trying to share ideas. When I get passionate about something, I tend to just assume that everyone knows the same ‘lingo’. She provides a fresh perspective that is (thankfully) free of industry acronyms.
- As a teacher, she also fixes my grammar, verb tense and ongoing issues with run-on sentences. Thankfully without using a ruler!
- She also volunteers to do night checks. It does annoy her if I watch her on the new camera while she does them though! I haven’t tried to give her tips through the audio feed yet! (Editor’s Note: If that EVER happens, night checks will immediately become 100% Dennis’s responsibility!)
- It is an exciting time of year. Calving on one hand, scheduling in clipping / picturing our bulls for Red Deer on the other. Facebook ‘bull sale preview’ posts are in full swing, and we look forward to bull sale catalogs in the near future!
Until Next time,
Transcon’s Fleckvieh Equation Fullblood Simmental Sale wrapped up the Alberta Simmental Week-end with a flourish on Sunday, December 17th. Sunny skies and unseasonably warm December weather lead to a standing room only crowd filled with enthusiastic bidders. A great group of consignors brought 38 lots of Fleckvieh genetics to Red Deer to strut their stuff through the ring to a very impressive average of $9,440.
In what is becoming a sale tradition, a consignment from the Beechinor Brothers program led off Equation 2017. Lot 111 ‘BEE Deloriss 620D’ was a very impressive heifer that carried her massive volume across tremendous length. Sired by Double Bar D United, Deloriss was backed by the Beechinor’s renowned ‘She Devil’ cow family. After some spirited bidding from many top programs, the Stout Brothers of Bluffton, AB were the successful buyers, acquiring this foundation female for $41,000.
Our very own lot 130, ‘Applecross Pippa 21D,’ had the honour of being the second animal in the ring. ‘Pippa’ has long been a favourite of ours and she was difficult for us to sell, but at the same time, we knew she would be the perfect representative to showcase our program – her sire, maternal grand sire, dam and maternal grand dam all carry our prefix – which is something we are very proud of. We had quite a number of visitors and complements on ‘Pippa’ leading up to the sale, but we never could have imagined that she would sell for $30,000 to the elite Starwest Farms polled program at Calmar. We are truly stunned by the result!
After several years of very strong bull sales, the number of herd bulls on offer at Equation continued to expand. Long time co-consignors with us in the Red Deer Bull Sale every March, Starwest Farms brought two hairy rascals to town for breeder consideration at Equation. Their lead bull was “Starwest Ember’, a polled power bull sired by Starwest Blueprint – whose offspring have proven to be extremely popular over the past year (including to us – our new herdbull NUG Delmonte is also a Blueprint son). When the gavel fell, Jason McLane / Rich-Mc Simmentals from Manitoba was the successful buyer for $30,000.
Not to be outdone, the selection of heifer calves on offer continues to be very strong. The high seller was Lot 131, ‘Clearwater Desire 27D’ an impressive open from Chad & Shelley Smith at Olds, sired by their intriguing Crossroad Vintage bull. ‘Desire’ was selected by Randmar Management / Randy Ward of Calgary for $14,000.
All four of our Applecross heifers were very well received, and we couldn’t be happier with the great operations that they will now call home. Applecross Cynthia was selected by Dan & Karen Skeels / Anchor D Ranch for $10,000. As Dan has been auctioneering Simmental sales in Ontario for at least the past 20 years, he does have some ‘insider knowledge’ of the cow family. Maternal grand-dam RHY Zamia 40Z was a pasture favourite when she strutted her stuff for both Dora Lee and Gibbons Farms. Applecross Flora ($6,250) will be heading south to Okotoks to join the MI Simmentals program of Mike and Allison Imler, where she may get to become acquainted with APLX Axel 5Z – the high selling ‘bull of the barn’ in the 2013 Red Deer Bull Sale that is still working there. We are also quite excited that Applecross Ivy ($6,000) will also be expanding the presence of our prefix at the highly regarded Eagle Ridge program – where she will be joining past sale features ‘Pearl’ (2015 Equation) and ‘Waylon’ (2015 Red Deer Bull Sale). It is always rewarding when past customers return to make another purchase, so it is rather neat to see an expanded presence at Eagle Ridge and MI Simmentals.
