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.
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.
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 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.
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.
The Applecross Year In Review
2012 was an incredible year for Applecross. We hit a lot of milestones and are very pleased with how our operation continued to grow and evolve during the year.
We had some mild weather to begin the year, and that certainly made calving easier. It is not every year that calves can be born outside on the straw-pack without losing their tails or freezing their ears! We were almost three-quarters heifers to bulls in 2012 – which is great when you are trying to increase your herd numbers. While the mild weather created its own set of (health) challenges with the calves, we were quite happy with how they developed.
Bulls sales in 2012 far exceeded our expectations. Unexpectedly, at the end of 2011, Envoy was selected for the National Trust sale. As a result, we began the year with a visit to Lonnie & Karen Brown in late February, to deliver him to his new home and tour their operation. Not long after that, we got the chance to deliver Santana up to Edson, giving us the chance to see both the Wa-Na-La-Pa and Langer herds (and check out APLX Ensign in his home). Touring herds is one of my favourite things to do, so it doesn’t matter if it is February – seeing good cattle and visiting with great people is always a great way to spend a day. We were also pleased by how our bulls sold at auction in 2012. We were both honoured and humbled to see both Jackson (who sold in March at the Red Deer Sale for $12,000 to Westgold Simmentals) and Santana (who Wayne sold in the 2012 Cow-A-Rama sale for $11,000 to Vaughn Gibbons) represent the APLX prefix so well. It always takes time for bulls to make an impact in a breeders program, but we look forward to visiting all of these operations in 2013 to see how Envoy, Jackson and Santana are doing.
Lots of moisture in June and July led into a warm August and plenty of grass for the cattle. We didn’t vacation this summer, so there was plenty of time to halter break calves in July and complete farm improvements in August. We added space to winter mature bulls this year, so that was a major accomplishment for us. We also spent time improving our rotational grazing program, and making more efficient use of space and labour to help us manage additional cow numbers.
Heading into the fall sale season, it was great to see such excellent results, and see our fellow breeders having the success that they enjoyed. On the home front, we were successful in aquiring an additional bred heifer privately from my parents operation. Dora Lee Martina is a big, strong Broadway daughter that I think will fit in nicely with our young herd. The sale season also brought the opportunity to travel to Brandon to the National Trust sale, and while there I really enjoyed both visiting with fellow breeders and touring some world-class purebred operations. The sales seemed to get stronger as the year went on, and we weren’t successful purchasing females closer to home. The market for quality cattle has become very strong, and it is a great sign for the Simmental breed as the cattle market takes a much needed turn for the better.
I commented last year on the success of our website – and I thought it only fitting to provide an update again this year. 2012 brought additional visitors; with almost 10,000 views from over 87 countries during the year. We also worked with my parents to launch an updated Dora Lee website (www.doraleegenetics.com) utilizing the WordPress platform. Mom and Dad are able to manage and post updates to their site themselves, so it is another example of how easy establishing and maintaining a current web presence has become. We look forward to another exciting year in 2013 of providing updates on our operation, and sharing our perspective on topics that interest us.
Looking forward to 2013
For 2013, we are excited about what should be our largest, most uniform calf crop yet. We start calving about the 10th of January, and thanks to some good luck with our AI program, and having our walking bulls go right to work, we should be done calving in 2 months. We are expecting calves from 10 different sires, so there should be lots of diversity, but the similar ages of the calves should allow us to effectively compare the genetics. We have a number of cows bred to sires that have proven to work here in the past (Eclipse, Equinox, and Pharao to name three), but have also added some new sires, including a group bred to the great Bronson bull, as well as the first calves from our two young walking bulls – APLX Escalade and APLX Samson. It should be a awesome 2 months.
Early in the new year has also become the time of bull sales, and it appears like several events have moved earlier in the season. Based on how purebred heifers sold this fall, strong cattle prices, and the gradual rebuilding of cow numbers in the industry, I expect bull sales to be exceptional. Getting a different catalogue in the mail (seemingly) every day, is an exciting part of our search for new and outcross genetics. We also look forward to watching our three bulls develop in preparation for the Red Deer Sale in late March. We think Axel, Edge and Ajax all have something to offer the industry, so it will be great to watch them continue to develop.
