Mac and Pat Creech of M.C. Quantock Livestock just north of Lloyminster, have carved a niche for themselves in the Canadian cattle industry as Canada s Bull Supplier selling more than 8,800 purebred and hybrid bulls at some 42 sales they ve hosted through the years. Now, they have put together their first and perhaps their only Canada s Cow Sale slated for Saturday, December 10 at Vermilion, Alta., leading up to their annual Canada s Bulls sale the last Saturday of January at the Lloydminster Exhibition Grounds.
Like the Canada s Bulls sales, the Canada s Cow Sale will feature large numbers of uniform cattle offering commercial and purebred cattlemen the opportunity to make volume purchases of hard-nosed commercial-style purebred and hybrid females. Mac describes them as the kind of cows that know how to go out there and get down to business earning a living.
The Creeches assure customers that they aren t going out of business, or even contemplating slowing down much. They ve been stockpiling cows, so to speak, with a sale such as this in mind and the herd has really grown during the past five years.
This has been part of our business plan for some time. Except for culling, and we have been culling hard, we haven t sold any females for the past eight years with the idea that when the value was there, we would move some of them, Mac explains. Because this is a first-in-a-lifetime sale, we wanted to make it special and that s why, for the first time, we are cutting loose so many cows from the heart of our herd so that customers will be buying the good ones the ones behind the million- dollar bull sales every year.
Their entire April-May calving herd of purebred Angus and Red Angus cows bred either to their home-raised purebred Angus and Red Angus bulls or to purebred Fleckvieh Simmental bulls will be sold.
Creech anticipates that a highlight will be the offering of all of their 2009 bred heifers, which are purebred and first-cross (F1) females bred to their purebred Angus or Red Angus bulls for April calves.
All of their 2010 open replacement heifers will sell, too. This group features purebred Angus and Red Angus heifers as well as F1 heifers, all of which will be extra-age 14-month-old heifers.
That s a grand total of 850 one-iron, youthful cows and heifers in their prime all at one sale. They aren t the culls and none have been retained or sold from the groups that will be on offer.
They will retain their 500-head fall-calving herd and 200 of this year s heifer calves. By the time all is said and done, cow-wise, the ranch will be back to its 2003 numbers, Mac says. He admits that sometimes when he is riding through the herds it really is difficult to think about letting so many quality females go, but on second thought, he expects it won t be long before the numbers start adding up again.
The breeding program involves eight lines of registered purebred and hybrid cows and bulls, which requires a lot of attention to detail, not only in the everyday management of the groups, but from Pat s perspective running a one-woman office keeping the registrations and other paperwork up to date. Though their three children have careers of their own and aren t involved with the day-to-day ranching operations, they still contribute their energy and expertise to the business. All are intimately involved at sale time. It s a total family and staff effort.
Mac says they will continue to raise all eight lines: purebred Angus, purebred Red Angus, purebred Hereford, purebred Charolais, and their hybrids, Super Baldies (5/8 Red Angus, 3/8 Fleckvieh Simmental blood), Black Super Baldies (5/8 Angus, 3/8 Fleckvieh Simmental blood), Super Guppies (Red Angus X Gelbvieh), and H-2s (Hereford X Fleckvieh).
The reduction in the size of the cow herd won t significantly affect the number of bulls they have to offer each year, which averages about 450. The bulls for the 2012 sale are in development and those for the 2013 sale are on the ground. They may be down in number for the 2014 sale, but could very well be back up there by the time the 2015 sale rolls around or they may let it settle out at 300 bulls instead of 450 bulls, which would be a little easier to handle. It all remains to be seen.
One of the greatest challenges with selling 450 bulls each year is getting them delivered to points across Canada all in one month. Mac likes to make as many deliveries as possible in person to get to know his customers and meet the 30 to 40 per cent of the buyers who purchase bulls sight unseen every year. Many of their customers testify to the professional service the Creeches offer right from the sale itself, with a bull selling every 50 seconds for about six hours straight, selecting sight-unseen bulls that meet customers expectations and promptly replacing any bull that isn t on target. Customers also note the quality and easy-going disposition of the bulls.