In addition to the above noted high-sellers, I thought we would share some additional thoughts on the 2017 Edition of Fleckvieh Equation:
- While the numbers were down (probably close to 50% from when we were last part of the sale in 2015), the quality remained very strong across the consigners. 7 different operations brought animals to town that topped the $10,000 mark, which just confirms that the group is committed to bringing their best to Red Deer.
- In addition to the high-selling bull from Starwest noted above, the renowned JNR program continued to showcase their diverse line-up of bulls, as they presented LITHIUM for consideration, who sold to Herbert Smith of Irma for $15,500.
- Volume buyer, with the purchase of 3 lots, was Andrew’s Fleckvieh of Pennsylvania, who selected 3 open heifers.
- After getting shut out on our heifer acquisition plans last fall, we were successful in acquiring our pick at Equation 2017. With tremendous volume and a complete outcross pedigree to our herd, Lot 126 ‘Wolfe’s Dawn’ caught our eye in the catalog, and was then studied quite extensively when stabled right beside our own heifers. Shane Wolfe is a fellow 2nd –generation Fleckvieh breeder, so it is unsurprising that I tend to recognize genetics deep into the Wolfe pedigrees. It is awesome to be successful in adding another piece to the genetic puzzle to our herd.
We would really like 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 think we sometimes tend to take sales management for granted. They tend to take all the blame when sales are tough and none of the credit when sales are strong. At the end of the day, we as consigners bring the cattle to town, and determine the quality of the base product that sales management has to work with. As such, I don’t think I have ever seen the Transcon team as busy as they were this week-end – from National Trust through Equation and Red and Black, there was tremendous interest in the cattle, and all of the sales staff were consistently working the phones both prior to and during the sale for prospective buyers. Certainly not a surprise Transcon is celebrating 50 years in business!
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 2018 just starting up, we are already deep into calving season, and clipping bulls for March’s Red Deer Bull Sale is just around the corner. We look forward to showcasing our ongoing efforts to produce high-quality genetics that we can share with the industry.
After a one year hiatus, we are absolutely delighted to present four bred heifers at Transcon’s 2017 Fleckvieh Equation Sale, on December 17th, at 1pm at Westerner Park, Red Deer, Alberta. This is always such a great weekend to market Simmental cattle in Alberta, and we are proud to once again be part of this progressive group of breeders.
At the top of our group, are the first FGAF WowEffect heifers to sell at auction. While we have marketed bulls from WowEffect for several years now, 2017 will represent the first opportunity for the heifers to strut their stuff in public. Since forming a partnership with my parents (Dora Lee Genetics) to utilize WowEffect, we have been very impressed with the balance of his progeny. It is rare that a bull produces both great sons and awesome daughters – so we are certainly excited to present heifers for perusal after the sons have been so readily accepted. As WowEffect is backed by two famous cows – JB CDN Kananaskis and FGAF Barbarella – it maybe isn’t that big a surprise that his offspring are so consistent.
Our lead WowEffect daughter is ‘Cynthia’, a big barreled head turner, who is a direct daughter of Dora Lee Christina 28S. Christina has consistently produced top end cattle for us – daughters, grand-daughters and great granddaughters walk our pastures, and she has developed her own modest list of progeny topping the sales ring in Applecross Candice (our high selling bred at Equation 2015) and high selling bulls APLX Javar and APLX Santana. We feel ‘Cynthia’ has tremendous potential as a front end female.
‘Cynthia’ is closely followed by ‘Ivy’ who is a WowEffect x Gidsco Appollo and goes back to the Beechinor Imperia cow we selected as one of the high selling opens at Equation 2010. This cow family have been consistent producers for us, with an aunt (Applecross Iris) being our high seller at Equation 2013, and a maternal brother APLX Cairo 1C being selected by Gordon Leslie from the 2015 Red Deer Bull Sale. With lots of pigment and a great haircoat, ‘Ivy’ is another great example of the consistency of our WowEffect progeny.
