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The Fence Post: Breeder’s Connection 2020

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.

Breeders Connection 2019: Nebraska Beef Industry Scholars program enhances students’ understanding of beef business

Students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln are learning there’s more to the beef industry than breeding and feeding cattle.

University of Nebraska students who want to learn more about the beef industry can obtain a minor in the Nebraska Beef Industry Scholars program. According to Matt Spangler, who coordinates the program, the Beef Industry Scholars Program started in 2007, and graduated its first class of students in 2010. Started as a certificate program, it has become a minor.

The idea of the program is to give any student at UNL with an interest in beef cattle, particularly those in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, an opportunity to engage in it. “There are students from a beef production background enrolled in the program, but also plenty of students who don’t have that background,” Spangler said. “Maybe their grandparents were involved in production agriculture, but their parents weren’t. There is a variety of students with different interests and backgrounds, but they share a general interest in beef cattle production.”

Melissa Keyes Nelson enrolled in the Nebraska Beef Industry Scholars program because she had always been interested in the beef industry, and wanted to be a part of it in the future. She grew up on the family ranch in Springfield, Nebraska. “I thought it would be a good opportunity to get to know some of the leaders in the beef industry now, and in the future,” she says.

“What is unique about the program is it exposes students to the breadth of the beef industry, and some of the things students don’t necessarily associate with the beef industry,” Spangler says. “The emphasis is on emerging issues and really forcing students to debate the pros and cons of them. The emphasis is on the outside or external forces that shape the industry.”

Dr. Brad Lubben, an assistant professor of agricultural economics at UNL, teaches the senior policy course. “We take real issues and fit theory, science and analysis to those issues. The students learn how to apply what they have learned up to that point to the real issues,” he says.

During the course curriculum, students also learn about regulations and regulatory agencies. “There is also a class that focuses on national policy, and teaching students the importance of taking part in organizations that help develop policy. All of that, coupled with peer to peer and student to industry networking, makes this program very unique,” Spangler says.

The program helps students who may enter into a career profession of narrow scope, but see how the profession is integral and ties into the industry complex. “I think that is extremely important. This program may help the students understand how large and diverse the beef industry is, while giving them a different set of lenses to look through as they pursue a career, that on the surface, may be a bit external to production agriculture,” Spangler said.

Some of the classes focus on exposing students to current and emerging issues in the beef industry, as well as communication and crisis management, and communicating to diverse audiences. To earn the minor, students are required to take an internship, and some production-oriented classes like cow/calf management, feedlot management, fresh meats, and animal welfare, which are core animal science classes.

“At the university, I think we do a tremendous job teaching fundamental science-based classes that are really required to have an understanding of beef cattle production,” Spangler says “But, what makes this unique is supplementing those courses with things to enhance soft skills, like written and verbal communication and networking opportunities, that will hopefully help the student’s understanding of what the beef industry entails. It is more complex than simply raising beef cattle. For students with an interest in the agriculture industry, particularly the beef industry, we think this really helps them in their chosen field of endeavor.”


After completing the minor, students have secured employment in a variety of fields. Some have gone home to family production operations, or they work in roles in cow/calf or feedlot management. Other students have become high school ag teachers, gone on to vet school, become legislative aides or journalists, gone into sales with pharmaceutical companies, or become ag lenders. “Their occupations are really diverse. These students came together with a common interest in the beef industry, and hopefully they learned how diverse that is by securing employment in a number of career fields,” Spangler says.

The program is offered at UNL as a minor, and students in any discipline can declare that minor at any point before they graduate. “We encourage them to start thinking about it very early in their college career. The spring semester of their freshman year is when one class each semester starts that is designated to be taken as part of this minor program. Identifying this as an interest early in their academic career is certainly beneficial,” he says.

The cost of earning the degree is associated with the cost of the credit hours required for the minor. “We have several activities like study tours, and a trip to the NCBA trade show and convention every year as part of a class focused on national policy,” he says. Student travel for those activities is covered by the program through donations and small grants that enable them to off-set those costs to students, Spangler says.