Hard on the heels of bull sale season, comes some tough breeding decisions. While we still plan to AI extensively, we are planning on increasing our use of both of our walking bulls. With Escalade and Samson wintering here, they have continued to impress, and I think they will be more than up to the challenge of breeding a few more cows each in 2013.
In a lot of ways, the next few months are critical to the success of an operation. Getting healthy calves on the ground (and off to a good start), followed immediately thereafter by breeding decisions that can shape a program for years to come. Those night checks might get old after a few weeks, but the excitement that comes with seeing that healthy new-born calf, from a mating that you had such high hopes for, will make it all worthwhile.
As 2012 wraps up, and 2013 is about to begin, we pause during this holidays season to reflect with family and friends on the challenges and successes we have enjoyed over the past year. We are blessed to live in an amazing country, with fresh air, clean water and the means to put food on the table. We have a passion for breeding quality Fleckvieh cattle, and we are very fortunate to be able to pursue this dream through our operation here at Applecross. We look forward to an awesome 2013!
Annual Female Section Update
We have completed our annual refresh of our female section (Herdbook > Foundation Females) with updated pictures and new pages to showcase some additional females. The pages fall into chronological order, with our oldest cow (Jewel) at the top, and our youngest female (Taylor) at the bottom. As our herd is made up predominantly of young cows, a year can bring significant change as they grow and develop into more mature animals. The challenge is, of course, getting updated pictures that reflect the phenotypical change (not to mention to convince the cows that they should stand to get their picture taken!). Over the years I would like to get a good picture of every quality female we own, but there are always some that can escape the camera.
Featured above is Applecross Janelle. Janelle is one of our top bred heifers, and was originally selected for this year’s Fleckvieh Equation sale. An Anchor T Ikon daughter, by a powerful Dora Lee Eclipse dam, Janelle (and her dam Jasmine) have caught the eye of many of our visitors the last couple of years. After a lot of discussion, we decided it would be best for the long term success of our operation to retain Janelle (and all of our bred heifers), to help grow our numbers here at Applecross. We look forward to Janelle’s 2013 calf by the polled calving ease bull Sanmar Pol Pharao in mid January.
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.
Rotational grazing is something we have been working with since the early 1990’s, when Dad purchased the farm next door. The new land had not been worked for a number of years, and everything on it was in a state of disrepair. The old barn was buried, the house cleaned up and refurbished, and new fences went up so that our Fleckvieh cattle could enjoy the extra space. We spent a lot of time together that summer – fencing and, in his words, ‘putting the land to work’.
Thanks to 40 acres of bush at Dora Lee, fencing started the hard way – we cut all of our cedar posts directly from the bush. Most trees had two or three 8ft posts in them, and Dad was always careful to only selectively cut the posts we needed from a number of different areas in order to keep the forest viable for future uses. We would log for a while, and then move the pile of fresh cut posts to the house, where an ‘after supper’ job for us kids would be stripping the bark from the green posts, getting them ready to be ‘planted’. We then moved on to the actual fencing – the perimeter was completed with 4 strand high-tensile electric wire (with cedar posts every 30 ft), while the cross fencing was single strand (and thankfully just plastic posts). Although it has been 20 years, the original electric fencing has remained in place, and dad continues to add additional cross-fences to improve the rotational grazing patterns. This summer alone, an additional 2 miles of interior fences were added.
Partly because of this background, one of our summer projects here at Applecross was to complete the first phase of our rotational grazing program. As I have previously discussed, our home quarter is solely a grass quarter, with three separate walking groups (bred heifers, cows w heifer calves, cows w bull calves). All three groups obviously need to have access to a clean water source, preferably in the yard. While well-water is more expensive than a dug-out or natural water source, I think the cattle just do better with quality water. We also like the fact that our groups then have to come up to the yard to drink. It gets them in a routine of coming up to buildings, and in turn locking them in for treatment, processing or sorting becomes very straightforward. It might mean a little extra fence to add alleys to all the rotations, but the management benefits more than offset the additional cost and time to put them up.