Our third heifer is ‘Flora’, a daughter of the popular JB CDN Hennessey and Anchor D Fergus. Fergus was our pick of the 2014 Pasture Treasures sale, as I was pretty excited when I confirmed that her physical profile matched the depth of her pedigree. Backed by the cow families of Kananaskis (I guess I like her), K2 Fergie and RH Patricia and sire groups that stack Legend, Arni 8M and Jahari, I knew that Fergus would be another great addition to our cow herd. Her first daughter, ‘Flora’ has combined well with Henessey to form a heavily pigmented, dark red beauty.
Our final heifer on offer in 2017 is ‘Pippa’, a double polled stunner that I really struggled to include in our sales string. It is clear to anyone that follows our program, that we are gradually taking the horns off of our cattle, while striving to retain all the power, performance and mothering abilities Fleckvieh are known for. We still breed horned cattle horned (‘Flora’ is a perfect example), but polled is the direction that we are committed to moving the cow herd over the long term. Breeding polled has been a slow process, and selling concrete building blocks like ‘Pippa’ will make it slower yet. That said, I do think it essential that we showcase the progress we have been making, and ‘Pippa’ is the perfect example to do just that. Pippa’s sire, dam, grand-dam, and maternal grand sire all carry our prefix, so she should give a pretty clear indication of what our program is all about.
Individual pages (short-cut links are on the right), have been created for each of our four sale heifers: ‘Cynthia’, ‘Ivy’, ‘Flora’, and ‘Pippa’. On the individual pages, we have also pictured their sires, dams and siblings. With maternal lines so very important to us, we hope pictures that support the extended pedigree will help provide an idea of how the sale heifers will look as cows.
The heifers all have quiet temperaments and are used to being around people. We enjoy spending time with our cattle, so they are used to attention, and some of them do not mind a ‘scratch’. We preg-checked in late September and the vet feels that all four are safe to early breeding dates. The Heifers are also vaccinated with ViraShield and Covexin Plus. They will be treated with Dectomax and given Scourguard prior to sale day.
The 2017 Fleckvieh Equation promises to be another exciting event. We look forward to a great day on December 17th at Westerner Park.
Fixing Up or Falling Down
As the head-gate swung open for the final bred heifer, it was a great feeling to be done processing all of the cattle for another year. Jeanne and I looked at each other in relief that another lengthy (and warm – 30 degrees!) day was complete, with minimal stress on both us and our cattle. Each August, we combine annual herd vaccinations with the first part of our quiet-wean process (that also includes weighing, tattooing, pulling hair for DNA testing) on all of the calves. This sets the calves up to be weaned in full / separated from their dams 10-days later on Labour day. As I’ve blogged before, the quiet wean process works well for us (as long as the calves don’t figure out how to remove their ‘bling’), as it helps ease the stress of weaning on both the cow and the calf. After the cow-calf groups have been worked, we finish off the day with the bred heifer pen, and get a close up view of just how well they are developing. It is great to see all the cattle – but also rewarding to be ‘done’ for another year.
Our ‘Processing Day,’ and the countdown to weaning that it starts, really brings into focus how little time there is left in the summer, and the clock ticks a little louder as all of our projects need to be done so the pens are ready for weaning. When I was growing up, one of my dad’s favourite sayings was that with cattle ‘you are either fixing things up, or they are falling down’. The combination of cattle and climate is tough on stuff! Cattle have to find their favourite spot to rub that itch – or try to test their theory that the grass really is greener (or the heifers prettier) on the other side of the fence. Fences get busted, boards fall off corrals, high traffic areas get worn, and the combination of wind and a 70-degree swing in temperature over 12 months, wreaks havoc on everything. Each year, there are always things that need fixing, just to maintain the farm in good working order.
