Commercial cattle producers are the barometer of the Red Angus breed. Their confidence and use of the breed’s genetics help determine market share and, even more importantly, help verify the genetic progress of the breed’s gene pool.
The Red Angus Association of America (RAAA) recently recognized the Bickel Ranch of Firesteel, S.D., as one of the nation’s outstanding commercial Red Angus operations. The Bickels accepted the Commercial Producer of the Year award during the 60th Red Angus National Convention in Lewistown, Mont., this fall.
Homesteaded in 1910 by Harry Bickel, Sr., the 103-year-old ranch is now operated by Harry’s grandsons Harry (Jack) and Keith Bickel and their families. The brothers began using Red Angus bulls on their British-based cowherd in the early 1970s – a move their father, Harry, Jr., reluctantly agreed to. “That fall, when our calves out of first-calf heifers out-performed his, he was sold on Red Angus bulls,” said Jack, who also noted that it hasn’t always been easy to market their commercial Red Angus calves.
“In our country, Red Angus rule,” he said. “They’re so adaptable and simply thrive in our harsh north central South Dakota climate.”
Originally, the Bickel family sold their Red Angus feeder calves and replacement females at a market where Angus and Charolais cattle were prominent. After seven years of certifying their calves through the RAAA’s Feeder Calf Certification Program (FCCP), lot-loads of Bickel replacement heifers consistently command exciting premiums at auction, year after year.
“One of the most exciting days of the year for us is helping our neighbors, the Bickels, sort and ship their cattle – and then watching them continually market sale-topping calves,” said neighbor and Red Angus producer Chad Pederson of Firesteel, S.D. “The Bickel ranch not only sets the bar high for quality cattle, they raise it year after year.”
Red Angus producer Melvin Leland of Sidney, Mont., who presented the award, added, “as far back as seven or eight years ago, the Bickels sold load-lots of 550-pound heifer calves for up to $1.68 a pound – realize that this was a full 50 cents higher than the average price for heifers at that time.”
“We are truly humbled by this award,” said Jack. “My hat’s off to all Red Angus seedstock producers and the RAAA for its Total Herd Reporting system. Total-herd reporting, to me, ensures the accuracy of your EPDs. You eliminate problems before they transcend into a commercial herd like mine and I appreciate that.”