Keyes Nelson, a former participant who is now employed as an externship and internship coordinator in the College of Applied Agriculture and Food Studies at Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa, found the job shadowing and tours as one of the most valuable parts of the program. “We learned a lot about policies in the beef industry and how that affects the producer and the consumer,” she says. “If you are going to be involved in the program, put your all into it because you will only get out of it what you put into it.”


Breeders Connection 2019: Up to their armpits in success–Colorado training center focuses on innovation in bovine reproduction

For beef and dairy cattle breeders seeking greater herd growth, a relatively new embryo transfer model is being performed at a Greeley, Colorado farm and bovine training center. With the dairy industry changing considerably, the International Bovine Training Solutions Center in Greeley is working to fill a gap in the demand and supply of people willing to do livestock pregnancy work, while assisting breeders to gain more calves out of embryos.

So, as a type of ‘surrogate parent,’ a forward-thinking veterinarian specializing in embryo has been accepting beef embryos, placing them in dairy cows, feeding the calves himself, then shipping them back to the owners. Embryo transfer specialist Kevin McSweeney, DVM, MS, with Bovine Reproduction Specialists, LLC, International Bovine Training Solutions and Summit Dairy Learning Center in Greeley, Colorado also trains ultrasound technology students in livestock at the training center.

“There are still the same number of cows that need to be worked, but there are less and less veterinarians willing to do it. But the novel thing we do is put beef embryos into dairy cows. That has not been done much before, because dairies needed as many calves as possible. But with an excess of heifers, and bull calves hardly bringing much money, we’re really taking it on the short; selling them,” said McSweeney.

“On the beef side, the majority of the time that a cow is pregnant – you’re paying to feed her, whereas a dairy cow is making milk the majority of the time she’s pregnant. Also, a lot of breeders don’t have many recipients to use for their embryos,” said McSweeney. “So, with the year-round availability of ‘recips’ and the cheaper cost, we’ve been transferring a lot of beef embryos into dairy cows, and I’m raising these embryo calves on my operation here in Greeley through an accelerated feeding program which gives superior weight gains.”

In the beef industry, contracting with cow-calf producers for recipient cows has been around for awhile. Cow-calf producers have new calves on the ground from winter to spring, and some in the fall. However, with dairy cows, there are recipients 52 weeks a year. And because dairy cows are already making milk and generating revenue during their pregnancy, using them as a recipient can be much cheaper. “To get year-round beef recipients, producers who have embryos are often seeking more cows’ uteruses; a place for their embryos. So, this is a service for the breeder to maximize their genetic potential, and to get better growth rates from their calves,” McSweeney explained.

McSweeney says produces send embryos, either frozen or fresh-shipped in an incubator, directly to the Greeley facility. “With the well-run dairies I’ve contracted near here, I transfer the embryos into the dairy cows there at a cheaper price for them. They calve it out, then I weigh it as a day old and bring it back to my small dairy and beef farm here. This is real novel and gaining, as the dairy industry is changing so fast.”

Then, using his accelerated growth program, McSweeney feeds these calves with three quarts of whole milk/three times a day, using dairy milk straight from his cows. “Most of my weights on bulls are 400-550 pounds at four months of age, and we have space to keep them here during weaning.”

After backgrounding for about 120-days, the calves are loaded up and transported back to their owners, said McSweeney, who has been conducting this process for two years. “This is an option I created two years ago, and it’s working well and growing.” McSweeney contracts out, raises and weans an embryo transfer calf for less than $1,000, whereas for other cow calf operations to transfer an embryo and raise to a weaning typically costs about $1,500 and more.

The second part of McSweeney’s focus is the International Bovine Training Center, which offers a one-year Ultrasound Tech program. Students get exposure with embryo transfer and training, and ultrasound training to scan the ovary to see which embryo should get the transfer. “The interns/technicians usually learn pregnancy diagnosis within a few months. For more advanced skill sets to scan ovaries and fetal sexing can take up to six months.” McSweeney asks for a one-year commitment which also enables students to return value to the program. “We provide certification of skill sets so when they leave, they have testing documentation that they’ve exceeded the requirements.”

