Winter Cattle Journal 2020: Bigger is better for Urlacher Angus
Bigger framed bulls might not be every Angus breeder’s goal, but Gregg Urlacher believes some cattlemen in the area are still looking to grow a larger calf.
In fact, the Regent, North Dakota breeder used semen from older bulls – some from the 1990s, to achieve just that.
“I usually look for sires that will give me some three-dimensional frame. I want cows that have a base. I firmly believe you need cows with some capacity to make it.”
Good cows make good bulls, is Urlacher’s philosophy, and he develops his cowherd with maternal traits in mind.
“I like base with width and do-ability. My cows graze year in and year out until snow forces us to feed,” he said, explaining he doesn’t usually feed hay to the cows until January. “They don’t follow me around with a feed wagon, they are out grazing, so I find out which bloodlines work and which ones don’t.”
Because he sells two year old bulls, his offering is naturally larger than that of fellow breeders selling yearling bulls. Urlacher said selling older bulls gives a more developed bull and a better image of how he will mature.
The Urlachers appreciate several customers who have purchased bulls in every sale they have had since their first sale in 2003.
While Urlacher isn’t really committed to any particular bloodline, he has found Traveler, 878, 036, Upward and Freightliner to all add something useful to his herd. “Then I follow up with different genetics, like Whitestone Widespread bloodlines (an EXT son).” Urlacher AIs all of his heifers to calve together and then splits the cows into two groups, then follows up with cleanup bulls with outcross bloodlines. “That way I’m safe for a couple of years. I can use any bull on any cow.”
He has recently bought bulls from Tokach in Mandan, Mohnen of White Lake, South Dakota and Mick Varilek, Varilek Angus, Geddes, South Dakota.
The latest bull was purchased from Charles Mogck of Olivet, South Dakota.
“I’m one of the rare ones that likes cattle with frame. I don’t creep feed and I have cows that will milk and maintain flesh,” he said of his genetic preferences.
“I like to use more proven bulls for their dependability and knowing more of what their offspring will develop into. Sometimes I put more eggs in one basket than I’d like because finding a bull with the frame I like isn’t as easy as it used to be,” he said.
“I’m not afraid to let people know I have size and frame if that’s what they are looking for,” Urlacher said.
Urlacher calves heifers beginning in March followed by his first group of cows, then a second group of cows. But last year he moved some cows to a much earlier calving date, and he will calve an even larger group in January of 2020.
Maybe it’s because he grew up milking cows that Urlacher isn’t afraid of work – and is considering adding another month or two of calving to his already busy operation. With many ranchers pushing their calving dates later into the spring, Urlacher has found a demand for bulls in the early summer. He’s hoping to meet that demand by adding an offering of 18-month-old bulls born in December or January.
The first round of 18-month-old bulls will be offered for sale private treaty this spring, and may eventually be added to the January sale, or sold in a separate sale in June.
The Urlacher family, including Gregg’s wife Mary, sons Stetson (17) and Stockton (7) and daughter Bailey (13) comprises of the entire labor force for the operation. By breeding one group earlier, he can better utilize his limited labor and facility, and possibly add more cows to the operation. Plus, they don’t have the facility to calve any more cows during the spring timeframe he’s been calving in.
Mary currently manages the Job Service office in Dickinson during the week and helps out with the cattle and operations as much as possible. The kids attend school in New England, are involved in pretty much all sports activities as well as FFA and 4-H. Stetson and Bailey are able to help with crops and cattle where the Urlachers own and rent land, in addition to their ranch headquarters and Stockton is everyone’s right hand man.
With the ranch base being near Regent, Urlachers feed bulls as well as their oldest and youngest cows there at home. The rest of the cows are wintered on grass, crop residue and hay just north of New England.
“We bought our home place in 2002. I got started at the right time, it was pure luck. Land prices weren’t as crazy and I could afford to do what I’m doing. If I’d waited a year or two, I couldn’t have afforded it,” Urlacher said.
Urlacher grew up on a dairy farm near Regent and started buying registered cows when the family sold the milk cows.
The first cows he bought came from Bob and Larry White of Bowman, in the early ’90s, then he got some from Scranton breeder Elwood Anderson’s dispersal sale. The herd really grew when Urlacher bought a number of cows in Minnesota about 20 years ago.
Urlachers sell around 75 two-year-old bulls in a production sale in Bowman the third Friday in January. He offers free keep until May. He feeds and fertility tests them and delivers them in May or June.
While the “mating part of the cow game,” is something Urlacher enjoys, there are always some jobs that aren’t as fun. For him, like many seedstock producers, that includes dealing with post-sale bull issues. But in Urlacher’s case, insurance has helped bridge the gap between seller and buyer, on those unfortunate instances where there is a problem with a bull.
An accident and mortality insurance program has provided good coverage on the bulls in recent years. The buyer is encouraged to pay half of the insurance premium, which covers the mortality of the bull. If there is a health issue, injury or any other problem with the bull, the owner takes the bull to a veterinarian, to determine if his injury will keep him from being a sound breeder. The company will pay for the bull as long as a vet verifies he is not useable, and upon sale of the bull, the owner is compensated the full value of the bull less the salvage value and the insurance premium.
The premium amounts to about 10 percent of the value of the bull on bull sale day.
“In the case of an injury or problem it is between the owner and his veterinarian and what they find and decide is what is reported, if the vet says he’s no good, that’s the final answer. It takes me out of the equation, which is nice,” said Urlacher.
The bull owner can’t salvage the bull without the go-ahead from the insurance company.
You can see their two- year-old bulls at their January 17, 2020 annual sale held at Bowman Livestock Auction in Bowman North Dakota.