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When the Toews family began using Simmental, they did so cautiously but as the quality and consistency within Simmental genetics continued to improve and become more predictable they decided to make them a full time part of their program. This upcoming spring, Toews will calve out 1200 cows within their lowlabour calving model; starting late April and continuing to early June. With an impressive calving assistance rate of only 1-2%, Toews attributes their calving success to the moderate frames and birth weights achieved by combining Simmental and Red Angus genetics. “Simmental always adds muscle, milk and performance for us. We couldn’t do it without the ‘punch’ from the Simmental side,” Toews remarks. “We use Simmental to add performance to our Angus genetics. If we were satisfied with strictly Angus characteristics we wouldn’t be cross breeding.” When asked how the size moderation of Simmental cattle affected the commercial beef industry, Toews doesn’t think it has and actually believes it was the reverse. The industry demanded early maturing, easy calving, easy fleshing, moderate framed cattle and Simmental breeders responded by producing the genetics that the commercial industry desires. He hopes Simmental breeders remain responsive to market signals and continue to produce the kind of seedstock that meet the needs of commercial beef producers. While these positive changes have been essential in ensuring Simmental remains relevant to the commercial industry, Toews points out that the foundation traits of the breed such as performance must not be forgotten as a key Simmental attribute. After all, this is why many introduced Simmental to their programs in the first place. As the Simmental breed has evolved, so has Melbern Holdings. Once a strictly cow/calf operation, the Toews family first bought grain land in the 70’s and today puts in 1200 acres of barley as a direct hedge on both feed grain prices and drought. The ranch grows all of their own feed, so the majority of these barley acres go to silage and the remainder is harvested. The barley acres are rotated through the grassland of alfalfa and brome, also for silage as well as hay. Along with the current land base, they also graze 500 head nearby, in British Columbia. “There is a lot of underutilized land up here that cannot be used for farming, so we are taking advantage of it for grazing” says Toews. In 2000 they built the current feedlot to back-ground calves and finish a small percentage. Toews found they were buying more and more feeders each year. “With the expectation that the pendulum was going to swing in favor of the cow business, we began to expand our cow herd four years ago,” explains Toews. “We now supply the 1200 calves for our feedlot from our own cow herd.” Since introducing Simmental into their program, they have noticed increased milk and muscle within their cow herd and Toews goes on to comment that “the ranch’s overall performance has improved. Simmental makes us money.” It is a passion for agriculture that motivates the Toews family every day. When asked what kept them going through

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challenges like BSE, Toews replied that they saw a future in the beef industry. According to him, the cow herd was barely able to “tread water” through the BSE years and the only part of the operation that made any money during that difficult time was the yearlings. “We have always been convinced of a future within the Canadian beef industry, we hung on and were rewarded,” Toews says. As with any farm or ranch, there is always hope for generational transfer and the Toews family is a strong example of that process. Hillary and her husband Mike Nadeau are integral to the operation and have a direct investment in part of the herd. As well, Emma finances her studies and travel in part by working on the ranch. Emma, Hillary and Mike are part of a very competent staff at Melbern that has been a key to its success. Cale has a keen interest in the Melbern operation and is hoping to further develop and grow a purebred component. When asked why he chose Simmental as the breed for his developing purebred herd, Cale replied, “I see tremendous opportunity for the Simmental breed especially given the strength and potential within the commercial industry. The people involved in the Simmental breed are also a strength as they are very helpful and offer great advice.” Cale’s plans for the future are to further his education and achieve a business degree and later return to the farm to work towards the continued success of Melbern Holdings. Toews has always been a strong advocate of the need to ensure the Canadian beef industry’s competitiveness both domestically and internationally and says that cost of production will continue to be a significant factor in the industry’s success. “We need to compete globally and to do that we will always need to be as competitive on the cost side as possible” states Toews. Toews believes there is real opportunity in the cattle business going forward. “Simmental will continue to factor into our breeding program into the foreseeable future because of all of the positive benefits we capture from Simmental genetics; the milking ability combined with the muscle and performance.” By Megan Madden & Simmental Country

Commercial Country 2013  

Commercial Country

Commercial Country 2013  

Commercial Country