While a few ultrasound companies offer three-day training classes, McSweeney says there are no other similar extended training programs.

Ultrasound technology has grown in importance, as earlier and more accurate pregnancy diagnosis is a big advantage for ultrasound over palpation. “Especially in times of drought, being able to identify our open cows as soon as possible and sell them can be a big financial saver for a ranch. Identifying the sex prior to calving (without using sexed semen) is relatively easy with ultrasound – yet impossible with palpation,” said McSweeney. “If you are synchronizing for artificial insemination or setting cows up for super-ovulation and flushing/IVF, then using an ultrasound to scan the ovaries can help improve synchrony and conception rates, or result in a better response to super-ovulation, thereby making more embryos.” He said ultrasound is also better at identifying twins, dead fetuses, and problem cows.

Students trained at the International Bovine Center have gone on to veterinary school, or obtained a Masters or PhD. Most have gone on to work in the dairy industry.

Current intern/technician Elizabeth “Catie” Cates Duncan is excited to take the skill set she learned from McSweeney’s program to veterinary school. Duncan will graduate with her Masters of Biological Sciences student at the University of Northern Colorado in December, and expects to receive news of potential invite for interview for admission to Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

“Dr. McSweeney has been teaching me all aspects of bovine behavior, management and reproduction,” said Duncan. “I assist with OPU, uterine flushing, embryo preservation and storage, and synchronizing heat cycles for reproductive purposes. I’ve been learning the ins-and-outs of rectal palpation (vital for learning ultrasound techniques) to identify the bovine reproductive tract, and assess the anatomy for pregnancies, cyclicity, and general health,” said Duncan. “Dr. McSweeney came highly recommended from several professors and veterinarians.”

Former intern Luke Harding, DVM, also heard about McSweeney’s specialized work from a professor while attending Pennsylvania State University. Harding trained with McSweeney during a summer, then went back for additional training over two more summers.

“I went there again after graduating from Penn State; just before starting veterinary school (at Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine in Auburn Alabama) when he was developing the school. I was performing exclusive contract reproductive services for Dr. McSweeney’s veterinary clientele,” said Harding who is now a veterinarian in Tulare, Calif.; which is considered a dairy mecca. “I’m so grateful for all the medicine skills I learned from Dr. McSweeney as a veterinarian, but also his business savvy and entrepreneurial skills have been so motivating. He’s developed protocols that dairies can use, so cows can get pregnant in a timely and efficient manner. What I’ve learned from Dr. McSweeney, has been pivotal to my success.”

When considering becoming an ultrasound tech, McSweeney emphasizes this is physical work and conducted mostly outside, so being able to handle all weather is critical.

“It’s so new,” said McSweeney, “But, all these skills enable the employer to have more confidence in using the services of these grads. I’ve been at this a long time and have a pretty good vision of the future and what will have an impact. This will grow and be a good player going forward.”

Breeders Connection 2019: Mohair Man committed to quality for his customers

Although his real name is Rick McBride, he prefers to identify with his lifelong avocation: crafting and selling mohair merchandise.

McBride, born in McKinney, Texas in 1955, grew up there. At age 16, he signed up for a half-day school/work program. From among several participating businesses, he chose Action Company, a tack manufacturer. It wasn’t so much a “why” decision as a “why not?” one.

Beginning with lariats, he worked in the shipping/receiving/gift line. Next he was making cinches. Straight out of high school, 18-year-old McBride moved all around Texas, finally locating in Van Alstyne. He’d already mastered making lariats; now it was time to learn all the ropes. He spent the next 25 years in the tiny Texas town, where he co-founded Mustang Manufacturing in October 1982.

There he implemented skills acquired in the mid-1970s working with companies including Action, Potts Longhorn and Billy Cook Saddlery. McBride wanted to provide riders with a natural, superior product.

