Stabiliser Farmer Study Tour Lands in the US
SCC Leachman Tour 2022
The challenge of getting 18 farmers to meet at Heathrow Airport on a June morning was far easier than expected, all arriving in good time, travelling from England, Scotland and Wales. The group consisted of varying ages and lengths of times using the breed, most were multipliers but a couple of commercial breeders attended along with a consultant who was previously a manager of a Stabiliser herd.
A direct flight from Heathrow to Denver, Colorado takes just under 10 hours, so a few films and get-to-know-you, conversations took place. After disembarking at Denver and collecting our large gas guzzling vehicles we ventured North to Wyoming for our first night arriving in time for last orders of food and a few beers. The tour encompassed 2352 miles through 5 states, 7 farm visits, 2 feedlots, 1 bull stud and a rodeo.
GLEN GAY VISIT, COMMERCIAL BREEDER BROADUS, EASTERN MONTANNA
Glen usually runs 1,500 cows, but due to the drought in both 2020/2021 numbers are down 60%. The farm is 85,000 acres, half is privately owned the other half is rented from the government. Originally Angus x Herefords, a type of composite which then changed to Leachman genetics. He has been using Leachman bulls for 30 years and buys a few bulls online, but the majority are selected by Lee and sold directly.
MARCH & DEBBIE RIEGE VISIT, CO-OPERATOR PLEVNA, MONTANA
The farm was built in 1954 by Robert and Betty Rieger. Marc was the 5th of 6 children and took the farm on in 1990. The farm is 5,000 acres, with 200 - 240 cows, they started using Stabiliser genetics and working with the Leachman family in 1997 when they were based in Billings Montana. Previously from 1974 used the RX3 from Iowa (3 red cross breed). The herd calve in February when temperatures can get to as low as -34F. Implant 110 embryos and AI everything with 1 shot after they are synchronised following up with a sweeper bull. The Rieger’s have always liked red cows hence the RX3 then moved over to Stabiliser’s which were initially red but as they say, the black genetics are taking over as they are all over the world.
chris & vera grubl visit, co-operator sturgis, south daktoa
The Grubl’s are one of the main co-operators for Lee Leachman and will have a large number of the top $Profit bulls in the Leachman sales. Chris and Vera have been involved with composite cattle since the 70’s using the Pioneer-bred RX3 cattle as did the Rieger family. Since 1997 their cattle breeding programme focused on Stabiliser genetics working closely with Leachman Cattle. The farm has 2,300 acres of grass on the South Dakota plains with 800 Stabiliser cows, calving in January. In spring 2022, 103 embryos were implanted, and all other cows and heifers were AI’d then followed up with Leachman high-profit bulls. The family also run 80 cows in Idaho, they live at 7000ft. Some of these will be sold on to the neutral programme where no hormones are used.
A detour was taken en route to visit Mount Rushmore, which is quite an experience the first time you see it.
LINCOLN COUNTY FEED YARD
Lincoln County Feed Yard is owned and run by Steve Scholtz. Kevin Unger kindly showed us around Lincoln County. Kevin works for Leachman Cattle of Colorado and is the Resource Manager for Lincoln County feed yard. The feed yard has a capacity for 35 – 40,000 head year-round. Pen capacity varies from 500 head or 80 -100 head, cattle are selected from pens as and when ready. The feedlot has a footprint of 300 acres. There are satellite yards in close proximity enabling more cattle to be raised. 77 staff are employed who manage the cow herd, feedlot, farm, lorries and admin.
The cattle are fed three times a day, and 70% of the eating takes place in the early morning and evening, so a lot of emphases is placed on timely feeding. Diet consists of wet and dry distillers, hay, maize and corn silage. All feed supplied is from a 30-mile radius. The feed mill and mixing plant have their own maize flaker working 14hrs/day to produce the product.
Leachman Cattle of Colorado supplies 7,000-10,000 head/year which equates to a ¼ of the cattle in the feedlot. The beef from dairy using the Leachman genetics is proving to be one of the best dairy crosses for yield and hitting the desired spec.
HI LAMBERT - RIVERTON, NEBRASKA
Tripe Creek Ranches in Nebraska started raising breeding stock in 1978 with the purchase of Angus females, in 2000 they purchased Stabiliser cows from the Leachman cow harvest sale and currently sell both Angus and Stabilisers through the Leachman system.
The Piemontese is also used, and this is destined for the non-hormone healthy eating market, the Piemontese is a leaner animal, so fats are lower.
sam rempe, co-operator - nebraska
The original herd in the 1950s was Hereford’s, now running 600 Stabiliser cows with 4,500 acres of arable. An extensive AI and ET programme is used on this farm focusing on high $Profit Red Stabiliser genetics. The Rempe herd has always been popular on our visits as the cows are similar in phenotype to the cows in the UK. Sam Rempe also manages the Elite Semen Cooperative for Leachman Cattle of Colorado.
trace walker, commercial breeder salina, kansas
Rolling Hills Ranch is compiled of 10,000 acres with 500-600 head of cows. All calves are retained and sent to Lincoln County Feedyard. The herd calve in April/ May and returned to the bull in mid-June. Calves are fence line weaned in September.
