Award winning breeders explore DNA testing

Alberta ranch is the inaugural recipient of the Certified Angus Beef Canadian Commitment to Excellence Award 

When Dyce Bolduc bought three Angus females at a sale in 1967, it was a way to assert his independence. He didn’t know then that it was the start of a 51-year career in Angus cattle and the start of the Cudlobe Angus operation that he and his brother, David, built on a ranch near Stavely, Alta.

Their success in the Angus cattle business was formally acknowledged June 9 when the Bolducs and Cudlobe Angus became the inaugural recipients of the Certified Angus Beef Canadian Commitment to Excellence Award.

“It’s a great honour to be recognized,” said Dyce. “We’re humbled by it.”

David had the same sentiment.

“There’s lots of great Angus herds in Canada so it’s certainly humbling to be selected like that. It’s certainly an honour to win it.”

The Bolducs have extensive international experience in showing cattle but their most recent initiatives involve DNA testing of all breeding animals, with a focus on specific performance and carcass traits. They collect carcass data on their animals as well as on customers’ fed cattle.

“We have really good evaluations on lots of things that you can’t see physically,” said David about DNA profiles. “At the moment, it really improves the accuracy on some of the things we’re selecting.”

Calving ease and birthweights are among the first things reliably determined through those tests but David said in the future he expects it will be possible to select for such things as more robust immune systems, which would be key in efforts to reduce antimicrobial use.

The Bolducs have a history of anticipating future trends in the beef business for commercial cattle producers, packers and consumers of beef. It’s not enough to produce attractive cattle.

“We think they should be just as good on the inside and that takes a little more talent to do that, you have to use a little more science, and you … can’t compromise,” said Dyce.

Their operation has stayed away from genetic selection based on the ‘flavours of the week,’ such as the desires for bigger animals, then smaller animals, then more marbling and then less.

David said they began to involve more science in the breeding business to produce more animals that would qualify for the Certified Angus Beef program.

That program proved invaluable when Canada changed its grading system.

“As soon as Canada went to a quality grading system in the early ’90s, at that point of time Angus were number four for registrations in Canada in the purebred livestock industry. Now it registers more than the rest of the breeds combined.”

Continued interest in the breed shows in the success of the Cudlobe bull sale and feeder calf sale.

However, the quality of beef and the eating experience of consumers always remain foremost, David said, noting that’s the only way to preserve and increase beef demand.

Dyce admitted that he frequents restaurants with certified Angus beef on the menu when he’s eating out, and takes some ribbing from his wife about his critique of steak quality when doing so.

The brothers are bullish about the future of the cattle industry.

“I think the beef industry has a great future. We’re actually seeing … demand for beef gaining some traction,” said David. “The whole chain is relatively healthy right now.”

The brothers are also working on a succession plan for their children and are intent on ensuring the business remains sustainable. Increasing sales is part of it.

“There isn’t a lot of expansion in the Canadian cow herd, so if you’re getting new clientele … you have to put out a better product if somebody’s going to decide they want to participate in your program,” said Dyce.

Others in the Angus business are confident in the Bolducs’ future.

John Stika, president of Certified Angus Beef, insisted on presenting the award to the Bolducs himself.

“David and Dyce create a foundation of success that is built on what happens after the cattle leave their ranch and results in a high-quality product for the consumer,” he said in a news release about the award.

“They continue to make the best better.”

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