The purebred operation has evolved with the times. The Creech family has been in the bull business for more than 100 years. Two generations ago it was with Shorthorn cattle. The purebred Hereford herd was established in 1951, with the Red Angus cattle introduced through the 1960s and the blacks in the 1990s. During the past two decades, they ve introduced some exotic breeds with muscle and milk to compliment the hardy, maternal traits of the British breeds, but never have they strayed away from maintaining moderate frame size with light to moderate birth weights in every line.
It was about 25 years ago that they abandoned the show ring circuit and implemented a business plan to develop bulls exclusively for commercial cattlemen, stressing uniformity within each line so that their customers would be able to make volume purchases of like bulls and benefit from that uniformity in their own calf crops and replacement heifers.
They switched the whole herd to fall calving about 17 years ago, then reintroduced spring calving to spread out the work load as they reached 600 to 700 cows.
Around the same time as the switch to fall calving, they began their crossbreeding program to capture hybrid vigour in the offspring and sell that advantage to commercial cattlemen. They have built up a large customer base for their hybrid bulls because the two-breed cross offers simplicity for commercial cattlemen, who often find that running a two-or three-breed cross program within their own herds complicates management. A hybrid bull allows them to capture 75 per cent of the hybrid vigour inherent in the first cross, however, raising hybrid seedstock of consistent quality starts with using good cattle, not the bottom end of the herd.
Their production system mirrors that of many of today s commercial herds in that as much as possible it is done on grass. The exception is the small bull development facility where the bulls are raised from freeze-up until the January sale. Many buyers choose to leave the bulls at the ranch in the bull development option program until delivery in April or May.
The fall-born bulls are weaned in March then fed a high-roughage diet until the end of May, when they start into their pasture rotations with moves every day through to mid October so that they have fresh grass in front of them every day. As the grass browns off in the fall, they receive a salt-limited pellet product with 60 per cent total digestible nutrients to maintain the energy level in their diet. Once frost sets in and the pasture watering systems have to be shut down, they are moved into the feedyard and receive the bull development ration up to sale time. The spring-born bulls are weaned in late fall, roughed through the winter, then managed like the fall-born bulls from there on up to sale time.
The spring-calving cow herd rotates through the home pastures for the summer, however, the dry pregnant fall-calving cows are custom pastured from May through August to allow the grass in their calving fields to be stockpiled for fall and spring calving. During calving, the cows rotate through the stockpiled pastures, but rather than forcing the move, they are free to drift onto the next pasture on their own time. They calve in five locations with up to 200 cows in a group and one person in charge of one or two calving fields.
The heifer calves are weaned on the same schedule as the bull calves and managed through two winters on an all-roughage ration if possible. The mature spring-calving cows are stockpile-grazed or bale-grazed with minimal supplementation. The fall calvers are kept closer to home and after breeding in November and December are wintered on a straw-based ration with protein and energy supplementation.
Doing away with most of their field operations is one change that has helped free up time for the ranching operation. They have been purchasing feed grains from neighbours for the past 30 years and streamlined things one more notch about 15 years ago by purchasing hay and straw as needed. They still grow some of their own silage, which is harvested by custom operators. These changes have allowed ranch staff to spend most of their time working with cattle, which is what they enjoy, so it has helped to retain good employees, Mac explains.
The cows and heifers that clients will have an opportunity to purchase in person, over the phone or by watching the sale and bidding via the Internet on December 10 are coming straight out of this herd of ranch-raised seedstock.
We ve seen a lot of changes in the industry over time and we are really looking forward to and wouldn t want to miss the next number of years, Creech concludes. It s going to be fun and profitable for us all!
For more information, call the Creeches at 1-800-561- BULL (2855) or visit www.mcquantock.com.