Red bank cattle, Redlands focus on management practices for improvement
Ten Sleep – Redland Red Bank Angus evolved their breeding program in the last seven years to be able to produce cattle, especially bulls, that will thrive on some of the toughest rangelands known to man.
The heritage of the cattle began with Donald Mercer in 1945. Then, it was passed to Dick Mercer and his brothers.
In 1985, Dick’s daughter Deb Redland brought 18 registered heifers from his herd to Wyoming when she married her husband Rolly. They now run the ranch with help from their three sons.
The operation is located south of Ten Sleep at the foothills of the Big Horn Mountains.
“During those years when the kids were being born and little, we’d show halter and break the bulls to lead to take them to consignment sales,” reminisces Deb. “Adam would sit on the fence and sing to everyone. It stands to reason why he became an auctioneer.”
As an auctioneer who sells at his hometown sale barn, Worland Livestock Auction, Adam began producing cattle to be more cost and feed efficient and able to withstand the harsh reality of rangeland year-round.
“As a young guy watching what was happening with the high inputs, I decided to make the choice to take over our registered herd and pursue raising some better cattle,” states Adam.
“I figured the way we needed to do this was to change the whole program,” explains Adam. “Not only did we need to change the way we were developing bulls, but we had to really attack the heart of the program – the cows.”
“I looked at it from the standpoint we can’t afford to feed them hay,” says Adam. “Like a lot of guys, we didn’t have a big feed base. Buying hay, especially these last two years, can almost break a guy.”
To obtain more suitable cows for Adam’s new breeding program, he started managing his registered cows like his commercial herd, leaving them all out on the range to graze the land more and become more feed efficient.
“The first couple of years of doing this were horrible,” he notes. “The fallout of the young and old cows was really high.”
“They were still great cows they just couldn’t handle that type of environment,” Adam continues. “We began breeding them to a different standard, and they would come in late or open.”
Today, the Redlands continually see high conception rates through AI on their herd, and this year, they had an 81 percent success rate on over 600 head of cows.
They contribute the increase to the original bloodlines of the cows and how they are managed.
Some of the original females are still in the herd, and the Redlands retain all of their heifer calves to sell as bred heifers.
The Redlands also try and purchase heifer calves from producers who have bought bulls from them.
Selection of herd
Adam looks for a moderate frame and deep body with natural muscling in selecting his cattle. He also makes sure his heifers are feminine looking and the bulls look like bulls.
“I took 20 of our biggest and best bull calves seven years ago and put them in a feedlot. I wanted to mirror what I was doing in the feedlot with what they would have received if they had been weaned on pasture at home,” says Adam.
The ration the bull calves received in the feedlot consisted of a chop hay and straw mixture and one to two pounds of silage.
“They started out as big 600-pound calves, but without milk and good feed, they started to look like slop in a hurry,” describes Adam. “I left them on that hay ration for 35 to 40 days to get a good test on them and let Mother Nature sort out which bulls were actually bulls.”
“The ones that had true muscling kept slowly gaining and always looked like bulls, and the ones that didn’t have true muscling looked more like flat-necked steers,” says Adam.
Six of the original 20 bull calves remained, and Adam explains, “Those bulls have been the best salesmen I’ve ever had. They went out, did an outstanding job and really brought guys to me that keep coming back for another bull.”
Once the bull calves have passed the first test in the feedlot, they are then put on a grower ration that does not consist of any corn or other costly feeds.
After 30 days on the grower ration, they go through another evaluation where they will be culled for structural defects or lack of muscling. The end goal is to get as uniform set of bulls as possible.
“The simple reason for not adding all those fancy feeds to my rations is that I can’t afford to feed my cows or develop my heifers like that, so how can I afford to develop my bulls like that?” asks Adam.
“We’ve never had a problem with a customer calling up and saying one of our bulls hasn’t held up, and we’ve sold some bulls that go into some of the toughest country there is,” says Adam. “Our bulls run in country that producers usually don’t run yearling bulls in.”
“A couple of younger yearling bulls I’ve sold actually gained weight during a summer of breeding cows and running out on the range,” says Adam. “That was a moment where skeptics who looked at my bulls through the fence became believers and wanted to buy a bull.”
Every year Adam is able to sell more bulls through private treaty. He has also began selling two-year-old bulls.
One of the positive effects the Redlands are seeing in their cattle from the new breeding program are decreases in input costs, which transitions to receiving higher profits.
“I’ve kept records on all of our commercial steers from our Red Bank cattle, and we used to have a three-way split on calf size – a big, a middle and a small end. Our calf uniformity now is outstanding, and we have eliminated the small end,” describes Adam.
At the same time, he notes that a 50-pound difference has been seen between the large and middle groups.
Another noticeable benefit the Redlands have seen in the last three years with their steers is a smaller feed conversion rate of 5.3 pounds to 5.5 pounds for every pound gain.
Historically the Redlands had to feed between six to 6.3 pounds for every pound of gain in their animals.
“I attribute that directly to the way I’ve been developing these bulls. The bulls that are left in the program are making it on less,” says Adam. “When those bulls go out on cows, they make good calves that have those lower feed conversion abilities, and those calves are going to be hanging on the rail 30 days earlier.”
The Redland’s steers are also seeing a grade of 90 percent choice and an average ribeye area of 15.3 inches.
“In our whole selection process we are not losing focus on the carcass side of it either,” he says.
“We want buyers to know that once they buy our bulls they will be producing calves that are going to earn them a premium in several different categories,” states Adam. “That’s all added bucks to that buyer’s pocket.”
“We have always been honest, and that’s a standard we are going to hold ourselves to. Customer service for us is a big deal. We let these guys know they are very important to us,” says Adam. “We stand behind our cattle 100 percent and want customers to know if there’s anything we can do to help them we darn sure will.”