APRIL 18, 2010
Yesterday, I rode with Lloyd up to a short grass Aberdeen Angus Bull sale at the Bob Switzer Ranch south of Hazenmore. Some 150 very good Black Angus bulls sold for an average of $2,885. The Switzer family has done a very good job of producing top-quality Black Angus cattle. My eyesight is not very good so I had Lloyd buy two for me for the Big Muddy herd and he bought three for his own cattle herd at Fir Mountain. There was a big crowd at the sale. Before the sale, we had a good feed of beef and buns, which was served to all. Cattlemen seem to be a bit more optimistic this year and the prices of the cattle seem to be up a little.
Calving is well underway at this time and things are going good at the Big Muddy Ranch and here at home also. No storms so far. Most of our cows are now black or black with a white face. When I first started to build up a cow herd with my wife Lorene back in 1945 after I returned from the army, my first efforts were to build up a herd of sheep. At that time, sheep were more profitable than cattle. We managed to get a herd of 600 good breeding ewes together and I also got 20 cows from my Dad on shares.
In 1938 when I was 18 years of age and still at home with Dad, I traded ten head of bronco horses for 6 sections of prairie pasture. The provincial government owned this land and I traded 10 horses for the contract of government lease land.
How did I happen to have 10 horses? The ownership of the horses goes back to the time before I started to school. I would often take rides with my Dad checking up or moving horses or cattle. One day in a good mood, my dad gave me a nice grey, three-year old mare with a little colt. At that time, Dad’s horses were running together in what was called the horse pasture. It was a pasture of 29 sections, which was 15 miles south of the home ranch. I did not have my own brand and my off spring from the mare and her off spring were never accounted for. Twelve years later, a neighbour wanted to get rid of his lease. Dad agreed that my herd of horses had increased to at least 10 good horses, so he agreed to put up 10 good ones, but now I had no more horses. I now had a very good pasture of 6 sections on which I could carry horses, cattle or sheep.
My wife, Lorene, agreed with me that the sheep would be more profitable and they would pay themselves off faster and in this way she would get a new house which we needed very much. At that time in 1945-46, we also started a cow herd. The 20 cows from my Dad, that were on shares, provided me with 10 heifer calves. Dad took the steer calves. We bred those 10 heifers plus two more to a Hereford bull and then disaster struck us. Out of the 12 female cattle, we had only four live calves. The other eight died from Bangs disease (Brucellosis). This set us back and we sold eight females.
We practically started up from four females. We did not buy any female cattle. We let our herd develop from the four healthy ones. The sheep did well for us and in 1956, we sold the majority of our sheep and our herd of cows kept on increasing. The only cattle that we sold for several years were grass steers and any dry cows. In the early 1960s, we bought our first Black Angus bulls and we have had some ever since.
I grew up with the Herefords and I like them fine; however, the crossbreeds are also very good, and now, most of my cows are crossed between Hereford and Angus. I have over the years sold most of my steers at 18 months old and I believe this system has worked well for me. So after all these years you will still find some Black Angus and Hereford bulls in my breeding pasture.
MAY 7, 2010
We have had several days of rain mixed with light snow. Wonderful moisture for this time of year. The seeding has stopped for a while. We are busy calving and everything is going well here at Fir Mountain. Ryan is also getting along very well at the Big Muddy Ranch.
A few days ago, I had a nice trip to Regina. My youngest sister, Thelma, has been honoured by receiving the Saskatchewan Volunteer Honour Medal for her volunteer work in her community and in the province. Thelma was the youngest of 12 children. She rode horseback seven miles to school at first to Sister Butte. Later, she went to school at Fir Mountain and she had two years of high school at Mount Royal in Calgary. Thelma married a local young man, Emile Poirier. They were ranchers, raised three boys and she also taught school. All the time, she showed much interest in history, literature and poetry. She organized and worked for years on the development of the Rodeo-Ranch Museum at the Wood Mountain Regional Park. She has written several books and also several of poetry. For her life time of work, she has this honour from the Premier of our province on behalf of the Lieutenant Governor.
On the trip, I stayed at the old Saskatchewan Hotel which is now part of the Radisson chain. The cost of my room (alone) was just over $160. We have sold cows for less than that over the past several years. However, the price of cows is much better again. I have a short story of hotel prices from many years back. It was the time of the first Canadian Western Agribition and several of us were checking out of the Regina Inn. One tall cattleman said to the clerk after he had paid for his room, “I want you to have a good look at my back side as I leave.” The female clerk said “Why?” The tall rancher answered “This is the last time I will pay $14 for a place to sleep.” How prices have changed since then! The prices now for all goods and services have certainly changed. Our farm prices have not gone up accordingly though. Hopefully, there are better days ahead.
Boyd Anderson is a mostly retired rancher from Glentworth, Sask. and has been a columnist for Grainews for many years.