So during my August holidays, we finally finished phase one of our rotational grazing plan. Each of the three groups now have 3 paddocks they can rotate through, and an alley to get to the yard for water. The cows are rotated approximately every 10 days, giving each pasture a 20 day break. We also have 2 smaller ‘overflow’ fields which are not part of the rotation, but can be utilized should any of the groups get ahead of the re-growth. It is always great to have a little flexibility.
Our cross-fencing is simply single strand hot wire, and it does appear to be something that the cows respect. We have quiet cows, and that certainly helps with the hot wire (as they usually walk not run), but obviously if a cow feels cornered or threatened, they will still go through or over the fence. We are predominantly utilizing fiberglass ‘pigtail posts’ that can be easily removed/dropped if you need to drive over the fence with a tractor (or when spreading manure for that matter). We like that the ‘pigtails’ don’t have parts to break off like other posts, but they are a little tall at spring turn out, as the younger calves can still walk under them. We manage this by angling the posts, which drops the wire height slightly. Not only does this keep the calves in, but it also makes it a little easier for us to step over when walking between groups.
Phase 1 is now complete, so we will move on to phase 2 over the next few years. Our final goal is to have 6 paddocks for each group, allowing a 5 day rotation and 25 day rest – we think this will be the optimal balance between maximizing grass while keeping active management to a moderate level. While we are out to ‘visit’ our cows pretty much every day in the summer, moving them every 5 days feels like it will be the right amount that will allow the cattle to keep their routines, while keeping the grass re-growth high.
It may be early yet to see how successful our new fences have been in improving yield, however we have already been able to see visible improvement in the first fields that were cross fenced in 2010 and 2011. While the cows still have their favorite spots in each paddock, re-growth seems to be broader spread and more even. Different species seem to be thriving – as an early graze of quick growing spring grass appears to allow for clover and alfalfa to thrive more through the middle of the season. We look forward to seeing how the grass continues to evolve over the upcoming years.
Our goal is to be able to increase the yield of our pastures by upwards of 20%. Whether we utilize this gain by being able to graze longer into winter, or by pasturing more cattle, a 20% grass gain for a couple of hundred dollars of wire and posts seems like a pretty good investment.
We have been blessed this summer by lots of moisture through June and July, followed by plenty of heat this summer. The grass (as you can see in the picture), has been plentiful, and as a result, it hasn’t been nearly as stressed as a ‘normal’ year would be. Considering the wide-spread drought conditions in the US and Eastern Canada, we are very, very fortunate. With the weather and grass that we have, our efforts to improve our rotational grazing may not seem immediately beneficial, but over the longer term, less stress on each of the pastures should only be a good thing; regardless of the weather.
I was originally going to title this ‘Spring’ update but, while the snow has mostly gone, sub zero temperatures, random flurries and lots of wind hasn’t made this season feel too much like spring yet. Not that I am complaining. After the warm temperatures we enjoyed this winter I have nothing to complain about. It is truly special to walk out to the straw pack and see that a calf was born unassisted, and is up and drinking on their own, without having to worry about it freezing. While the mild winter can create its own set of challenges, we are truly thankful for the great calving season. The final tally has us with a 2 heifer to 1 bull ratio, which definitely means that the first Applecross females will be marketed this fall.
April brings ‘Spring Fever’ to our house (which is more than just me chasing Jeanne around the kitchen!). Perhaps cabin fever is a more apt description. Since the daylight hours are so long, and those pesky night checks are done for the season, there seems to be more time and energy to get those ‘after supper’ chores done in preparation for spring. Those ‘to-do’ lists that were made during the winter months get transferred into action. It is also great just to be outside more, without the heavy clothing, working away at those endless number of things that need done around the farm.
We have been able to get the cows out of the corrals behind the barn and onto our ‘shoulder season’ pasture that we use for December and April-May. It is a three acre paddock, complete with an old horse ‘round pen’ they can utilize for shelter. It is great to see them more relaxed; out of the mud and using their feet and legs more. I think the exercise is good for the calves too – they sure change in the few months since birth. It doesn’t take long for the bulls to start looking like bulls, and the heifers to start ‘princessing’ around the yard.
