Breeders Connection 2019: Finding the balance –Plateau Gelbvieh strives for moderation in beef genetics |

Breeders Connection 2019: Finding the balance –Plateau Gelbvieh strives for moderation in beef genetics

Plateau sold this heifer in the National Gelbvieh Sale in 2013 and she went on to return to NWSS and be selected as the 2014 National Champion Balancer Female. Photo courtesy Kevin Drager.

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.

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