Young Simmental breeder hits the big time in show ring

EDMONTON — Sarah Van Sickle was raised with Simmentals and now she has joined the big time.

The accolades she received while showing her red Simmental champion bull at Farmfair International and the Olds Fall Classic were a heady experience for the young woman from Mayerthorpe, Alta.

She is part of a new generation of breeder who is younger than 30 and gaining recognition for quality cattle.

She was relatively new to the prime time show circuit, but after winning she needed no introductions.

“They all came to me,” she said with a laugh during an interview at Farmfair International, which was held Nov. 7-11 in Edmonton.

“I felt a little weird out there being the only girl with a big bull.… Being against the big names feels good to win. Once you start to win, people know who you are.”

She works with her parents, Larry and Nola Van Sickle of Nolara Stock Farms, running about 350 cow-calf pairs of which 150 are purebred Simmental. The commercial side is Simmental-Angus cross.

She started as a junior member with the Canadian Simmental Association and learned more techniques in 4-H.

“I started in 4-H and I bought my first purebred in 4-H and I just worked from there,” she said.

“There were some not so good years.”

Her bull, named SKV Defiant 47D, has 50 calves on the ground and is owned in partnership with Dave and Nadine Hawkins, Hawk-Eye Simmentals of Drayton Valley, Alta.

Van Sickle’s off-farm job is connected to agriculture. She attended Fairview College to be an animal health technician and worked in a veterinarian clinic before joining a genetics company.

These days Van Sickle is an artificial insemination technician living in Rimbey, Alta. She travels about 250 kilometres a day visiting dairy herds from Rimbey to Innisfail, Alta. On the dairy side, conception rates are more difficult to achieve because of the nature of the cow’s life cycle. She has a 38 percent conception rate, but on the beef side it is 90 percent.

When show time rolls around the cattle come to Rimbey so she can prepare for the season. If the successes continue she hopes to return to farm.

“I would love to be a full-time farmer,” she said.

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