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Travis and Becky Page: Building a purebred seedstock operation

Unlike many seedstock producers, neither Travis nor Becky Page were born into the purebred industry. Both grew up on a mixed grain and commercial cattle operation, Travis near Didsbury, Alta., and Becky near Grenfell, Sask. As a result, when they started their operation, Redline Livestock, they didn’t have a family name or a multi-generational reputation to ride on. They just had their cattle to represent what they were working towards.

They met at Olds College — Travis was taking the Agriculture Business, Becky Agriculture Production — and quickly came to realize they were both commercial cattle kids who wanted to find their way into the purebred industry. Travis, the youngest of seven children, had taken an interest in purebred Red Angus cattle in his teens partly due to the influence of his great uncle, Ron Devolane, who sold him the last remaining females from the Devolane herd in 2008. They form the base for Travis’s purebred Red Angus herd. Becky, on the other hand, had developed a passion for purebred Hereford cattle after working for Jim and Lori Duke of Square D Herefords.

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They knew that the first step they needed to take on their venture into the purebred industry was to be together. As a result they were married in July 2010, after graduating from Olds College. Soon after they settled 20 miles east of Didsbury and moved Becky’s Herefords from Saskatchewan to their new farm to join Travis’s Red Angus herd. Their combined herd had humble beginnings, similar to many young people entering the business — 12 purebred females from each breed and seven commercial females.

Ultimately they planned to grow their purebred herds together along with a large commercial herd that would both display the genetic value of their purebreds and help them maintain a close connection to their bull-buying customers.

Today Redline Livestock has 150 purebred females and 150 commercial cows. No small feat for a couple only five years out of college.

Along the way they welcomed daughter Joni in September 2012 and son Grady in December 2013. Their third child, son Morgan, was born in July. It is definitely a balancing act, says Becky.

“Every day flies by with a long list of things you don’t get to. My only hope is that I can give both our kids and our operation enough of myself that I make a difference at the end of the day.”

Despite the challenges Becky is confident ranch life will teach their kids about life in ways they could never otherwise experience, and give them skills they can take with them through life.

“Most of all, it will give them an appreciation for what we do and a connection to both cattle and land that will forever be an asset.”

As labour is almost always limited to themselves the current cattle-handling system is designed to be operated by one or, at most, two people. Soon they hope to incorporate a calving barn into an improved handling system that will more effectively meet their needs.

Beyond the sheer lack of time and hands to do all the work the biggest challenge they faced getting started was learning the ins and outs of the purebred industry. They had to learn how to select a consistent pen of bulls, and just as important, to grow them out efficiently and market them. They began selecting bulls by asking themselves if they would use them on their own cows. If the answer was no, the animal was cut.

Growing and maintaining the condition of their bulls without sacrificing their health and longevity was another concern. They closely monitor and limit the feed their bulls receive, and avoid self-feeding and creep-feeding scenarios.

They also felt that displaying their own genetics at cattle shows would play a large role in how they marketed their herd. But this pursuit came with a steep learning curve for the couple as everything from halter breaking to clipping and showing were new to them.

“In the beginning, and still, we definitely made many mistakes and learned a pile of lessons, but we always try our best to make them count,” says Becky. “We always find plenty of room for improvement and every year we focus ourselves on what to do better.”

In addition to learning the ropes they also had to gain acceptance within the tight-knit purebred industry.

“Acceptance is tough,” allows Becky, “and it is something you definitely have to earn when you aren’t from the industry. We have grown to have a great passion for all aspects of our industry, and the people in it.”

As to the future they don’t show any signs of pulling up on the reins just yet. Attaining more land is a top priority to accommodate future expansion. At the same time they will continue to select with the aim of improving the overall quality of the cattle while pushing their females down to a strict 60-day breeding cycle. They rely on detailed herd management records to pin down which cows are most profitable.

Another goal, says Travis, is to make greater use of the tools available to measure carcass data, feed efficiency and fertility to continue improving the quality of their bulls and commercial heifers. “The main concern is which tools to utilize first, their affordability, and how to incorporate them so the results are accurate and effective,” he says.

The bulls and heifers are sold by private treaty.

“We want our bulls to represent everything we do, and we want them to go out, work hard and live long lives,” he explains.

“We definitely feel that a herd of 100 purebreds does not mean you have a pen of 50 bulls and 50 replacements. We think it is as important for people to walk through and see the animals that haven’t made the cut being clearly presented beside the ones which have and to know our reasoning behind those decisions.”

Most importantly, Travis and Becky want to continue to raise their family within this industry.

“We are so excited in this industry now. It is incredible to have friends and neighbours our age working towards the same goals we are. Doing what you love alongside other young people gives you drive and enthusiasm,” says Travis. “Everyone is so optimistic right now and the industry is gaining momentum every year. We grew up observing our families go through tough times with cows, and that is always in the back of your mind to remind you how strong things have become. It would be great to see this continue, and our kids to have an opportunity to be a part in it one day as well.”

More information on their operation is available at redlinelivestock.com.

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