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Homeland – Spring 2020
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Homeland, Spring 2019
The Fence Post: Breeder’s Connection 2019
Breeders Connection 2019: Finding the balance –Plateau Gelbvieh strives for moderation in beef genetics
Gone are the days of extreme Gelbvieh cattle, a trend toward moderation that Jim Roelle, Plateau Gelbvieh, Peetz, Colo., hopes is here to stay. Roelle runs 125 mother cows, both registered and commercial, as well as Balancer and purebred bulls. The operation also includes wheat, corn, and millet for hay. Roelle was born and raised in the Peetz area and now his son, David, has joined the operation as well.
Performance on feed and the quality of the females brought Roelle to the breed when he started the operation in 1978 and purchased his first Gelbvieh Association membership a few years later.
“I probably only had 35 or 40 cows at the time and just grew the operation as the years went on,” he said.
He began marketing bulls through private treaty, later joining what used to be the Gold Rush Bull Sale. Once the other three breeders retired, Roelle said he remained in Brush where he markets 40 bulls each year at Livestock Exchange in Brush, Colo., on the last Thursday in February. Most of his customers are in the northeast portion of the state, seeking out Plateau Gelbvieh bulls for their performance, calving ease, and soundness, though last year’s sale saw buyers in at least five states. The majority of Roelle’s bulls are purchased by commercial operations running Angus-cross females.
The Black Hills Stock Show and the National Western Stock Show are both stops for Roelle and his family as they exhibit heifers and bulls. His show cattle partner, Kevin Drager, helps him select and exhibit cattle at the two shows and has become an integral part of the marketing side of the operation. A handful of females are sold during the National Western’s show and sale. One of his heifers sold in the National Gelbvieh Sale to Green Hills Gelbvieh in North Carolina, and returned to Denver to be selected as the 2014 National Champion Balancer Female.
In 2012, Plateau won the NWSS Gelbvieh Futurity Bull Champion. The award is even more special to Roelle and Drager as the champion is selected by other breeders, rather than one judge. This nod to the quality of the ranch’s cattle reinforced the value of attending national shows, both for the exposure their cattle receive and the high-quality genetics they are able to view from other areas of the country.
With Gelbvieh and Balancer genetics, Roelle said he has valuable options for commercial cattlemen, especially as moderation has become the industry trend. Roelle said he’s seen Gelbvieh cattle go from “tall and lanky to a beefier-type to the middle of the road, where it ought to be.”
Roelle uses AI extensively as well as embryo transfer, an innovation he has used for about 20 years. He uses Balancer bulls unless he’s breeding for Balancers in which case, he uses Angus bulls. He said he appreciates Final Answer females for their performance.
“Nowadays, my top producing cows are embryo ones,” he said. “You don’t hit on embryos every time but most of the time, they’re the top end.”
Roelle enlists Dr. Tom Rea, DVM, of Berthoud, Colo., to implant fresh embryos right on the farm.
“If you’ve got the right combination, it’s well worth it,” he said.
Utilizing embryo transfer has allowed Roelle and Drager to pull genetics from the best bulls around the country to deliver that advantage to their bull customers, Drager said. They are currently awaiting calves to arrive from a flush they purchased at the 2018 National Western Stock Show Champion Balancer female. Genetics like these, Drager said, can benefit all of the ranch’s bull customers.
Roelle retains heifers and grows them alongside the steers
until he sorts the heifers into keepers and those he will sell at Sterling Livestock at the December sale. Calves are grown to 800 pounds and sold on Sterling Livestock’s Stock Show Special Sale. They also sell open and bred females in the Sega and Friends Female Sale in Pierce, Colo., in December.
Breeders Connection 2019: Farriers seek out the professionals at Oleo Acres Farrier and Blacksmith Supply
Vern Olinger grew up around horses, and was known as quite a horseman. The founder of the Colorado family-owned business, Oleo Acres Farrier and Blacksmith Supply, was a world-renowned horseshoer. He shod horses at racetracks and traveled the country with the horse racing circuit in the 1960s.