“Horses built this country,” he noted. “Using proper equipment, like that made of mohair, ensures a good life for your buddy, your friend–your horse.”

In 1985, too many synthetics (containing PVCs and neoprenes) had infiltrated the tack market, according to McBride. Equipment made of these cheaper materials was affordable but often inferior and environmentally questionable.

McBride found that mohair, while more expensive, resulted in a far superior product. He prefers its feel and purity.

“In my 46 years in this industry I’ve never seen mohair gall or sore a horse,” he says.

But what about other animal fiber? Alpaca, for example, is softer than mohair but it stretches more.

Wool is a shorter fiber, but weaker. So, McBride concentrated on mohair. He began at the source: the goat end of the business.

Twenty-plus years ago, he helped a Mexican company develop machinery and locate raw materials. At the time, there were only two U.S. companies manufacturing mohair cinch cord. McBride said he tried unsuccessfully to buy one of them but they refused, forcing him to look elsewhere. He worried if one of those two companies eventually sold out to one of his competitors he’d be out of business. So, he chose to head south to Guadalajara, invest, and get to work.

Not only did he set up the mohair manufacturing machinery down in Mexico, but he’s an expert on many others. These include leather-sewing machines; twisting machines for rope and cord products; hydraulic presses for cutting dies and embossing plates; straight and round knife cutters; leather skivers, splitters and edges; saddle tree-making machines; and he has a working familiarity with the bit and spur making process.

McBride said most mohair originates in South Africa, which is shipped to the U.S. (or Mexico) for processing. Slivers, which are inch-and-a-half strings, are then produced for use in mohair work.

It’s difficult to picture fiber that short ultimately becoming cinches and breast collars. How much does it take? McBride tallied up that approximately 1000 pounds of mohair is required to turn out 1,500 cinches. When he owned Mustang (he sold it 13 years ago), the company manufactured 2,500 cinches every week, using nearly a ton of goat hair.

A lot of travel has monopolized McBride’s life recently as he demonstrated at one trade show after another. He estimated he’s put on 40,000 miles a year for the past four years. Among his many stops have been Equine Affaire, Quarter Horse Congress, High School Rodeo Finals and Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

McBride took a little time away from trade show road-running to build 18 houses for family and friends (and did a bit of flipping as well). Some wouldn’t call such high-energy activity a rest, but he remarked that he has “always liked building stuff.”

Although he enjoyed displaying his handmade talents across the country, he’s decided it’s time to spend a little more time at home fashioning product. Plus, there are those nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild to dote on.

McBride’s current wholesale company is USA Direct Equine, retailing under the name Horse Tack Warehouse, both of which include a complete line of tack and other equine equipment. Beginning in 2019, he hopes to concentrate mainly on his mohair line.

McBride mostly creates one-of-a-kind items. He’s never had a complaint over the past four years of this custom work. If a customer wants something changed, he’ll start completely over if necessary.

It’s said that time is money. His investment costs by clock hands, therefore, can be high. A custom girth generally takes McBride three to four hours, which is pretty fast for the industry, because of his experience. Generic patterns are repetitious, hence cheaper. If a ranch brand or initials are added, the price is a bit higher.

“Mohair Man” has an eye for design and is an adroit braider. He creates cinches and girths for Western, English, minis, drafts, and pack animals.

The quality he’s known for and committed to includes a stainless steel roller buckle set, and a completely custom option for the equipment. Customers can select from a wide color palette— dark brown to hot pink to turquoise to red to deep purple, and most every hue between. McBride personally dyes all natural-colored Angora fiber to custom-make his colors.

Over the decades and into the present, McBride’s handiwork has made it onto prominent store shelves and into trainers’ arenas. Just a few of his better-known customers are saddle manufacturers Larry Coats and Billy Cook, Lynn McKinzie, Tucker Saddlery, Martha Josey andWeaver Leather Company.