Speaking of ‘Princesses’; that is a great word to describe our Anchor D Viper calves. We only got heifers, but they sure are easy to pick out. They all seem to have the certain intangible ‘sass’ about them that is really neat to see. If there is going to be a calf to follow you around when you’re checking cows, looking for some attention, it will be a Viper heifer.
Dad has always said that the key to a successful breeding season is to make more ‘good decisions’ than ‘bad ones’. Sometimes a genetic combination works out; other times it does not. Hopefully each calf crop yields more of the ‘good’, and fewer ‘bads’. For the 2012 edition, I think I am firmly on the ‘good’ side of the ledger, though there are a few matings that didn’t work out quite the way I hoped. I always try to treat mistakes as something to learn from, instead of constantly second guessing myself. That is one of the great things about the cattle business: there is always next year to plan for.
To help me plan, I really try to keep detailed notes; some days those notes morph into a journal. It really helps the memory, and can be referred back to; little details can be remembered. Everything from calving tendencies and gestations, to a genetic cross that worked (and those that don’t). We live in such an information society, being able to go back and refer to notes – and have an accurate record of what you were thinking at the time, instead of relying on an increasingly bad memory (or just whatever you have heard recently) – is a great help when making decisions.
We are thick into AI season. I have a detailed chart of who should be bred, and to what; but that doesn’t always stop me from changing my mind when Donna McMurtry drives in the lane to breed them. Having Donna available is a great resource. As she has bred thousands of cows over the years, her level of expertise is tremendous. Having been around the breed for 35+ years, she also has an interesting perspective on what genetics work.
The biggest addition to our 2012 AI line-up is IPU Bronson. I really admire the Bronson females that Harry and Michelle Satchwell have working down at Virginia Ranch. They really are a sight – I think at one point they had something like 17 daughters working there – and they are all tremendous big volume cows. As we didn’t manage to get any daughters bought, we are excited to hopefully develop some for our own over the next few years.
We will also be AI’ing more to Dora Lee Eclipse this year; specifically on our heifers. His first daughters that I have working (now aged 4) are really impressive – and I have a really nice heifer calf this year too. There is a lot to like about Eclipse – he has both calving and maternal calving (a Fleckvieh rarity), he is coloured right, puts square udders on his females, and he can take the horns off. There is something to be said about keeping a semen bank around to re-visit 5 years down the road after you know a genetic combination works.
Spring is also when our bulls are introduced to their new homes. One of the great things about delivering bulls is the opportunity to tour the operation, and see what management techniques and genetic direction different herds are taking. I haven’t toured a herd yet where I haven’t learned something. This held true when we had the opportunity to tour the Langer and Wa-Na-La-Pa herds when delivering APLX Santana in a mid-March snow storm. One of the many things that stood out for us on this visit, was the work they had done with their new panel set-up that replaced old wooden corrals. The panels provide lots of flexibility and allowed multiple confined breeding and AI groups, all close together without the bulls seeming to bother each other; despite several cows being in heat that day. I see more panels in my future!
We also quite enjoyed our visit to Lone Stone Farms in February. One of our conditions in selling Envoy at the 2011 National Trust in November, was that we wanted to winter him prior to delivering him to Lonnie & Karen. So, on another snowy winter day, we travelled to Westlock to enjoy a wonderful lunch and most of an afternoon visiting. Even though it was only 4 days prior to their annual bull sale (and with plenty of jobs still yet to get done), they were more than happy to spend a lot of time with us showing us their program. One of the things that stood out for us on the visit, was the uniformity of the cattle. For the past 30 years they have developed a clear vision of what they want their cattle to look like, and that was clearly evident by how consistent their cow groups were. The success of their approach was clearly proven in the success of their Friday Bull Sale. Improving the uniformity of our cow herd is something that I look forward to, now that our herd numbers are almost to where we want them to be.
A last closing comment on bull season: while it has been a great year for bull sales overall, I would also suggest that it has been an amazing year for the ‘best of the best’. I don’t recall another spring where I have seen or heard of more bulls sell for $10,000+, $20,000+ or $40,000+. In some ways, it is not surprising; a rising industry should lead to reinvestment by both commercial cattlemen and by breeders. It is just great to see so much dedication / enthusiasm throughout the entire industry again in 2012. Here is hoping it continues on for the next few years.