When Olinger founded the Hillcraft School for Shoeing back in the 1960s, it was one of five horse-shoeing schools in the nation, and the first in Colorado. Located originally in Golden, Olinger relocated the business to his own property in Littleton, near Deer Creek Canyon. “He was actually one of two judges of the first annual American Farriers Association contest that was held in Lakewood, Colorado,” said his great-grandson, Rob Michel, who currently owns and manages the store with his parents.
Olinger didn’t seek out any formal training shoeing horses, but grew up with it. He shared his gift for shoeing with students who would travel from all across the nation to take his classes. It wasn’t easy. “Out of a class of 12, only six may have graduated,” Michel says. “Back then, the selection of horseshoes wasn’t there. There were only a few manufacturers that made horseshoes. Most had to be built by hand. The school was comprised of a coal forge. We still have the original shoeboard in the Littleton store. The students had to make the different types of shoes on the board to graduate from the school,” he says.
Michel is the fourth generation to own and manage the business. The biggest changes that have taken place in the business over the years were closing the Hillcraft School of Shoeing in the 1980s, and becoming a full-line farrier supply store. Michel’s grandfather, who had retired as president of Hoover Canada, wasn’t a farrier, so he made the decision to operate the business-side of the company, choosing to keep the farrier supply store. “In 1998, my dad was offered an opportunity to buy into the business, and start a second location in Berthoud, Colo. My grandfather phased out of the business in 2001, and my parents took over managing two locations,” he says.
Since Michel came into the business, they added a third location in 2006 in Elbert County. “We have spent a lot of time re-merchandising all three stores, making them more retail-friendly, enhancing our web presence and increasing our overall selection,” Michel says. “Over the years, the availability and supply of horseshoes has gone from a few suppliers with a few different horseshoes to what we have today, which comprises more than 10,000 different types of horseshoes for all different disciplines. We also carry more selection of nails, rasps, and other tools. Overall, the market and supply has grown ten-fold over the last 30 years. What is available today is just mind-boggling, compared to what was available in the 1990s.”
The other change that has taken place is the company has re-branded and added a new logo to become Oleo Acres Farrier and Blacksmith Supply. “We decided to add to our business by catering to hobby blacksmiths and bladesmiths,” he says.
Along with progress and expansion come a few challenges. Michel says the business is a perfect example of a seasonal bell curve. “Most horse owners choose to not have their horses shod during the winter, so once they pull those shoes off, and don’t replace them with anything, our sales decline. Basically, when the clock went backwards with the time change, our business went backwards. The same holds true in the spring. When the clocks move forward, people start riding again and our business picks up,” he says.
Michel says 80 percent of their business is walk-in traffic from guys who want to look, touch and feel the products they are buying. Their customers are farriers and horse owners. “We service all of Colorado, but we have walk-in traffic from Cheyenne to Colorado Springs. There is nothing like us in the Dakotas, Nebraska or Wyoming, so we do a lot of shipping into those states. Most of our shipping is to farriers. We walk through products with them because they are seeking out our expertise. All our employees know our product lines, what we stock, and how it is used. We also have in-house farriers that can answer the more difficult questions, like how therapeutic shoes should be applied. Our main focus is to make the farrier more productive and profitable, and keep them happy.”
Since the business suffers from natural seasonal change impacts, Michel says they hold professional workshops for farriers during the slower periods. Future plans call for building a bigger retail store and education center, where they can further the education of farriers and blacksmiths by holding year-around clinics. The goal is to build a 10,000 square-foot retail store and a 5,000 square-foot shop with fully functional gas and coal forges, animal stations, power hammers and presses. They plan to bring in professionals from all over the world to do state of the art horseshoe demonstrations and blacksmith and bladesmith demonstrations. “Our ultimate goal is to build a facility that is a destination people can come to for education,” Michel says.