A chilly -2 degrees with 80% humidity and a slight 15 mph breeze blows – kind of tough when you have to put your face into the wind, but that doesn’t deter Wayne and Jay Leaderbrand from their busy day on their diversified farming operation. Located 90 miles east of Fargo, North Dakota, outside of New York Mills, Minnesota, the Leaderbrand’s run a 200 head cow/calf operation along with a farrow to finish swine operation and farm close to 800 acres with most of that in hay. This keeps them busy on a good day, and when the weather turns tough, they are glad they are using Salers in a crossbreeding program with Angus. “We watch the birth weights and calving ease on the bulls we buy that we use on our heifers of course, but the Salers influence in our females really makes life a lot easier. It – the Salers x Angus cross – has been a really good cross, we are really impressed with it. The cows and heifers just lay down, have a calf and take care of it. They don’t run off and leave their calf after they calve or any of those headaches.”
They use a two breed rotational crossbreeding program. “We breed the Salers to Angus and the Angus get bred to Salers,” comments Wayne. The operation begins calving their heifers in March and they calve the cows in April and May. “We try to calve outside on pasture if possible. We have the facilities to calve inside if necessary, but prefer to calve on pasture.”
Having a farrow to finish swine operation has brought bio-security to the forefront with them and how important it is to prevent disease. They are careful of where they buy cattle from –“if they have something, then you have something” is the way Wayne puts it. “We buy all of our bulls private treaty. We also began double vaccinating our calves with Pfizer’s (Zoetis) SelectVac program. This has really been good for the feedlot customers that buy our calves. The health has been really good. We sell our steer calves right off the cow in the fall and they have consistently topped the market. A lot of cattlemen are not using crossbreeding up here and they should be, because these calves have been selling to repeat customers and topping the market for some time.”
Mitch Barthel, owner and auctioneer at Perham Stockyards, Perham, Minnesota, has the opportunity to sell the steer calves from the Leaderbrands every year. “They sell a reputation set of calves every year. They do all the work the right way. The calves have had 2 rounds of shots and are all knife cut. The calves have good structure, are well muscled and have plenty of grow to them. They are really the kind the feed yards are looking for. The guys that have been buying them are a lot of repeat buyers. They have been really good customers and we like to sell their kind of cattle,” confirms Mitch.
All of the heifers are kept at the farm and backgrounded until they make their replacement heifer selection decisions in March. “The heifers that we don’t keep as replacements are put on full feed right away,” states Wayne. “We start them on a ground ear corn ration and transition over to straight corn pretty quickly so we can get them finished pretty close to a year of age.” Field peas and some corn distiller’s fills out the ration. The cattle start on feed in March and are all gone by July. These finished heifers are sold as beef through local lockers with many of them being processed just after 1 year of age. Wayne continues, “We usually sell between 35 and 40 head of heifers as beef. We sell quarters, halves and whole carcasses to our beef customers. Many of our customers are older and the lighter heifer carcasses work well from a portion size standpoint where they don’t necessarily want an 18” ribeye on their plate. There are about 3 different lockers we go to with our beef. All of the butchers comment on how ours are the best carcasses they process. One of the older butchers always buys his meat from us and loves the meat quality. He always says he can tell the Salers carcasses because of how well they marble. We often hear that our customers won’t buy beef anywhere else.”
Wayne tells why they began using Salers, “We started using Salers because a buyer we had said we were losing ground on the straight Angus and needed to change. We get more muscling and vigor in these cattle. Calving is a time you really appreciate the Salers influence. It is really impressive. More people need to be crossbreeding. They would like the results.” It sounds as though the cattle are working well for all of the segments in the industry: producer, feed yard, packer and consumer and that they all like the results.