Veteran breeders nab top prize

The Calgary Bull Sale is a 27-year tradition for Stewart and Cathy Crone.

This year has a special meaning for them now that they have won grand champion bull for the first time with SGC 814Y Diamond Amigo 45C, born in 2015.

It sold for the sale’s top price of $26,000 to Fenton Hereford Ranch of Irma, Alta. Five of their six entries were by the same sire and averaged $9,792.

Many families attending this 117-year-old sale are multi-generational, but the Crones started their herd in 1980.

Stewart grew up on a commercial cow-calf operation but had a preference for Hereford cows and wanted to start his own registered herd.

“Very few of us in this business start up on our own and stay on. Most are second or third generation or more,” he said after the March 1-2 sale.

He started with a few bred heifers and eventually bought out two large herds from Alberta breeders Evelyn Evans in 1984 and Ewald Radke in 1989.

As a first generation breeder, he received a helping hand from a friend and neighbour.

“Al Fenton took me under his wing and carried me along. If that hadn’t happened, I probably wouldn’t have stuck it out either,” he said.

“Every purebred breeder needs to find a guy to mentor and help him get going.”

This spring he and Cathy will calve out 200 cows starting in April.

They once ran their own production sale from their ranch at Hardisty, Alta., but these events take planning and plenty of manpower, so they decided on a new marketing plan. Bulls are sold at Calgary and the East Central Spring Bull Sale at Veteran, Alta., as well as by private treaty.

He worked in the oil patch for 18 years, investing in the ranch and managing through years of drought, market volatility and BSE.

When he left his off-farm job, Cathy started working for Canada Post.

“We survived like everybody else in agriculture did. It will be something to tell our grandchildren,” he said.

They have three daughters and three granddaughters who are all part of the cattle operation.

With everyone involved in the cattle business, he considers it part of his DNA.

All his bulls have DNA collected for parentage verification and additional information to im-prove bloodlines.

“They are a tool, but you still need to be a cattleman and use your own eye and breed for phenotype that you like,” he said.

He prefers easy fleshing cattle with length that perform well on less feed. He also selects for strong maternal characteristics and docility.

“Temperament is our breed’s strength and we select and cull for it vigorously,” he said. “I will not deal with the other temperaments.”

He often works alone and needs quiet, reliable cattle.

He has also volunteered to support the breed. He is a past-president of the Alberta Hereford Association and the Northern Alberta Hereford Club, and as a consigner to the Calgary Bull Sale, he is involved with the Alberta Cattle Breeders Association.

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