Soderglen Ranches has added yet another element of quality assurance to its Five Star program that guides the breeding, development and sale of its purebred and crossbred bulls. The first bulls from Canada’s first Express Verified Plus herd were being prepared for the annual Soderglen Select Bull Sale at the ranch northwest of Airdrie, Alta., on Feb. 12.
Boehringer Ingelheim (BI) guarantees that cows properly vaccinated with its line of Express 5 and Express 10 (with or without somnugen) modified-live vaccines will not give birth to persistently infected (PI) calves if they are exposed to BVD virus when pregnant.
Unprotected cows that acquire BVD virus may abort or give birth to dead, premature, deformed, weak, poor-doing and/or PI calves depending on the stage of gestation when they contract the virus. Many PI calves die within a short time after birth, but many appear to be quite normal except for the fact that they shed copious amounts of BVD virus throughout their lifetimes and often succumb to the fatal mucosal form of the disease.
PI is the most economically significant form of the disease, according to Lee Irvine, BI’s national bovine and equine sales manager. PI calves spread BVD virus to non-protected cattle on pasture and in the feedlot causing the non-fatal, acute form of the disease which can perpetuate the BVD cycle in breeding herds with the birth of PI calves the following year, or weaken the immune systems of young calves, thus increasing their susceptibility to other diseases.
The latest research from Dr. Dan Givens*, who heads up BVD research programs at Auburn University in Alabama, has shown that bulls can develop prolonged testicular BVD infections and can shed the virus in their semen for weeks or months following recovery from an acute BVD infection caused by strains of BVD virus. The virus from their semen is capable of infecting unprotected females through natural breeding and artificial insemination.
“Because BVD is such a big concern, we decided to find the best vaccine product and stick with it instead of bouncing from one to another on the basis of price,” says Soderglen manager Scott Lees. Choosing vaccine products and following the associated protocols can become confusing when you’re dealing with cattle at the feedlot level and the cow-calf level and changing from year to year.
Lees says Soderglen set out to produce a better product with a better guarantee to set them apart from the competition in quality and customer service. “The question was if we stick with the product and do what we are supposed to do, can we guarantee we will be selling a better product?”
“Three years later, here we are with Canada’s first Express Verified Plus herd.”
Soderglen is one of Canada’s larger owner-operated seed-stock operations with 1,600 cows calved in 2010. Soderglen North includes all of the facilities for developing bulls, heifers and feeding out feeder calves from the Airdrie herd managed by Jared Sherman and the Soderglen South herd. The south division includes a 300-head spring calving herd at Fort Macleod, managed by Jeff High, and the 600-head summer-calving herd and yearling pastures south of Cardston, managed by Roger Gerard.
Express Verified Programs
BI started offering the Express Verified program after the product received a label claim for prevention of PI calves in 2007. BI will pay compensation at fair-market value plus the cost of diagnostic testing if a persistently infected calf is born to a properly Express-vaccinated cow.
Producers who vaccinate their cows with Express 3 VL5, Express 5 or Express 10 products prior to breeding are eligible to Express verify the calves when they age verify their calves in the Canadian Cattle Identification Agency’s database. The guarantee transfers to subsequent owners in Canada or elsewhere.
Soderglen attained Express Verified Plus status by vaccinating its PI-free guaranteed bulls with Express 5 to protect them against testicular BVD infections that could pass the virus on in the semen. BI extended its guarantee to cover test and treatment costs up to $3,500 on any of these bulls that contract BVD I, BVD II, IBR, BRSV or PI3, the five diseases covered by Express 5, for six months following the bull sale.
While veterinary diagnostic labs have tests to identify PI cattle, there are no economically feasible tests available in Canada to identify BVD virus in semen, therefore, it’s important to include breeding bulls in your annual BVD vaccination program, says BI technical services veterinarian Doug Myers.
The study to confirm Express 5’s effectiveness in preventing testicular BVD infections was supervised by Dr. Givens at Auburn University.
BI recently introduced a Buy Prime program to connect buyers who are looking for calves from Express-vaccinated cows through auction markets or direct purchases with producers who follow the vaccination program.
The BI program adds to Soderglen’s own herd bull-breeding soundness guarantee. Should any bull fail to breed, they will replace it with a bull of equal value or refund the money. Soderglen also sells a 60-day all-perils breeding-season warranty required under some sale conditions and an optional extended warranty that covers the first breeding season until October 1.
“There is a cost to us, but we realize our customers are making a significant investment in buying our bulls. A third of our business is bulls, so all of these things come into it to give us a competitive edge,” Lees explains. The bulls are sold either as long yearlings at the annual sale in February or as yearling bulls by private treaty when the catalogue comes out in April.
Another part of the business has traditionally been in commercial open and bred replacement heifers, mostly sold by private treaty. Lees says now that cattle markets are turning around, Soderglen is ready to re-enter that market this year after a hiatus of a couple years due to slow demand.
Soderglen offers to house the bulls after the sale to continue developing them on high-roughage rations at no charge until May 1. The purchase price also includes free delivery to central points in Alberta and Saskatchewan, with a minimal charge of $50 if you want the bull(s) delivered to your yard. Deliveries beyond those provinces are provided at rates from $100 to $350, depending on distance.
Soderglen produces purebred Angus, Red Angus, Simmental and Charolais stock and first-cross hybrid bulls with pedigrees. The foundation of the Soderglen MAX line is Angus dams for maternal traits with Simmental as the complimentary breed for added performance and carcass merit. The new CCM (Continental Carcass Maker) line targets quality carcasses with Red Angus marbling and muscle quality from the sire side and high performance from Charolais dams.
The purebred and hybrid breeding programs are kept on target by using tools such as actual performance data for each animal, expected progeny differences (EPDs), pelvic measurements on heifers, ultrasound measurements to grade carcass merit and disposition scoring on every bull. DNA testing for parentage and other traits has become routine since they began using this new technology eight years ago. All of this information is readily available to prospective buyers, however it can be quite overwhelming.
Soderglen’s advice is first to know what you want to produce, determine the traits you need to improve to produce that product, find the breed or line with the traits you feel you need, then go through the data to compare one bull to another within the breed, and, finally, select the bull that accentuates the traits you want in a balanced package.
Their annual sale is televised by Canadian Satellite Livestock Auctions on Shaw Direct (former Star Choice) channel 299 with phone-in bidding, and via the Internet through CSLA’s new association with OnLine Ringman.
For more information about the sale, contact Soderglen Ranches at 1-403-948-6700, or go to www.soderglen.com.
*Givens MD, et al.Safety and efficacy of vaccination of seronegative bulls with modified-live, cytopathic bovine viral diarrhea viruses. Theriogenology (2009), doi:10.1016/j. theriogenology. 2008.10.021