On top of taking care of maintenance are the improvements we like to make. Every year we try to make our farm ‘better’ – which is a vague enough descriptor to cover plenty of different items. ‘Better’ can mean easier (re-hanging a gate so it swings instead of drags), simpler (adding more bunk space so the cows can be fed less frequently), addressing OCD issues (re-boarding a fence so that gaps between the boards are identical instead of varied – and it stops bothering us every time we drive in the lane), or simply making the property more aesthetically pleasing (removing old corrals that are not in use, falling down and look terrible). But the end goal is the same – to complete improvements that increase our enjoyment of our farm. Each spring our ‘wish lists’ get made, and then get divided into the ‘need to do’ and ‘nice to do’ categories – with an estimated time (or cost) to completion attached.
Formally planning things out may seem like overkill (I sometimes think we put ‘get organized’ on our to-do list!), but it really helps us with our time management. With both of us working full-time off site, plus Jeanne’s Highland Dance Studio, we only have a finite number of hours that we can invest in the farm while still maintaining a healthy ‘life’ where rest, relaxation and family togetherness are also in balance. This schedule obviously flexes during different times of the year (Jeanne’s summers off from school / the hectic lead up to sale days, etc.), but we try to be very cognizant of where we spend our time. Our ‘need to do’s’ (the general annual maintenance like corral cleaning) always have to be scheduled first, with the ‘nice to do’s’ then added, dependent on both time and budget. This way, if our maintenance schedule (or budget) doesn’t allow us to get to the improvements, they can be deferred into next year – while still having the ‘necessary’ done. We can live through another year dragging a gate through mud and snow, but the corrals really do need to get cleaned! So being organized really helps us to make sure our priorities are clear when working around the farm.
The other area to consider with the project list is the time/budget balance. Now that we have the base of our cow herd (mostly) established, they (theoretically) should be (relatively) cash flow positive (I am not sure anyone in the cattle business would be comfortable making that statement without a few qualifications!). We have purposely built our herd slowly, without debt attached to the cows, so that (in theory) there is a little more cash left over once the bills are paid. This decision should allow us to re-allocate some of those funds for hiring in professionals to complete improvements that are either larger jobs, or ones on our list that we simply don’t have time to do.
Since establishing Applecross Cattle in 2006, we were fortunate enough to have a separate source of water for our cows via a secondary dug well. The only drawback for the well was that the pump and electrical were located in a culvert that descended 10 feet below ground. As is usual when combining the words: water, Alberta, old system and winter, we found we were spending a lot of time clambering down a culvert in less than ideal weather conditions to ‘fix’ a variety of problems that showed up. We got an estimate back in April to have it raised up to ground level (which coincided with another improvement – trenching in two more water fountain locations), and the project was completed last week. The two of us then assembled a ‘garden shed in a box’ package around the well-head to create a ‘pump house’, and the entire project is now (less a coat of paint) finished. (As an aside, building a garden shed as a couple certainly provides the opportunity for some interesting conversation. Not that our minds are always in the gutter, but ‘wood’, ‘screw’, and ‘hold this’ were often in the same sentence, leading to numerous looks and raised eyebrows back and forth!). It is a really neat feeling to be able to walk from the house to the shop, and instead of seeing an eyesore culvert sticking out of the ground, there is a nice tidy garden shed in its place – and knowing that all the components for the well are tucked neatly inside. We are almost looking forward to winter!
The phrase ‘fixing up or falling down’ can also relate back to the cow herd itself. While I mentioned earlier that we now have the cow herd ‘mostly’ established, it is that ‘most’ word that is key – the whole goal of a purebred breeder is to produce better cattle, so I don’t think a breeder can ever be ‘done’ and content to rest on what they have. There are always cows that ‘need an upgrade’ or a herd doesn’t move ahead. This time of year, with every cow and every calf walking through the chute and weaning weights fresh in hand, there is a great opportunity to complete a close up visual inspection while also having the numbers to back up the ‘gut feel’. Which of the cows are producing to expectation, which are lagging, and what do the weights tell us once adjusted for age? With our two best ever heifer calf groups back to back in 2016 and 2017, we have a lot of younger genetics vying for a spot in our herd (not to mention that ongoing search for outcross/different genetics!) As much as it would make our cash flow look much stronger if we marketed as many of the bred heifers as possible, retaining some of the top end to make a stronger and more uniform herd for the future has a lot of long term benefits. And it should lead to a nicer walk through the cows – more positives and less negatives – just like that walk past the new pump-house.
