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      Bull Power With Maternal Traits

  1979 - 1981
In the fall of 1979, I purchased six bred heifers and a long yearling bull from Walter Berger of Taimi, just east of Rocky Mountain House. Taimi Mark Brown Lad 17L served us for the first four seasons. Four of the original six cows gave us 17 calves each, and appeared in the CHA superior cow list for several years. Daughters and grand daughters are still in the herd. Several sons sold at the AHA Test Center for good prices.

I was a rank amateur in ranching, and learned a lot by trial and error, plus the tremendously valuable courses and literature from Alberta Ag, Olds College, and University of Guelph. The recurring theme I learned was “Nutrition is everything”. That means a balanced ration – not over-feeding!

A good vaccination program, a complete mineral formula, clean bedding, and parasite control will take care of the rest of animal health concerns. Society would do well to look after the human race as well as we look after cattle.

I was proud of our weights and advertised them in 1982 and 1983, well before the current emphasis on EPDs in modern advertising.

I also believed that the THE (Total Herd Evaluation) program sponsored by the Canadian Hereford Association would lead to considerable herd improvement – which it did. Every animal in our herd has been enrolled, with actual measured birth and weaning weights submitted. We did not high-grade our EPDs by leaving out the culls.

Most of our customers today still have no idea what EPDs do for them, but I believe it helps produce sound, middle-of-the-road animals for local customers. Since I stress maternal traits, EPDs are essential in choosing herd sires and “keeper” cows.

My deteriorating eyesight forced me to stop driving, so it was hard to get to sales, shows, and social events. It also meant that I could not recognize faces easily. It makes “face-to-face” marketing, so necessary in the purebred business, really difficult!

Our 1983 herd sire advert still featured “Brownle” and our statistics. We added cows from Stauffer Farms and the Bar 77 (Zane Block) dispersal. The Bar 77 cows were very modern for their time, and lasted a long time at Rocking “Are”. Daughters and grand daughters are still doing well here.

Ranch construction was pretty well finished in 1983. These facilities have also served well over the years. They were designed by me for one-man operation as much as possible. It’s always more efficient with a two-person crew, but three are seldom needed.

We calve in January and February and, until 1991, did not have a heated barn. This made for a few cold nights, frozen ears, and slow starters.

A lot of time was spent improving pasture, clearing lease land under the Range Improvement Program, and cross-fencing in anticipation of intensive grazing.

In 1984, we acquired the first of several proven bulls that significantly improved our herd. PVC Britisher 29M came from the Pleasant Valley Colony herd dispersal. He bred only one season prior to being hit by lightning. “Brownie” bred his last group of cows in 1984 and was retired from service.

We added a heifer group from Stauffer and Ulrich, but these were low-end, low-priced critters and did not live up to our expectations. Out of twenty head, only one stayed in the herd for more than three years, based entirely on their calves growth rates.

We worked at a conception-to-consumer marketing plan, selling to a local restaurant, a hotel near Drumheller, and to a private trade, using a local butcher for the cut and wrap. With a small herd, it was difficult to have a fat animal ready at all times, but we kept it up for several years.

I made more profit on the beef sales than live cattle by quite a margin. It was a good education in the beef industry and helped me understand the feedlot, packer, and retail side of the business.

I arranged a bull sharing deal with Tom Irwin in 1985. I bred the early season. He picked up the bulls on June 1 and he bred the later season. One bull was wintered at each ranch. LCI Dermot Lad 130P was a great bull but he was put down because of lumpjaw. With 29M killed by lightning, we were out of bulls!

We used 93J by AI as part of our program and did cleanup with 130P. Because of the distance between us and the AI tech, we were not very successful and never tried AI again.

I became active in the Central Alberta Hereford Club as a Member and later as a Director. I initiated the CAHC Newsletter, and by personally inviting all Hereford breeders to re-join the Club, I raised the membership from less than 20 to more than 60 in four years. The Club is still very strong and has sponsored excellent field days and ranch tours throughout Central Alberta.

