Breeder looking for low birth weight calves found success in crossing Herefords with polled Texas Longhorns
A close look at the cattle on Alfred Sattler’s farm reveals something just a little different.
They’re red and they’re polled, but their heads and fronts are narrower and their frames smaller than other breeds.
For Sattler and his wife, Vicky, these cattle represent 15 years of work to produce a small herd of polled Texas Longhorns.
“I had a lot of fun doing it,” Alfred said.
However, he had a very good reason for his breeding project.
The Sattlers have operated Regina View Farms just south of the city for 50 years and have not shied away from innovation.
They began with purebred polled Herefords in the early 1960s and introduced purebred Simmentals in the 1970s to produce big, crossbred calves.
“I was ahead of my time then,” Alfred said.
He also liked the solid-coloured heifers that resulted from crossing Simmental with Red and Black Angus.
However, Vickey said he was laughed out of the barn when he took them to a sale.
“Now you go in a barn and you can’t tell Black or Red Angus, Simmental or Limousin,” she said. “Everything is red and black.”
Eventually they decided to focus strictly on commercial cattle, using Red Angus bulls to breed replacement Hereford heifers.
Alfred said that worked well for about six years.
However, the trend to use bigger bulls to get bigger calves didn’t sit well with Alfred. Too many herds were experiencing calving problems, and he thought there had to be an easier way.
“I started looking for low birth weight bulls,” he said.
All signs pointed to Texas Longhorns.
“Our son, Paul, he didn’t want to hear about it,” Alfred said. “So I waited one year.”
A Texas Longhorn was found before the next calving season was over, and the Sattlers were pleased with the results.
However, they didn’t publicize what they were doing.
“I didn’t want the buyers to know my calves were half Longhorn,” Alfred said.
They found initially that heifer calves were all polled on the first cross, and the bull calves were half and half.
They also obtained the calving ease they wanted.
One Hereford heifer delivered a calf presenting with the head, one back leg and one front leg without assistance. Another delivered a backward calf the same night.
“You don’t use a calf puller at all,” said Vicky.
The calves range from 60 to 70 pounds and are up and nursing quickly.
Vicky said the udders of the female crosses are strong and compact with teats to the side and “will last for years.”
The first crosses were red with white faces, but subsequent breeding has result in solid red calves with a decent hair coat.
The calves are smaller when sold — about 450 lb. compared to 550 lb. for other breeds— but Alfred said they can live with that.
“A small live calf at birth is worth a lot more money at weaning than a big dead one,” he said.
Selective breeding over the years has resulted in 15/16 polled genetics. He has brought in new bulls and held back heifers to keep working toward that goal.
They sell the percentage bulls, which Vicky described as looking like finer-boned Red Angus. They have a couple of two-year-old polled 15/16 bulls and a three-year-old, which they have used on their own cows.
Alfred said they could sell more bulls if they had them, but they sell quickly by word-of-mouth. Customers have reported that using a percentage bull on Angus or Hereford cows has produced tremendous calves, he said.
They cull 7/8 calves, and Alfred said he doesn’t complain when spotted and horned calves bring a lower price because his goal is the polled herd.
Thirty-one females are calving this spring: 19 cows and 12 heifers.
However, even as Alfred ob-tained the calving ease he was after, he and Vicky find that their age is catching up to them.
Their son looks after their main commercial herd at his own operation southeast of Regina. They hope to find someone who would take over the Texas Polls and carry on the project.
“It’s too much for the two of us now,” Vicky said.