Breeders Connection 2019: Koch Cowhorses make dreams come true one ride at a time

Matt Koch has a host of achievements under his belt buckles, including co-owning and training an accomplished cow-horse stallion, co-owning a facility with a heated indoor arena, two houses, and a 28-stall barn, winning four AQHA world championships and multiple other accolades, and being dad to a one-year-old son who has already ridden more two- and three-year-old colts than most adults. 

That’s a testament to his try, rather than his age. 

With his wife Brianna as his partner, Matt has recently branched out on his own, leaving Wagonhound Land and Livestock in Douglas, Wyoming, to first lease, then own, their own facilities in Colorado. The young family has settled in Elizabeth, Colorado, as Koch Cowhorses, and have set to work customizing and finished their facilities to their taste, all while riding 28 or so horses each day. 

“We didn’t want to be old horse trainers and not have anything to our names, so we thought we might as well take the jump at a young age and grow into it. It’s been an adventure,” Brianna said of their new digs. “One of the reasons we could get this place was because it needed work; that has been challenging and refreshing all at the same time. It’s hard to find a horse facility that can please a cowboy’s heart. It’s our own slice of heaven on 200 acres.” 

The Kochs moved to the new place in June, at the risk of losing clients that didn’t want to make the move as well. Luckily, that hasn’t been an issue; in fact, the opposite is true. 

“For me, the prospect of having my horse closer and the ability to show in Colorado and South Dakota was a tremendous plus for us,” said Jecca Ostrander of Box O Quarter Horses of Bingham, Nebraska. “It’s an added benefit of being able to see Opus and have my kids and grandkids see him.” 

When Ostrander mentions Opus, she is referring to Opus Cat Olena, a stallion she purchased from Wagonhound Land and Livestock as a coming two-year-old at the end of 2015, a purchase Matt helped facilitate. After only 60 days together, Matt and Opus are the newly-crowned AQHA Lucas Oil World Championship Junior Working Cow Horse champions as of Nov. 16. 

“We’ve known Matt since he was at Haythorne’s; we have followed his career,” Ostrander said. “For my husband, it was an immediate first choice who he wanted.” 

As for showing Opus at world championships after just two months with him, they all had the idea that they would go since he had qualified, but really, they weren’t expecting all that much, despite the immense talent within the pair. 

“Neither one of us had any inkling he would come through with such a strong reining pattern,” Ostrander said. “Matt has made so much progress with him. Matt himself has so much confidence and knows what horses need to maximize their effort going down the fence.” 

All the work Matt and Opus put into fence work in their short time together paid off with a score of 226.5 in the fence work and 216.5 in the reining. 

“I wasn’t really expecting this when we left the barn. What are the odds of a guy going down there four times and winning it four times? There’s no way I can win this again,” Matt said. “I didn’t show him real hard, kind of conservative. On the cow he was just dead on and let me handle him and put him where he needed to be, then he did his job.” 

Matt’s first foray into AQHA World Championships yielded the same title as this year’s, junior working cow horse, only it was captured on his own stallion SDP Blue Blood in 2012. In 2015, the same pair seized the senior working cow horse title. In 2017, Matt took home the senior golden globe once more, this time aboard BFR Igniting Sparks. 

SDP Blue Blood, known as Reno, is standing at SDP Blue Blood partners’ Darren Miller and Rhoda Rein’s facilities for the time being. He hasn’t been shown for the simple fact that he has won all he needs to in order to prove his worthiness. 

“I just have other stuff to show and he doesn’t deserve to have to do it more,” Matt said. “He has proved all that he has to prove.” 

The duo also won the inaugural NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity Level 1 Limited Open Championship in 2011, where Reno was purchased the year prior. 

Two three-year-olds by Reno are in Matt’s training program and have proven to be versatile, promising young mounts that just barely missed qualifying for the AQHA World Championships themselves. 

“They’ve all been real big strong colts with lots of cow. They’re fun to go use outside and have a lot of try and not much bottom,” Matt said. “They’ll go do what you ask them to do.” 

