Charolais breeders on winning streak

These producers from Stettler, Alta., have confidence in the breed and keep shopping for bulls to improve their herd

REGINA — In the uncertain days of BSE and cattle market dysfunction, Charolais breeders Mike Panasiuk and Bob Burla ended up working at a British Columbia dairy.

Both came from Charolais families in Manitoba and they retained some of their white cattle when they moved west. As their business situation improved, they eventually bought out the Altwasser Charolais herd at Lumby, B.C., before settling at Stettler, Alta., with a herd of 170 cows.

They have been riding high with a bull named SOS Chuckwagon 54C by Silverstream Geddes G102, an Australian sire. Chuckwagon was named national champion Charolais at the Royal Agriculture Winter Fair and also stood in the Top 10 of the Canadian Western Agribition supreme championship.

“It is such an honour to be there,” Panasiuk said before the Agribition grand finale.

You can find all our Canadian Western Agribition 2016 coverage here.

They brought 15 head to Agribition and won two firsts in class, three seconds and reserve junior bull calf champion.

Their national champion has been creating buzz since it was a youngster and sold to Ontario-based breeders McKreary Char-olais, Big Johnson Charolais and Medonte Charolais.

“Last December when we sold Chuckwagon at the Alberta Select Sale for $60,000, part of the agreement with the owners is we promised that we would take him to the Royal and make him champion,” said Burla.

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The bull spent most of the summer in Ontario being shown and won a range of awards, ending with the championship at the Royal.

The Toronto experience showed the two prairie producers the wide divide between rural and urban residents.

Urbanites touring the barns were interested in the big bull, but some questions took them aback.

“We were asked if he was genetically modified because he is white. They didn’t realize cattle could be white. They thought cattle were black,” said Burla.

Charolais cattle are part of both men’s heritage.

They come from Charolais families in Manitoba, and Bob showed Charolais steers as a 4-H member and won grand champion four years in a row.

Showing cattle is a major way to promote genetics, and they enter Agribition, the Canadian Bull Congress, the Medicine Hat Bull Show and various Charolais events.

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The main business is selling bulls.

They partner with SanDan Charolais at Erksine, Alta., for an annual bull sale. Their last sale averaged $9,400, the second highest selling yearling sale in Canada.

A hot commercial market last year also reflected well on the purebred side because producers were willing to spend more on replacement bulls.

“I think the spring bull sales will show a bit more pressure, obviously, than last year,” Burla said.

“I think they have to watch their budgets, and they are very leery. A lot of them put in a lot of capital costs and now they realize the money isn’t going to be there like it was the year before so we might see a decline in the sales.… I still think quality, and the more they spend on a herd bull, it pays off in their calf crop, so it is even more so now that you do everything you can to get the most money out of your cattle. I think Charolais is the way to go.”

They are enjoying success, but herd improvement cannot stand still.

“Just like everybody else, we shop non-stop for that next bull that is going to improve our herd,” Burla said.

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