Gary Rolland is the brains of the cattle enterprise and selects the genetics and consults for Trace Walker who is actively involved. Gary met Trace whilst their children were rodeoing and introduced Trace to Stabilisers 13yrs ago. Since then Trac has purchased over 80 bulls and AI’d the cows. The goal is to look for balance on both the US Ranch and Feeder Index, EBV’s are used to assist in this decision. Originally this was a finishing farm 100 years ago, and cattle were bought in from Texas.
five rivers feedlot - kuner kersey colorado
Kim Rounds the Beef Programme Manager and Ryan Peterson who is a previous employee of Leachman Cattle of Colorado hosted us for a tour of the Kuner feedlot. Five Rivers are the largest cattle feeder in the world, they have 11 facilities throughout the US, with a capacity to feed 900,000 head of cattle, employing 600+ people. Originally started by the Monfort family in the early 1900’s they were the first to build a feed yard for 100,000/head. JBS, a USA meat processing company, based in Greeley, Colorado purchased Five Rivers in 2008 and then sold it on again in 2018.
Kuner employs 60 full-time employees across 5 departments: Mill & Feed, Cattle Yards, Office, nutritionist and veterinary. 100,000 cattle are a large number, and these have to be purchased from far and wide, North Carolina, Wyoming, Utah etc... Cattle are purchased from markets or by private treaty sales on the farm, there are no limits on where they buy the cattle.
Nutrition varies in each feedlot to what is available in the areas. Kuner feed – corn, whey, tallow from meat plants, dry distillers from Ethanol plants corn silage is grown locally and maize is micronized into corn flake-type feed. All fed via Feed waggon lorries.
There are 440 pens, and 2.2 million gallons of water is used a day equating to 20 gallons /head. They ship out finished cattle 3 days a week approx. 700/head per day. Flies are the biggest issue, and they have a Genomically enhanced wasp called the Predator that eats the fly lava. The natural Programme which is non-hormone beef is in more demand now.
rocky mountain sires - bennet, colorado
Leachman Cattle of Colorado purchased this facility in 2018. This enables Lee to collect his own bulls in a qualified establishment to qualify for export where necessary. High health is extremely important in a bull stud, so it was important we toured the unit on a specific route for hygiene. We were fortunate to see some of the bulls that were going to be used in the embryo programme for the UK.
An exciting evening was spent at the Greeley Stampede, we saw bull riding, bucking horses, calf roping, steer wrestling, breakaway roping, barrel racing and displays by various horse teams. Some of the bull ridings were eventful when the bulls wouldn’t go out of the ring and the Rodeo Clown and Bullfighter Cowboy Protection took over. Another entertainment was watching Seth eat the various carb-loaded foods available.
colorado state unniversity
A visit to CSU was organised to listen to some key speakers. Hosted Dr Bob Delmore, a professor in the Department of Animal Sciences at CSU teaching courses in Meat Science, Meat Processing and Food Safety. We were fortunate enough to hear numerous interesting presentations:
- Lily Edwards-Callaway is an Associate Professor in the Department of Animal Sciences at CSU focusing on livestock behaviour and welfare gaining her PhD under the advisement of Dr Temple Grandin. She explained about the Five Domains which is building on from the Five Freedoms.
- Scott Speidel is a Professor of the Animal Science at CSU. Discussed Quantitative Genetics, Microbiology and Gene Editing
- Dr Jennifer Martin is a professor in Beef Quality and Sensory Evaluations. A presentation on meat quality was followed by a sensory evaluation which involved the group scoring different beef products.
CSU has been involved in and processes “Beef Sticks for Backpacks” along with members of the Colorado agriculture community. Beef Sticks for Backpacks where their mission is to create a world where no child in Colorado suffers from weekend food insecurity. A non-profit organization committed to the goal of distributing high quality, high protein beef sticks into kid's backpack programs throughout the state of Colorado.
leachman cattle of colorado
We took a visit around Leachman headquarters and the sale barn where the Leachman sales are held, a number of bulls were on site including some of Lee’s high $Profit Charolais. A number of Stabiliser bulls dedicated to the dairy collection were also on-site as well as Leachman Docs Remedy who is still looking fit and well at 5 yrs. We loaded back into the vehicles to see the Leachman Elite Stabiliser herd, we travelled to Roberts Ranch located on the eastern foothills of the Rocky Mountains. This ranch has now adopted regenerative grazing strategies after ecological monitoring over the past few years. It offers excellent grazing pastures and wildlife habitats. This is being worked in with everyday management of the herd with Lucas Grubl Herd Manager son of Chris and Vera who we visited earlier in the week and Abe Ott Grassland Manager. The grazing underfoot did not look very special, but the cows & calves were in fine condition.