While the working cow horse championship was Koch Cowhorses’ biggest title of the year, it isn’t their first. Matt won two reined cow horse futurities, the first at this summer’s Mid American on Smart Ladies Sparkle owned by Thad and Kristen York and the second at Colorado State Fair with Roan Olena Oak owned by Mark and Connie Buckley. The latter pair also won the preliminary fence work at the Snaffle Bit Futurity, making the finals and again winning the fence work to end up sixth. 

Raising their son Oliver in a place where they feel they have freedom to make their own decisions and reap the benefits of their work may possibly be the Kochs’ biggest accomplishment of late. 

“I love where we ended up. It’s a great place to raise a family; we have a really wonderful house just far enough from the barn, but I can be down there whenever I want to,” Brianna said. “I’m just really enjoying the freedom of it all.” 

Growing up in Alaska, Brianna has continually yearned for the feeling of wilderness while still being relatively close to a city, and that itch has finally been scratched with their new location. It’s just where she wants her son to grow up, living the lifestyle the Kochs love the most. 

“Oliver can’t go a day without being in the barn. We don’t get to spend all day down there, but he likes to breathe in the smell of horses poop and pet his favorite ponies,” Brianna said. “He’s only ridden one aged horse at this point, my bridle horse. I love that Matt can put a stamp on these younger horses that I can trust to hand up Oliver on 95 percent of the horses he rides down there. It’s going to be a wonderful way for him to grow up.” 

“It’s been fun with Oliver. He was just here at the barn,” Matt said. “He rides along while I’m cooling stuff off or turning back a little. It’s been quite the couple years. Having a baby, buying a place. We’ve been extremely lucky and blessed.” 

Breeders Connection 2019: Cow Burps & Climate Change–A Bunch Of Hot Air?

Climate change is a big topic of discussion in the media today, and as consumers place a greater emphasis on reducing their carbon footprints, they are often being pressured to go meatless.
In fact, according to a recent study conducted by OnePoll, plant-based diets are increasing in popularity with more than half (52 percent) of Americans currently trying to incorporate more plant-based meals into their diets.
What’s more, the study showed that 18 percent of Americans have tried a vegetarian diet and 5 percent have gone vegan. Fox News reported on the study, which revealed that a whopping 42 percent of Americans would be willing to cut meat out of their diet and another 46 percent would consider cutting dairy.
Perceived health benefits aside, the increased societal pressure to ditch animal fats and proteins may stem from an inaccurate, and now debunked, 2006 U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) 2006 report titled, “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” which erroneously claimed livestock production accounts for 18 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
A recent beef sustainability assessment conducted by researchers Ashley Broocks, Emily Andreini, Megan Rolf and Sara Place, at Oklahoma State University, found that beef contributed just 1.9 percent of total U.S. GHG emissions, while landfills accounted for 2.2 percent; transportation 25.3 percent; electricity 29.7 percent; and other sources of human consumable goods, 40.9 percent, per EPA’s annual inventory for GHG emissions.
According to the assessment, “today’s use of higher-quality feeds, less heat stress, improved animal genetics, improved reproductive performance and faster growth rates in U.S. beef production have decreased GHG emissions per pound of beef by 9-16 percent when compared to 1970s beef production.”
Yet, the push for Meatless Mondays and vegetarian diets persists.
“Many people continue to think avoiding meat as infrequently as once a week will make a significant difference to the climate,” said Frank Mitloehner, professor of animal science and air quality Extension specialist at the University of California, Davis, in a recent academic review. “But according to one recent study, even if Americans eliminated all animal protein from their diets, they would reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by only 2.6 percent. According to our research at the University of California, Davis, if the practice of Meatless Monday were to be adopted by all Americans, we’d see a reduction of only 0.5 percent.”
If the hype surrounding livestock is just hot air, does the beef industry need to worry about a real problem with GHG emissions or are producers just fighting misguided public perceptions?
When evaluating what it takes to get a steak from pasture to plate (often called a cradle-to-grave analysis), recent data shows cow belches are the number-one contributor of GHG emissions. So what if the industry could reduce the frequency and volume of cow burps? How big of a difference would that make?
“If methane emissions can be consistently reduced, it can improve the efficiency of the industry,” said Sara Place, senior director of sustainable beef production research for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), who explained that methane is a loss of the energy value in feed. “The industry does have a strong track record of reducing emissions through the advancements that beef producers have made in productivity through better animal genetics, animal nutrition, and health and husbandry practices. Continuing that strategy of adopting the latest science will keep producers on the path of being a solution to climate change.”