Individual pages (short-cut links are located in the right-hand column) have been created for our three bull entries to the 2011 Red Deer Bull Sale to be held on Monday, March 21, 2011 at 1:00pm at Westerner Park, Red Deer, Alberta. The 2011 edition will represent our first genetics to sell by auction, and we are pleased to be a part of this great event.
The three bulls selected represent the best of our 2010 bull calf crop. We weaned September 3rd, 2010, evaluated the calves, and then culled thoroughly. These three bulls are all solid colour, heavily pigmented, have moderate (90-100lb) birth weights, show lots of muscling, have tremendous hair coats and are backed by strong, often unique, pedigrees. The bulls have been developed on a ration of free-choice quality first cut hay combined with 10lbs/day of mixed grain, formulated to 12% protein. To ensure they are in shape for breeding season, the grain ration was increased to 12lbs/day on February 1st. The bulls are housed in a 5 acre paddock to ensure lots of exercise, they have all been at least tie-broke, and all have a quiet temperament. In short, we have raised them to be the type of bulls we would wish to buy for ourselves, and feel they will go out and get the job done.
Thanks to their sire, all three bulls are scurred and may pass the polled gene along to their offspring. In 2009 we were selected to help ‘prove’ an exciting new homozygous polled bull that was the result of 10 years of development – Dora Lee’s Equinox. We are very pleased with how his first calf crop has performed, will continue to use him extensively. Thanks to his development in Ontario, we also believe his genetics are outcross to the vast majority of Fleckvieh lines in Western Canada. These three bulls will also represent the only Equinox sons to sell publicly in 2011.
On the individual pages, we have also pictured the dams. Maternal lines are very important to us, and we feel that behind every great bull is an outstanding mother. We also have additional information and pictures available about the maternal grand dams; should it be of interest. 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 2011 Red Deer Simmental Bull Sale will be a very exciting time for us. We look forward to seeing the first Applecross genetics sell March 21 at Westerner Park.
Picture Note: The above picture of ‘Ensign’ taken in October of 2010. We really like this picture of Ensign, as it showcases his tremendous volume and heavy muscling, but wanted to use a current ‘winter’ picture in order to have consistent maturity with the other bulls in the catalogue and on his web-page.
We are officially half way finished calving – so far, so good. We survived a couple of really brutal weeks of weather; during which, we were fortunate enough to convince the cows to calve inside. The calving barn is at least out of the wind, and not quite as cold. This week has been mild, so it has been nice to see the calves bouncing around the yard playing.
There have been a number of interesting calves to date; both bulls and heifers. Pictured here are two of the girls – (5 day old) Taylor who is a Gidsco Appollo by our Hiemstra cow, Tasha; and (2 week old) Janelle, an Anchor T Ikon heifer from Dora Lee Jasmine. We think very highly of both dams (they are both featured on our ‘Young Guns’ page), and we are excited to be able to grow both cow families. I hope to feature some of our other exciting calves in future posts.
I am very fortunate to have been raised in a photo-friendly family. My mom took a lot of pictures while I was growing up, and her love of photography meant there was almost always a camera around. Thankfully, Mom’s interest in pictures included ‘nature’ photography, as it meant a ‘rest’ from pictures for those of us who often tired of being in front of the camera. She took literally hundreds of cow-pictures each year. One of the underappreciated aspects of nature and cattle (whether it be sunrise, sunsets, dew-drops or autumn colours) is that they don’t tend to talk back, whine or complain to the photographer.
Well before the advent of computer editing and publishing, Mom took a lot of great cattle photos. This has created an incredible archive of pictures; giving us that timeless ability to see what generations upon generations of cattle look like . . . not to mention how sceneries and farmsteads change over the years! The attached photo is one that Mom took of our cow-herd (with our yard-site in the background) when she and Dad visited Applecross in the summer of 2010. With her permission, I hope to feature more of her photos in the future.
I also enjoy a taking a good picture, and feel it is a great way to showcase our operation. While the world has gotten a lot smaller, it is still not easy to visit every place that you’d like to go. Hopefully, some of the pictures posted here will serve as a bit of a ‘virtual tour’ of Applecross.