So with our countdown to weaning now on, our ‘improvement’ projects have been mostly wrapped up for the year. Time is blocked during evenings this week to spend finishing the corral cleaning. The to-do lists are getting shorter (or maybe evolving with the changing season is more accurate); preparing for fall always precedes the start of preparing for winter – the hay is stacked in the bale yard, but straw is still left to come. But what doesn’t change is the sense of satisfaction that we feel – from gates that now swing, windbreaks that have had their missing panels replaced, and a cow herd that is slowly improving. A process. A journey. Fixing up, so we aren’t falling down.
Until next time,
2017 Spring Update – Our Cattle Circle
One of our favourite warm weather Sunday traditions is a late morning walk. Starting out the back door, we make a big circle around the property – striding the hills and the valleys – across lowland and wooded areas – until we end the circle at the garden behind our house. It is a great way to spend an hour, and not a walk goes by without both of us talking about how blessed we are to have found Applecross.
The cows went to grass yesterday, so there was even more to see on today’s tour. We are very fortunate to be able to pasture all of our cattle here at home, and keep a nice and close eye on how they develop. All three groups – the bred heifers, the bull calf group and the cows with heifer calves – each have their own multi-paddock grazing rotation, where they got to take their first taste of the season yesterday (finally… in their opinion).
Calving and breeding seasons were both very successful for us. After a couple of harsh weeks of winter right at the first of the year, the weather become milder and we were able to monitor numerous births outside on the straw-pack. We pastured our cattle later last fall, so birth weights were lighter to start the season, but picked back up by early February. We also had great luck with colour – not that it makes a difference from a quality perspective, but it does aid in marketability. We finished our calving March 12 and moved immediately to breeding.
Breeding season represented a major departure for us. Although our herd bulls have traditionally carried our own prefix, we were successful in acquiring NUG Delmonte 81D to join our walking bull battery this spring. His purchase creates such a unique combination of stress and excitement. Stress because we can only wait to see how he passes along all the characteristics he possesses as an individual. But excitement in what we believe he can bring to our operation. He has been thoroughly tested this year – he got some young cows, some older cows; some tall cows and some smaller cows; some that were polled, some horned; some with lots of hair; some tan coloured; some that throw birth weight, some that don’t. We should have a great idea what he is all about early next year.
We walked three bulls total in 2017 – Delmonte was joined by Rambo (our heifer bull), and FGAF WowEffect, who made one final turn with the girls. With Delmonte on the prowl, we did limited AI (mostly heifers), but did manage to get a few cows synced for recips.
Now that breeding is over and everyone is in their pasture groups, calves can be evaluated side by side. It is an exciting time to start the assessment process and debate over which ones will make the cut at weaning. Calves can just change so much as they grow. They tend to shoot up and get ‘leggy’, then fill out their frames (and look awesome), and then go through the process again. It all depends on the day as to what I tend to think of them – sometimes they are looking amazing, other times more on the ‘green’ side. There do always seem to be outliers though; some calves always seem to be at the top of the group – ones that have the potential to become special. (Our picture girl ‘Brittany’ falls into this category).
For the second consecutive year, we have our best heifer calf crop ever (which, as someone who strives for ‘genetic improvement,’ is a pretty cool thing to be able to say). In both of the past 2 years, we have skewed to a 60-40 heifer-bull calf split (so there are more to choose from), but we have also got more genetics bounces (where my hair-brained ideas actually seemed to work) in the heifer side. We will need to make some really tough decisions at weaning to get our heifer calves down to a more manageable number.