Place cited several ongoing research projects in the U.S. that are examining the impacts of cattle grazing on carbon sequestration.
“In certain landscapes, especially those that may have been degraded with poor management in the past, carbon sequestration is a promising way to lower GHG emissions from beef production by offsetting emissions,” said Place. “However, we need a lot more research in this area to be confident in the extent of this opportunity. Carbon sequestration is generally recognized to reach a point of equilibrium within soils over the long-term, so high rates seen in some research are unlikely to continue forever. But, carbon storage in current soils is also critical. Cattle producers are less than 1 percent of the U.S. population, but they are one of the key managers for the 40 percent of the U.S. land area that is grasslands. Anything producers can do to improve the management of those landscapes, or continue good management, has a huge impact.”
Other tangible solutions for reducing the volume of cow burps are being looked at, including the development of feed additives from sources such as seaweed.
“There are novel feeds and feed additives being investigated to mitigate methane emissions, such as seaweed, but importantly, there are also well-known strategies that are already widely adopted,” said Place. “For example, feeding more concentrate feeds, such as corn grain, is well-established to consistently lower methane emissions from cattle. Consequently, the grain-based finishing system within the U.S. means lower methane emissions from the U.S. cattle herd. This translates into approximately 2.5 lbs. of grain dry matter per lb. of beef carcass weight produced when considering the animal’s entire life cycle feed intake.”
Place says much of the research into new feed additives and novel feeds to mitigate methane is in its early days. A company called Mootral has developed a mixture of garlic and citrus extracts to reduce enteric methane emissions. Place says a second company called DSM has a product (3-nitrooxypropanol, 3-NOP) that is a molecule which inhibits one of the enzymes responsible for the production of methane.
“Both products have research that estimates 30 percent reductions in methane emissions,” she said. “However, if there are no clear animal performance improvements for these products, it will likely be hard for them to justify their cost to the producer (currently unknown). Alternatively, if there was a market premium for cattle fed these products that could justify their use; however, such marketing opportunities do not exist in the U.S. currently. Any solution in this space will have to be practical, not affect the end-product quality nor animal performance, be cost-effective, be scalable, and not indirectly increase emissions in another part of the beef supply chain.”
Ultimately, beef producers can play a role in mitigating climate change by continuing to do what they do best. Sequestering carbon by maintaining grasslands for cattle grazing rather than tilling for crops or developing land into housing is a good place to start.

Cutlines (Photos courtesy of Beef Checkoff):

Sara Place

“Even if Americans eliminated all animal protein from their diets, they would reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by only 2.6 percent,” says Frank Mitloehner, professor of animal science and air quality Extension specialist at the University of California, Davis.

Breeders Connection 2019: Raising Ranch Horses–Hancock line brings strength to Freeman’s horses

