Hello Cattlemen This year the Red Angus Industry lost a great supporter & one of the most motivated Red Angus Breeders we had. A true cowboy & a great friend, Josh Dykes passed away tragically last fall. Josh & I would talk at great lengths about our philosophies, our long term goals, and the direction we thought Red Angus cattle should go. He was very passionate and his phone calls are something I truly miss. One thing Josh always told me during our conversations was, “Tell your philosophy more.” I wrote this lengthy introduction about our vision at Sandhill Red Angus in the days following his passing. Sandhill Red Angus will be selling picks of our 2019 and 2020 born females as Lot 4A in the sale this year. The proceeds from this Lot will go to Josh’s children. With this introduction I am going to talk about our vision and why we have this philosophy. Our long-term goal would most easily be described as trying to make a great Red Angus female! We want females with growth, carcass, and longevity. We don’t want to make them into a terminal animal. Longevity is the one thing most attributed to sustainability in the cattle business. We don’t chase the new and upcoming thing. We will not flip through generations to keep our EPD’s up to date. We want functional females that last. You will see us talk about cows that are 12, 15, or even 17 years of age. These cows that breed up on time for that long and produce an above average calf are exactly what we shoot for. These females must be big bodied, long, and attractive. They must have good feet and a perfect udder. We believe that without these foundation females, you cannot produce the right end product. To start at the beginning, we do not believe in low birth weights. Calving ease can be accomplished without giving up growth and structure. We do not want calves that weigh under 75lbs. We calve our cows out in a 1600-acre pasture, starting in the middle of March in northeast Montana. Calves need to have enough body mass to get up, nurse, and withstand some weather. A calf that is 90lbs will survive a negative degree night, whereas a calf that is 65lbs will probably never get up. If we pick up a cold calf at calving, it is almost always 75lbs or less. Red Angus Cattle have always been and always will be calving ease, so why try and fix something that doesn’t need to be fixed. Our birth weights stay very steady between 80-95 lbs and that is because we haven’t chased lower birth weight bulls. Consistency is a must for us, we want our calves to average 85-87lbs. We don’t want a sire that will have a 100lbs & then throw a 70lb calf. We want our herd sires to have a very constant birth weight average. We have some exceptions with calves in the 65-75lbs range and some over 95lbs, but very few. This will always be our first step in picking a new sire. A big negative birth weight EPD bull will not have very many live progeny in our program. The next step in keeping our vision on track is watching our cows at calving time. It may sound silly to most in the cattle business, but the simple truth is that there are a lot of females in production that should not be. I am not sure if they are simply not looked at, or are just bred with an EPD calculator. This is when most of your convenience traits that can make the cattle business very fun or just plain miserable show up. First off is if they want to be a mother, again we calve out and not in pens. If a cow or a first calf heifer has a calf and doesn’t want to take care of it, she is culled. It has amazed me how many popular bulls will have daughters that don’t know how to take care of a calf. Second is a cows temperament, we will not punish a cow for being protective of a calf in the first couple hours after birth. Cows that will keep coyotes & other predators away have more live calves. That being said, we weigh every calf at birth, give them a permanent metal clip, and give two shots; so the cows have to be easy to handle. Disposition is huge and it is easy to pick out at this time. Next is udder and feet scores. It is amazing to me how fast udders can be cleaned up and fixed with attention. It also amazes me how many poor udder-ed cows are in production. If a calf is born and cannot get up and nurse on its own, the cow should be culled. We don’t have time to get a cow in to milk her or help assist the calf. Our foundation 2715 cow is a prime example of what we believe in. Last spring, she had a calf at the age of 17 without a problem, with a perfect udder and foot score. I believe feet issues are harder to control because it has been such a problem for so long. It skips generations or doesn’t show up until the cows or bulls get older. We have culled extensively on our cattle’s feet and legs. It is something that we are proud of, but we believe still needs more work. Our cows are very good footed but in buying new bulls or keeping our own replacements, it is going to take years to fix. Weaning a big calf while keeping good condition is our next concern. Growth is one of our biggest concerns and it goes back to low birth weights. The bigger the calf at birth, the bigger it will be at weaning. We have long time customers that calve in the middle of March and wean 650-700lbs steers every year in October. Commercial cattlemen get payed by the pound and we want cattle that will produce. We believe there are Red Angus Bulls that will perform with any breed. These bulls are just getting harder to find. We all sell cattle to get fattened and killed. The next step in performance is getting those cattle to convert feed to muscle. The faster and easier they convert feed, the more profitable the feeders can be; thus your cattle will be in more demand. Along with this comes the carcass traits. Angus cattle have always marbled very well. The problem is that they lack in rib-eye and muscling compared to other breeds. We believe you can find bulls that will add rib-eye without sacrificing marbling or making your female into a terminal animal. A well balanced approach is needed in this area. Also, steers that don’t have enough growth and frame and kill at 1000lbs don’t make feeders much money, although steers that kill at 1500lbs & don’t grade are just as bad or worse. After weaning it comes time to focus on fertility. We believe fertility can be greatly enhanced in a short period of time. Fertility is the strictest culling factor we have at Sandhill Red Angus. When we preg check our cows, we cut them off at two cycles every year. There is no exception to this ever. In our first calf heifers, we keep only the heifers that catch in the first cycle. We don’t feed a mineral to our cows during the summer, they have to raise a calf & re-breed on their own. The only supplement that we put out is salt blocks. We believe that we have to be harder on our cows than our customers. If we are not, then the cows will not be functional for them. This last fall we preg checked our Registered heifers in Jordan and they caught 87% to the AI. We put Embryos in all of our commercial heifers and they caught at an incredible 64%. This we believe is attributed to the fertility in our herd. Our Registered cows usually test at about a 3-4% open rate and that is only covering two cycles. With all that, TYPE is still the biggest guide in what we do. We believe the right type of cow or bull can go anywhere in the world and produce. Environment will impact the size of the cow and the size of the calf she weans, but if she’s not the right type, she won’t last in production. To me the best explanation of this is a cow from north-east Montana that is long, deep, has some bone, structure, and keeps her flesh can go to Canada or Texas and thrive. Her progeny will adapt in size to the environment, but will still thrive. On the flip side of that, a fine boned, harder doing type female that may survive in Nebraska, will not be able to come north and stay productive. She won’t be able to handle the winters and will be open or late. Thanks for taking time to look at our program. We hope we can help you in some way, with highly productive females or big stout grow-thy bulls. Please call me anytime to visit at 1-406-489-3773.