On returning back to HQ we were served Angus Prime Steaks cooked by chef Lee Leachman, the room was very quiet, which I think speaks for itself, a very good steak.
We returned to the UK and out of 20 on the trip just over 50% of the group contracted Covid either over there or on the return. We had a fantastic trip with all the visits, a BIG thank you to all the hosts and to Lee and Lisa Leachman for making it possible.
We are trying to produce beef that meets market specification and make the most profit possible. Using Stabilisers we are achieving our objectives, we have a low cost, low labour cow and good quality finishing cattle that meet the needs of the market.- Mel and Pete Momber, Hampshire
I’m excited by the prospects the Stabiliser can deliver for us. The proof was there based on scientific research, backed up by a large gene pool and precise management systems. It seemed the perfect breed for our farming system.- Will Evans, Machynlleth
On weaning in May at 10 mths old the Stabiliser calves were on par with the Blue and Angus calves. These were turned out to grass until early September then housed. This is when I was surprised by the differences between the breeds, the Angus averaged 480kg, the Blues 490kg but the Stabilisers were 530kg.- Robin Talbot, Laois – Ireland
In 2011 we bought 46 Stabiliser heifers plus 3 bulls and sold our 3 Belgium Blue bulls. The results were clear to see, by the time we pregnancy tested our 100 cows later that year. We went from historically having 15% barren cows to only 3% barren in a 9 week mating period.- Jeremy Iles, Gloucester
I have found Stabiliser cows to be very forage efficient. Their ability to put weight on in the summer months means I can save on winter feed costs. This has allowed me to keep more cows on the same resources.- Jono Cole, Cornwall
We have an easy-care system that is as profitable as any other beef enterprise. We benchmark our herd against the AHDB industry figure and we sit comfortably ahead of the top third performers. I believe we are now producing a carcass with the conformation and eating quality consistency that the market wants.- Dan Burling, Cambridgeshire
Docility, feed efficiency tested, easy calving, hybrid vigour, fertility, growth AND carcass traits from highly maternal cattle, what’s not like?- Robin Norrie, Fife
We aim to get most out of grass as possible. The hardy nature of the cattle seems to suit this system very well. Hardly any assistance is required during calving, combined with the excellent calf vigour produce healthy and strong calves which further reduces labour costs.- Llion and Sian Jones, Conwy
We’re over 10 years into our Stabiliser journey, we’re reaping the rewards. Moving to the Stabiliser has been a game changer for efficiency and job satisfaction, allowing us to increase cow numbers on the same area and finishing bulls averaging over 380kgs at 13 months. Our only regret is that we didn’t do it sooner!- Peter and Jackie Storrow, Pembrokeshire
Stabiliser cattle are a specialised suckler beef breed with the added bonus of hybrid vigour. The cattle are multi-trait performance recorded to produce EBV’s, this has a huge positive economical effect on our business. All of this is crucial for us to have a financially improving suckler herd on the farm.- Harri Parri, Llyn Peninsula
We chose the Stabiliser breed for their docility and easy calving traits, but with the added benefit of turning grass into meat. We soon saw all of these traits were true. Our first home bred steers were finished off grass at an average age of 19 months.- Dyfed Roberts, Anglesey
Despite our rainfall, we outwinter our cows on kale, the stabiliser cow will lay down excess fat, and successfully rear her calf. During the winter considerable cost savings are made. By changing to Stabiliser cattle I keep approximately 50% more cows as they only weigh 650Kgs, which meant more beef being produced.- Matthew Cooke, North Devon
We started using Stabiliser bulls 20 years ago. The fertility of the breed has enabled us to calve our own heifers at 24 months and reduce our calving period to nine weeks. This together with their good temperament has encouraged us to increase cow numbers. Consequently, the farm is now producing a lot more kilos of beef.- Edward and Ellis Griffith, Pwllheli
Minimal labour is required at calving time, with easy calving cows and calves up and suckling in no time at all. This gave us the ability to increase our cow numbers with no extra labour. The growth rate of Stabiliser cattle is exceptional, producing high weaning weights whilst converting feed efficiently.- John and Ianto Pari, Gwynedd
We started using stabiliser genetics in 2016, we have not looked back since, they exceeded all our expectations. Changing to stabilisers has enabled us to calve heifers at 2years old with no problems, cows wean a higher percentage of their body weight, we have increased cow numbers without any need for extra labour.- Carys Jones, Camarthenshire