Evolution of Shadow Creek Farm and Target Red Poll
The Red Poll breed of cattle have been a part of our family history for multi generations with Dean’s parents and maternal grandparents owning Red Poll cows and now our grand kids are helping during calving season.
Origins and the Old Farm
Dean and Marsha Anderson bought their first Red Poll bull, Double M Ricochet, as a calf in the fall of 1983 from the McRorie’s at Jarvie, Alberta. This bull was used on grade crossbred cattle with the resulting heifer calves retained. These offspring were noted for easy calving, lots of milk and great mothers that usually let several calves suckle. So after consistently rearing bigger calves the decision was made to purchase five registered Red Poll bred heifers in January of 1987.
The Red Poll cattle are very docile with Marsha penning a cow at night and milking her out in the morning before letting her back with the herd. This kept our young family supplied with milk as well as some of the neighbors. It did not seem to matter which cow as they all generally would stand to be milked with little fuss.
Red Poll cattle are also noted for small calving weights with larger weaning weights so with our expanding herd we had little difficulty in selling the bull calves throughout the Peace River area with equal numbers going into Alberta and BC.
The New Farm
Life should never be boring so in 2007, we started to develop a new farm from scratch just up the valley from the old farm. Roads and dams where built in the summer of 2007, land was cleared in the winter of 2007, planting of pasture and hay land was done in summer of 2008, a hay shed built in 2009, Water wells, cattle water systems and fences constructed in 2010, more fences and a shop built in 2012, a barn and corrals set up in 2013 and for 2014 – a house in progress. You can see where the priorities lay.
As for the Red Polls, in 2012 & 2013, we expanded with 25 heifer calves from four different bulls, primarily from Larry & Linda Flemming from Wabamun, Alberta and then in the summer of 2014 picked up the complete herd dispersal from Harold E Howe out of Swalwell, Alberta. With the realization that the genetic pool of the Red Poll breed in western Canada is limited, in 2013, we bought semen from Pinpur Movin’ On, a bull bred at the Purdue University Ag Station. Again in 2014 we looked at an outstanding bull in New South Wales, Australia and imported semen from Eurimbla Leopold. Since then Leopold’s semen has gone to New Zealand and other breeders in Australia. With further purchases of Red Poll semen we now have eleven different AI bulls to choose from with Genetics from England, New Zealand, Australia and the US.
With a rotational grazing system we are able to maintain three breeding herds and one bull herd on our own property. With no interaction with other cattle (closest herd is three miles away) we can maintain a closed herd with a full vaccination program. Our year starts with an A.I. program in the latter part of may while any heifer calves are naturally bred so they are calving just ahead of the main herd. The cows are separated into three breeding herds with the bull that was selected for the season and turned out to pasture on June 1st. The bulls are pulled latter July and the herds are combined to intensive graze the remaining paddocks. The cow herd is pregnancy checked in early September and divided into two herds, cows with bull calves in one and cows with heifer calves in the other. Our Red Poll heifer calves are starting to cycle by this time and the bull calves think they are, well, bulls! Just too hard on a heifer with 30 bull calves chasing her around. The year ends (the best part) with calves starting to drop late February.
The calves are quiet weaned late fall and the first round of selection done with anything not deemed suitable sold at auction for the feedlot market. The calves are fed a grass hay baleage with a target gain for the bulls at 1 1/2 pounds a day and the heifers at 1 1/4 pounds per day. All calves are weighed monthly and final selection is made in the spring. The 30 plus bulls slated for sale are bull tested in late April and shipped out in May.
As to the future, we continue to use progeny data and conformation selection to better the breeding herd, while realizing that commercial cattlemen have differing requirements for their bull selection. If you look at the EPD’s for our herd you will see most are in the top numbers for milk production and the cows have excellent, nice tight udders. We cull for fertility, feet, disposition, udders, confirmation and calving ease. We also continue to use AI to improve the quality of animals that we have on the farm and offer for sale. I can confidently say we have the best Red Poll herd in Canada and one of the top in North America.