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.
I had the opportunity to slip back to Ontario for a week-end in September. It is always great to visit family and the farm, and September is a wonderful time of year to do so. At Dora Lee, harvest finishes in August (when the barley and second cut hay finish up), and with the drought, weaning was also completed early, so there was a lot of time to both visit and spend with the cattle; evaluating and reflecting on the current calf crop and how the bred replacements are developing. While the farm and cattle have changed a little around the edges, the core of the operation remains essentially the same since I left for university 20 years ago.
I am very fortunate to share my passion for cattle with my father. We often act as a sounding board for each other to discuss the merits of new ideas that can generate a lot of great discussion. While we don’t necessarily agree on everything, I have learned an tremendous amount from Dad over the years, the majority of which I am trying to incorporate into our operation here at Applecross. We also both really enjoy spending time with the cows – just out among them, checking and evaluating, planning and appraising, debating the merits of what the next step in the evolution of the herd should be. In hind-sight, I guess it was no surprise that late Friday night, when we got in from the airport, we checked the cows before bed – despite it being full dark. This must be the reason that Gators have lights!
Dora Lee is ideally situated for cattle. The spine of the farm is a meandering creek that runs the length of the property, complete with river flats, rolling hills, and predominantly cedar bush. The grain and hay ground surround the pastures, and together make a nice balance for a cow calf operation. Similar to most of the American mid-west, Ontario suffered through a serious drought this summer. With no moisture for almost 2 months, both the hay and pasture land suffered significantly. While they had some rain in August (and it rained 2+ inches the day I was there), I was surprised at how ‘green’ the pastures were. I think the big gain was in the rotational grazing program. As I discussed previously, Dad has been a long term proponent of rotational grazing. With the drought this year, he took his program a step further, dividing all of his existing pastures in half again, which effectively shortened the grazing period and increased the rest time. As rotational grazing takes years to improve the pasture conditions, the hard work in improving the grass stand had already been completed, but the even shorter grazing was essential for stretching grass in this drought year, and will continue to pay dividends in the future.
One of the other neat tools that Dad utilizes to improve the pasture is to add grass seed to the mineral. The rolling hills and river flats are not conducive to a seeder, so by adding birdsfoot trefoil seed to mineral, the cows ingest the seeds and then excrete them in the manure all over the pastures. Dad has always joked that cows had a forage harvest on the front and a manure spreader on the back, so I guess this step just hooks on an air-seeder as well. I do think digging deeper into that concept has a lot of merit. The cow-calf sector has always been a low margin business, with feed being the number one expense, and with equipment requirements traditionally a major capital cost. Any opportunity to maximize the natural grazing ability of cows, and reduce the amount of confined feeding that requires intensive management – whether it be ‘prepared’ hay/feed or manure removal – should be seriously considered. This is also a great trait in Fleckvieh cattle – their natural ability to perform on a forage based diet, provides a significant advantage compared to other breeds.
That combination of an extensive natural habitat combined with great childhood memories has always made Dora Lee a very peaceful place; and something we have tried to emulate here at Applecross (It should be no surprise that Applecross derives from the Gaelic word ‘ A’chomraich’, which means ‘Sanctuary’). As a result, the visit back to Ontario provided the perfect opportunity for stepping back and reflecting; not only on the goals Mom & Dad are still trying to achieve at Dora Lee, but also on the things we wish to accomplish here at Applecross. I think the strength of Dora Lee has always been in the cow herd – Dad has always focused on maternal lines, and has consistently stacked strong cow families to make sure the walking herd formed the backbone of the operation. Now that our numbers have grown closer to where we want them to be, I think it is important to follow this example and focus on making the core herd stronger from top to bottom. To accomplish this, we will need to retain all of our top bred heifers and not sell any females this fall as was originally intended. In the short term cash flow will certainly be tighter but, down the road, a stronger herd will result in a more uniform bull calf group, and more consistent females.
From a longer term perspective, one of my goals as a purebred breeder is to get the Applecross/APLX prefix on the bulk of our walking herd. When I look at bull and female sales for some of the top programs I admire – whether it is here in Alberta with Virginia Ranch or Anchor D – or my parents Dora Lee in Ontario – their own breeding prefix is very prominent in their program; often going back deep into extended pedigrees. Obviously an operation always needs to acquire new and different genetics to their herd in order to add some diversity, but I would like to think that if our herd is progressing, then generally our own replacements should be just as good as ones I could buy. I think it also can showcase your own breeding philosophy as it develops, hopefully, into a nice uniform group of cattle. This process obviously takes some time, but I also think that it creates a roadmap that showcases how a program evolves to create their current genetic offerings. Spending time in Ontario just enforced the importance of this goal, and provided yet another reason as to why our bred heifers should stay home this fall.
Lest you think I spent all my time thinking and talking cattle in Ontario, I did also enjoy some great time with family – not to mention several pieces of mom’s legendary pie (about the only advantage of visiting Ontario by myself – I got my favourite (Raspberry) – we usually get Jeanne’s favourite when we are both there). Living 4,000 odd kilometers from family can be tough, but we are blessed to live in a time when they are only a phone call/email/Skype away. We are fortunate to have both the opportunity and ability to visit, and we both look forward to an extended trip east next Summer. While the focus is always to visit family, I am sure there will be plenty of opportunity to see the cattle, and take that important opportunity to step back and reflect on where our own operation is headed.
Labour Day week-end has always meant weaning time here at Applecross. I am not sure whether it is the sudden change in weather (it seemingly goes from warm evenings to a hint of frost overnight), to Jeanne’s annual return to the front of the classroom, but it is always the last ‘must do’ on the summer’s job list, and is always scheduled for Labour Day Monday.
For the last 4 years, we have used ‘Quiet Wean’ nose flaps in a two step weaning process that begins 9 days earlier – often the morning of the Anchor D Female Sale. Dan & Karen always showcase a set of excellent cattle combined with amazing hospitality, so I always take the day off work to attend this great gathering. The Friday morning sales date provides the perfect opportunity to work through the groups and get quiet weans in every nose, prior to enjoying some fun and fellowship later that afternoon. Nine days later, on Labour Day Monday, we removed the Quiet Weans, and formally separate the calves from their dams.
The Quiet Weans themselves are a small, bendable plastic insert that fits into the calves’ nose. The flap allows them to still eat grass and drink water, but prevents them from ‘drinking upwards’ to the teat. This ensures that the calves have nine days to wean themselves off their ‘milk addiction’, and then only have to deal with separation anxiety from their mothers come weaning day.
I first saw the quiet weans at work when touring the D Bar C / Cutler & Sissons herd in 2009. I figured that if it worked for them in their 400 cow operation, we could easily manage the extra step with our much smaller herd. Now, four years later, we are pleased with how both the cows and calves transfer through the stress of weaning. Yes, there is still some noise for a day or two, but the calves adapt a lot more quickly and seem to be back turning grass into meat in no time. We hope to profile some of these calves over the next few months.