Likewise, in the bred heifer group, there are some difficult selections to be made for Fleckvieh Equation. We wintered 14 heifers this year (quite a lot for us – and we may need to winter as many or more next year), so after a year ‘off’, there should be some exciting options for Equation. The first WowEffect daughters will sell, and now that the entire group is back together, there are some pretty cool younger heifers that managed to catch up in size to their older pen mates during breeding season. It is still a long ways from fall sale season, but it is sure fun to start thinking of the choices we will need to make (and of course which ‘veto’ we will each use).
With all my glowing commentary about heifers, I don’t want to imply that our bull calf crop is lacking. While fewer in numbers, there are some neat bull calves we are keeping our eyes on as well. For the third year in a row, it looks like our bull pen will be anchored by WowEffect sons. Anchor D Viper and Rambo calves are also strong candidates to winter and make the bull sale. It is early yet, but there certainly appears to be promise.
So, that’s our cattle circle. We tend to walk it the opposite direction to my description, though – bull calf group first, followed by our walk through the woods, and then on to the heifer calf group as we start our turn for home. As we cycle back towards the buildings, our bred heifers greet us (with Jeanne at my side, they greet us both figuratively and literally. Several of her favourites need their scratches!). On the genetic front, it seems like a constant period of evaluation. We have lots of thoughts as to future combinations. There is some satisfaction, but also thoughts on where we need to be better – and refocus on my 20-60-20 rule. Overall though, there is a general sense of contentment. We are truly blessed to be able to pursue our passion in the cattle business, and to spend our Sunday mornings watching them work in their natural environment – turning grass into meat and milk.
Until next time,
2017 Red Deer Simmental Bull Sale Report
March 23rd was another great day to hold the Red Deer Simmental Bull Sale at the Westerner Grounds, Red Deer Alberta. A little bit of fog cover started the day, but the sun soon poked through and combined with mild temperatures to create beautiful travelling weather to see a great group of bulls sell. Customers had the opportunity to have a hot beef lunch and inspect a high quality group of bulls presented by a number of great consignors, before watching them strut their stuff in the sales ring.
In all, five bulls ended up topping the $10,000 threshold at this years’ event with the high-sellers being a pair of Fleckvieh bulls. Lot 18: Starwest Density is Manitoba bound after this dark red meat machine was selected by Triple T Diamond of Lundar for $15,000. ‘Density’ was closely followed by Lot 65: Keato Pld Directors Cut, a moderate birth weight rascal selected by Swantewitt Simmentals for $14,000. Overall 49 lots sold for an average of $6,100.
The highlight of the day for Applecross Cattle was the return of one of our commercial clients, Barney Beechinor. Barney had selected APLX Edge from us at the 2013 Red Deer Bull Sale, so it was pretty special to watch him pick up two more bulls from us this year. First Barney selected Lot 49: APLX Pharaoh 2D from the opening group of fullbloods, and then later on in the sale, Barney also selected Lot 51: APLX Wagner 10D. It is always a great feeling when, after having success with their previous purchases, clients return for a replacement (or in this case two). We look forward to watching Pharaoh and Wagner’s genetics contribute to the really strong Beechinor commercial herd.
It was also fantastic to see Lot 52: APLX Raider 22D head south to Glen Ball at Millarville. Glen was looking for a new heifer bull to walk the foothills south-east of Calgary, so we are quite happy he found the traits he was looking for in ‘Raider’.
Once again we need to recognize the team at Transcon for doing a tremendous job working the phones and managing the sale. Jay Good and his team are always a quality, sales management group – constantly on the phone while inspecting cattle for prospective buyers. We look forward to working with them again later in the year at Fleckvieh Equation!
With both the bull sale and calving now behind us, our thoughts move directly to breeding season. We have some recips this year, a couple of new options for AI and a brand new walking bull to test out. It is an exciting time for Applecross Cattle to continue in our quest to provide new, better, and different genetics to share with the industry.
We are pleased to present four herd bull prospects at Transcon’s 2017 Red Deer Simmental Bull Sale on Thursday, March 23rd at 1:00pm at Westerner Park, Red Deer, Alberta. This is already our seventh 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 FGAF WowEffect sons (Wagner, Weston), and one from each of Sanmar Polled Pharao (Pharaoh) and APLX Rambo (Raider). All four bulls showcase our program very well – we strive to produce bulls that are highly maternal and will calve out moderate birth weight progeny, while still having strong performance numbers.