With the death of 29M and 130P, I needed a new bull for 1986. HH Advance N194 was obtained from the Peacock dispersal. He was a great cow builder, leaving perfect udders and feet. He ranked in the top thirty Canadian Herefords for weaning and yearling weights.

A dozen of his daughters are still in the herd (2001) and many were sold to local ranchers and other breeders. N194 daughters are still coveted by knowledgeable breeders.

I helped arrange the 1987 CAHC Tour through the West Country. We received many compliments on our facilities and cattle.

Heifers were added to the herd from a “brand name” dispersal. Three out of four did not breed after five months with the bull. We had 100% conception on our home-raised heifers. Name brand cattle are no better than those from small breeders, especially if the breeder’s emphasis is on the Calgary Bull Sale instead of herd fertility.

1987 - 1989
In 1987, we put more effort into advertising. The double rainbow photo taken in my front yard by my father was a dramatic symbol of the pot of gold that Herefords could provide. No one ever commented on the ad, but we used it as a background for several years.

N194 continued as our senior bull. We acquired Tom Irwin’s heifer crop prior to his dispersal. After several years of long calving seasons, I gave up and culled all late comers - a heart-breaking but necessary step.

Our major sale outlet for breeding stock was the West Country Hereford Sale held in Caroline. We and four other West Country breeders set up this sale to showcase both polled and horned Herefords. We participated until 1993, when the sale disbanded due to retirement of two of the main contributors. Managing and planning joint sales are a mix of diplomacy and compromise, traits not common to independent ranchers.


In 1990, we arranged a bull-sharing agreement with Art Link. He was smitten by N194 and I really liked his 20P bull. We shared the rainbow ad for several years. 96P was never used at Rocking “Are” but he was a great performer at Link’s.

Our joint efforts put a lot of good females into commercial herds.

A photo of our herd taken by Marty Ross in the spring of 1989 appeared on the cover of the March 1990 Hereford Digest. We received more phone calls on this event than from all other ads combined.

The heifer I received from Art Link as a signing bonus for the bull sharing deal turned out to be one of the top five cows in our herd.

Many of our sales are direct off the ranch. Select animals have sold at the AHA Test Center and the CAHC Supremacy Sale. Some cows, heifers, and cow/calf pairs sell at Cole’s Auction in Rocky Mountain House.


1991 – 1994
We used much the same joint

ad again in 1991 and 1992, but with more detail about the herd sires. The bull battery did not change.

HH Advance N194 died in service in 1992 from heart failure. GH Britisher 3X was obtained in 1993 from the Hansen Dispersal as a replacement. We called him “Lightning” because of his mellow temperament and quick attention to his ladies. Lightning stayed with us until he died of old age in 1998.

We also picked a Coulee Crest bull, 41Z, as our junior bull.

Our cow herd was very stable during this period, with many N194 daughters performing extremely well.

The West Country Hereford Breeders sponsored the CAHC Tour for 1993. While I was on vacation, two of the West Country breeder’s decided that no Field Day events would be held – much to the distress of the CAHC. The rationale for this decision was never explained satisfactorily. CAHC did arrange a separate Field Day at Coulee Crest and Rocking “Are” sponsored the music, to help make amends for the stupidity of the WCHB decision. I may sound a bit bitter here but I was terribly distressed by the WCHB decision and lost a lot of credibility at CAHC meetings.

We acquired LCI Royal Red 83A from the Floyd Anderson dispersal. We still had 41Z, 3X, and a good junior bull, so we were pretty “bull-rich”. Our bull sharing with Art Link came to a sad end with his untimely passing.

41Z and all junior bulls were retired in favour of the superior EPDs of Royal Red and Lightning. We were also ruthless in culling low efficiency critters, as always.

Our intensive grazing program also paid off, as our weaning weights continued to improve. Grass is our most important asset, and grass management is crucial to economic success.

Rocking “Are” had the high gaining horned bull at the AHA Test Center. He was starved by his new owners and failed to breed. The vet report showed his October weight to be less than his April weight – what a waste!


By 1996, two of the best maternal bulls in the industry, 3X and 83A, were working at Rocking “Are”. With a good base of N194 cows, and a number of other good “name-brand” cows, our calves looked great. Private treaty sales made it difficult to keep the herd at its normal size, although prices were not as high as expected.