Some people don’t speak highly of their in-laws, and some don’t speak well of Hancock-bred horses, but Russell Freeman does not fall into either category. The Colorado businessman, rancher and breeder of Longhorn cattle and Quarter Horses has been raising Hancock horses since 1994 when he bought his first stud horse and bunch of mares from his former father-in-law.
“I got my love of horses from my family, but he really started me in raising them,” Freeman says.
Today, Freeman still runs some mares out of the original mares from his father-in-law and credits those solid genetics for giving Freeman such a strong start in the horse business.
The Colorado native grew up with horses and cows, raising dry land wheat in eastern Colorado. At one time, Freeman’s grandfather was the biggest landowner in the county but after his land was divided between his six children, there wasn’t much left for Freeman, aside from one pasture and an extremely treasured brand that had been registered by Freeman’s great-grandmother in 1899. Both Freeman’s father and grandfather had raised horses and Freeman knew that he wanted to put together his own horse program as well. After college, Freeman started over and the ranches near Yoder and Kim, Colorado are all those he has put together.
“I like keeping records and keeping track of things, managing data and playing with genetics,” Freeman says.
Between the Quarter Horse program and his registered cattle, he gets plenty of opportunities to do it all, even switching his registered cow herd over to Longhorns because they presented more of an opportunity in that aspect. Today, Freeman owns the third-longest horned bull in the world at almost 92 inches.
In a sense, Hancock horses are also a challenge. They have a pretty big following but Freeman says that it seems either people love them or hate them, although he has seen his colts sway opinions about the line.
“We do things a little bit different,” he says of his breeding program. “There are people who are real Hancock enthusiasts that have Hancock mares and stud horses and really tie that bloodline together.” He wasn’t a big fan of the resulting horses. To remedy that, Freeman began crossing his big Hancock stud horses on cow-bred mares. Now, the colts he produces have not only athletic ability and color, but the size, bone and structure to go all day, a perfect combination for solid yet cowy ranch horses.
“People have this idea about Hancocks, but if they come ride these colts and spend time with them, you forget the reputation that these horses have,” he says. “If you do a good job raising them, keeping them quiet, keeping their feet moving and their legs good, the mix makes some really good-minded horses. I know Hancocks have the reputation for bucking, we just don’t find that in our colts.”
Even his stud horses are his go-to saddle horses and the easiest to catch and get along with.
For a few years now, Freeman has been artificially inseminating a select handful of mares to race horses like Dash Ta Fame and Wagons West in an attempt to put some speed back in his broodmare band.
“I’ve learned you can’t have mares big enough,” he says. “Its easier to make smaller horses than bigger horses. I’ve got Lil Spoon mares, Cowtown Cats, several Blue Duck mares, he is a Gallo Del Cielo own son, and I put Hancock back on them. The horses I got from my father-in-law go back to Jet Threat and Miller San.”
Freeman says everyone who has had a Miller San colt has liked them even though the Quarter Horse isn’t very well remembered. As a race horse he was very versatile, running AAA times and winning points in both halter and cow work classes.
“It’s hard to make a good horse though,” Freeman says. “You would think if you bred 42 mares you would get 42 colts, but you don’t. Things happen. Raising good horses is not an easy task, there’s a lot of things that can go wrong.”
Freeman runs his mares on the ranch near Yoder, Colorado where foals are born. When colts are weaned, he sends them to his other ranch near Kim, Colorado where the terrain is rockier, steeper and has live water.
“We run all the colts from weanlings to two-year-olds in the canyon at Kim so they have to learn where their feet are at, they’re climbing hills and crossing rocks and crossing water and I think it makes a better horse,” Freeman says. “It helps make their feet hard and when they grow up on water, you take that horse when he’s older and ride him across water, he should remember that he’s seen it before and it won’t freak him out.”
One year, Freeman bought a bay roan mare that he was very excited about. She was level-headed and “the thinkingest mare” he had ever seen. He crossed her with Leo Hancock Hazz, his stud at the time, and she threw a perfect roan colt. After he had spent two years in the rock canyons in Kim, Freeman took him back to the Yoder ranch and turned him out for a month. He was solid and straight-legged with perfect conformation. When Freeman went to get him in to start working with him, the colt’s hind foot was turned over about 45 degrees. The vet said he hit a growth spurt and the tendon grew wrong.
“You do everything right and then something happens,” Freeman says. “It’s just the luck of the draw. It’s disheartening.”
But in the long run, Freeman says it’s worth being in the business and he is looking forward to seeing the first colts this spring from a new grulla roan stud that he recently bought from a dispersal sale out of Louisiana.
“I think I’ve got the best studs in the pasture that I’ve ever had and I’m really excited about the colts that I will have out of them, but it all takes time,” he says. “I like the challenge of it, I like the ‘fix it up and see what you make’ aspect.”