We have been very happy with how FGAF WowEffect has worked for us – he has proven to be extremely consistent regardless of what type of cow he gets bred to. The WowEffect sons both combine their sires’ explosive performance and maternal strengths, and each are backed by outstanding cow families. Both Wagner and Weston have maternal brothers working in purebred herds.
Pharaoh is also a really neat individual; pedigree and BW suggest heifer bull, but both the scale and visual inspection certainly suggest a lot more than ‘just’ heifers. We are also excited to introduce the first progeny from our junior herd sire APLX Rambo in ‘Raider’; our youngster in the group that also showcases curve bending performance backed by two strong cow families. All four bulls show lots of muscling, have tremendous hair coats, and have been tested for the dilutor gene.
Individual pages (short-cut links are located in the right-hand column) have been created for ‘Pharaoh’, ‘Weston’, ‘Wagner’, and ‘Raider’. 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, and all 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 2017 Red Deer Simmental Bull Sale promises to be another exciting event. We look forward to a great Thursday on March 23rd at Westerner Park.
How We Select Cattle: Our Five Six P’s
Fall sales season is in full swing and there has been a steady diet of catalogs released online and arriving in the mail. Perhaps it is because we aren’t marketing our own females this fall, but it does seem like I am spending a lot of time looking at catalogues and figuring out a schedule that can get me to as many cattle sales as possible, prior to the onset of calving season. Taking a step back today, I started thinking about my own selection process and the criteria we use when selecting an animal to join our herd. I think the following ‘5 P’s’ (and in our case 6 P’s) can be utilized to determine our interest in an animal available at auction.
The first “P” is picture. Thumbing (or these days clicking/scrolling) through a fresh new catalogue, it is usually the pictures that jump out first. A good picture may not make you buy an animal – but a bad or mediocre picture can sure make you pass over one without spending any time on them. This is an area we really focus on when selling our own cattle. A few years ago, we were told by both a fellow breeder and a cattle marketing rep that our cattle were a better quality than what they showed in the pictures – and that it was something we needed to improve on. We really appreciated the honest feedback, and ever since then we have tried to focus on how to get better pictures. We schedule time for ‘re-shoots’ into our pre-catalog deadline calendar, and hire a 4-H kid, who the cows are unfamiliar with, to assist with pictures. We love walking our cattle, so since they ‘know’ us they tend to keep their heads down – which isn’t very ideal for pictures. A new person in the pen (that still knows cattle), tends to be just enough to help get their attention, and often leads to a quicker, better picture. Hopefully, we take a picture that makes our animals worth a longer look in the catalog.
With a good picture at the top, our gaze tends to shift to the Pedigree below. I think every breeder has genetic lines that they follow; often either new genetics they wish to incorporate or genetics that they know just work in their herd. As we have been around the Simmental breed for a long time, there are also quite a number of cow families I recognize (and while most people have either a good/bad/indifferent opinion of a sire, when you recognize a cow family it is usually a good thing). So if I can find desirable outcross or proven genetics stacked across a pedigree it certainly piques my interest. Thanks to the CSA database, I also spend a fair bit of time tracking some of the animals I was interested in but wasn’t successful in acquiring in the past. Sometimes if you watch closely, there is the opportunity to acquire descendants in the future. Back at the 2010 National Trust sale, I was really drawn to an awesome lighter coloured open heifer from the Big Sky string. We didn’t end up getting her, as she landed at Virginia Ranch, but just last December we were able to acquire a grand-daughter – this time from the fine folks at Parview (who had purchased a daughter from Virginia Ranch at National Trust in the interim). It doesn’t always work that way – but keeping an eye on genetics I really like can certainly help trigger interest. EPD’s also get a glance – but I’ll delve into them in a future post. Overall though, the pedigree plays an important role when we consider an animal.