With the help of my herdsman, Kent Maxwell, we made it to a few sales and picked up a few of Edith Santee’s cows at her dispersal.

To mark the beginning of a new era at Rocking “Are”, I picked a new logo for the ads and Kurt Gilmore gave us a new “modern look”. Did anyone notice?

Our bull leasing program, begun in 1989, continued to be very popular. It also gives us some well proven bulls to carry forward as two year olds.

In 1997, we took the top performing bull, DW Advance 9012Y Lad 6F, from the AHA Test Center for our heifers. The bull was a great disappointment as he left many open heifers. Semen tests showed the reason so he was pounded. The open heifers sold high but this is faint compensation for too much hot feed and no exercise at test. Another lesson learned! His only son, semen-tested A-OK, serviced our heifers for two years until he broke his leg in 2001

This year we set up a toll free phone number and an email address to make it easier to reach us. As far as I can determine, only one rancher has ever availed themselves of these free services.

1998 saw 3X pass away from old age a month before breeding season. A few frantic phone calls and we found FA Silver Canadian ET 37D available from Bjorger Pettersen’s Ranch of the Vikings.

Combined with Royal Red, we again had two of the industry’s top maternal trait leaders. With the 3X and N194 maternal strength in the cow herd we are sitting on the “best kept secret” in Alberta Herefords – superior maternal values with reasonable birth weights, unequaled udders, and perfect feet.

After 20 years of culling more than 280 cows and 500 heifers, it’s nice to see the consistent results we have been looking for. It sure takes a while!

1999 - 2000
We held our 20th Anniversary Sale in April 1999. Called “The Millennium Event”, it was a great success. Calves from our stock went on to obtain great prices at the AHA Hereford Supremacy Sale in Innisfail. Congratulations to these observant breeders. Millennium Event II, scheduled for April 2000, was cancelled when private treaty sales cleaned out our sale prospects.

2001 - 2003
Three years of drought have not hurt our grass due to careful monitoring of our rotational grazing program, aided by some extra rain related to our close proximity to the foothills and the North Saskatchewan River. The swamps are dry, showing how far the water table has dropped. Further North, East, and South, commercial herds are suffering reductions.

We lost Royal Red 83A to old age during the summer of 2001 and have replaced him with one of his best sons, AOWI Red Millennium 3J. FA Silver Canadian 37D continued in service until 2003, when his age became a problem.

We also picked up the high selling bull at LRD's 2001 fall sale, AGF Sterling 78L, to service our heifer crop. Unfortunately, he wasn't much interested in girls, so after 2 years of trying, we gave him away for hamburger.

Our part time herdsman, Kent Maxwell, was killed in a logging accident in early 2002. Although his involvement in our herd had decreased over the last few years, we lost a good friend and keen Hereford eye.

2004 – 2006

In 2005, I received my Canadian Hereford Association 25-Year pin at the annual summer field day. Later that year, the heart of our herd was sold to the Bohnet family of High River and the younger bred cows were dispersed through Innisfail Auction. The bred heifers, yearling bulls, and 2-year old bulls were sold in 2006.

You can blame my poor eyesight, the tail end of the BSE crisis, and tired bones and body. I quit calving in the cold and the dark of mid-winter, before any serious injuries could overtake me.

I ran grassers from 2008 through 2016 at Rocking "Are" - and leased some grass to a neighbour to keep the pastures in good condition. The property was put up for sale in the fall of 2016. It went on a lease to purchase option in 2018 which was exercised in 2021.

I moved to Calgary in 2016. If you are in the mood to reminisce about Herefords or the state of the world, come and visit me.

I put a lot of time and effort into our Herefords, not to mention love and affection for the cows, their calves, and our great bull power. We miss their peaceful nature and truly mourn the loss of our “family” of purebred Herefords.

My favourite photo: the Rocking Are herd with heads down and tails up, feeding calves and making beef, on land I cleared, cultivated, and seeded. Ah, to be young and keen again :)


Copyright E. R. (Ross) Crain, P.Eng.  email