The next step is validating Phenotype – most often in the form of a visual inspection in the time leading up to the sale itself (and ideally in the form of a summer tour when we can take a peek at the cow family behind them). We have had good fortune in utilizing order buying ‘sight unseen’ in the past, but we are much more comfortable and confident (and have a willingness to bid higher) when we get a chance to view the cattle in person. What are we looking for? Generally, we mostly look at temperament and feet (getting them out to walk away from that straw pack if possible), and then look at the udder development or scrotal area. The fact is, for most consignment auction sales, the conditioning/fitting can hide a lot of potential faults in an animal – so it is no surprise that I did have a fellow breeder tell me that they ‘trust pedigree almost more than visual inspection’ when selecting animals. I think there is a lot of validity in this statement – but I still need to really ‘like’ an animals’ physical appearance/style in order to bid. (Jeanne also always asks if the heifer in question is ‘Pretty’ so maybe that is the 7th ‘P’).
Probably the most complex ‘P’ to accurately articulate is the prefix or people behind the cattle. Let’s face it: Breeders develop reputations – good and bad – for customer service and the quality of their cow herds. Your own personal experiences (and past purchases) shape that reputation, and it certainly can contribute to interest in adding genetics from a herd. I also think that it is important to recognize breeders that have supported your program in the past, which is something distinctly different from simply ‘trading cattle’ back in forth with another breeder. If an excellent customer of yours has a really strong animal on offer, it only makes sense to take an extra hard look to see if there is an opportunity to add another piece to your program.
Polled (our 6th P). We are gradually taking the horns off of our cattle. I don’t think that statement is a surprise to anyone who follows our program or blog. I think that in 10 years there will be substantially more polled cattle, so that is the direction we are taking our operation. It is absolutely something we look for when evaluating animals. But just because an animal is polled, it doesn’t mean it is better than the horned one on the page beside it – and improving the overall quality of our herd is our absolute goal. In 2015, we were successful in purchasing 3 heifers – 2 of which were horned. We absolutely bred horned cows back horned this spring. It is important to us to keep our focus on quality, and the polled will happen over time. Not everyone will agree with selecting with this ‘P’ (and that is perfectly cool), but polled is certainly an aspect we include when assessing cattle.
Price is obviously the final determining factor when purchasing an animal. How much is that animal worth to you? What is your budget? I am very fortunate that Jeanne is supportive of my cattle habit – but the trade-off is that I try to be very clear on what our budget is, so that there aren’t any surprises (and I don’t have to find a couch to sleep on) when the gavel falls and I am the high bidder. The other component with price is in being ‘ready to bid’ – something I have learned (much to my chagrin) over the years. Earlier in my career I would ‘give up’ on an animal (or even worse a prefix) thinking they’d be too expensive to bring home and move my attention on to the next one on my list – only to see on sale day that the original animal I had picked out did indeed fit within our budgeted price range. As a result, now I try to take a hard look at every animal I am interested in and be ready should an opportunity arise. We priority rank all the animals we are attracted to; and as long as the sales order co-operates, pick away starting at the top of our list. At an auction sale you just don’t know how it will unfold – so being ready, and being clear on budgets has paid dividends.
While we are fortunate to be in a position where we aren’t really looking to expand our herd numbers, I think our fellow purebred breeders would agree that there is always room for ‘one more’ (and then ‘one more’, and then one more after that). So after all my P’s have been evaluated, the final question before deciding whether to bid or not, is one of my dad’s favourites: “Does she make your herd better?” I think that this a great question – as if she doesn’t either improve your herd or diversify your genetics – what value does she add? If she doesn’t pass the ‘make herd better’ test, I am simply better off re-allocating or saving those funds for a future sale.
So I think that is the list. Picture. Pedigree. Phenotype. Prefix/People. Price. (and then, in our case, Polled). And ‘Pretty’ (Jeanne checks my grammar before I post these, so I CAN’T forget ‘Pretty’). Lots of P’s in the process to possibly pick potential purebred purchases!
See you at the sales (I’ll be minding my P’s)
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.