Quiet, confident… Bolducs keep leading

Dyce and David Bolduc of Stavely have never looked back since they started their purebred Angus operation in 1967. The wind was not knocked out of their sales and plans even through the drought of ‘02 and the trying BSE years. Today, looking back at almost 50 years with the Angus breed they have no reason to regret their decision. Some 500 Angus mother cows and their offspring are the power drive of the Cudlobe operation. Six thousand acres support the main herd. Their farming/cropping concerns are extensive but, only as the main support system for the purebred herd which is the sole focus of  the whole operation. Cattle pay the bills at Cudlobe Angus. The Bolduc family harnesses their knowledge and experience in marketing the herd. The results are known across the country.

About 1500 acres are seeded to barley; 300 to canola; 300 acres to wheat and 700 acres are used for hay production. The remainder of the land is used for cattle pasture. Bolducs calve January-February and over 150 bulls are sold annually. At their 15th annual bull sale in December there were over 140 yearling bulls averaging almost $8,000. Repeat buyers include the Cross family (Malcolm and his brother picked up some 18 bulls), other volume buyers include the Giles family, Niznik Ranching and the Harbinsons.  

At one point Dyce worked for two years at Fairview Angus in Montana. David has a degree in Animal Science from the University of Alberta  and studied under Prof. Roy Berg doing his MA course work. Matthew, David’s son, studied agricultural management at Olds College and Kevin, Dyce’s son, took agricultural management at the University of Lethbridge. Kaitlynn, Adrianna and Dyce’s daughter, is studying ag management and ag communications at Montana State. The Bolducs have experience and a pile of excellent genetics and education to back up their near 50 years of Angus breeding experience.  All family members are AI technicians and the finest outcross genetics are matched to the traits of some of the finest Angus momma cows you’ll lay eyes on.

So I hitched up with the family one Sunday morning to gather the Bolduc’s purebred replacement heifers from a big pasture in the Porcupine Hills. It took us half a day and the scenery was utterly splendid. Adrianna, Kevin, Kaitlynn, Matthew and hired hand Melissa Trog from France rode  horses while Dyce, David and I brought the sides and rear of the herd together in quads.

Out in the hills looking at heifers and the big sky it’s easy to talk. But I was more intent on watching how the family worked together to gather and move the herd; how they communicated to each other and how the dogs seldom got in the way. They run their purebred herd as most big commercial cattle operations would operate. And  there was no shortage of depth in the heifers either; a splendid deep-bodied  bunch as good as any and in excellent condition. All the heifers were AI’d to low birth weight bulls. David said, as we watched the herd move down a distant valley that, “In that group of heifers are 27 of the top marbling heifers in the Canadian Angus breed.”

I was  not surprised. Nor was I amazed to learn that over the years both David and Dyce Bolduc have served as presidents of the Canadian Angus Association. That stint of service has served them well, acquainting them with Angus politics, marketing: both nationally and globally and neither regretted the service they gave. When it comes to leadership the Bolducs look no further than their own doorstep for the next innovative moves to keep their herd and sales at the forefront. They are not quick to criticize anyone, just content to lead in their own way.

In the 2014 bull sale, each bull was evaluated using a Zoetis High Density 50K panel. They are molecular breeding values used to calculate EPD’s. Cudlobe Angus was the first program in Canada to incorporate the new and more accurate EPD chart. Pack that together with an industry leading cow herd, matching EPD’s together with phenotype (as noted by sales manager Rob Holowaychuk),  ultrasound and them using AI bulls which are trait leaders for weaning, yearling, ribeye area and marbling. From that a person gets  a sense of what to expect from the bulls on sale in Stavely. The end result: is incredible customer loyalty not only in the purebred industry but in the real commercial cattle world. As with other top purebred operations, sometimes the commercial cattle ranches outbid purebred breeders to own the best bulls.

When hundred year old commercial cattle operations buy their bulls by the trailer load  from this operation you know there is more going on with the Cudlobe program than immediately meets the eye. The Bolducs are sponsoring a commercial Angus influence sale featuring calves with unique carcass genetic makeup from Cudlobe bulls. At the height of the sale held in October, 2014 at  Foothills Auction, the Angus influence calves on offer topped the Canadian market last fall. Rob Bergevin, owner of Foothills Auctioneers adds, “The sale will happen once again this October with 3500 Cudlobe influence feeder calves now consigned along with a few thousand other top calves.”

The Bolducs sell good bulls with low birth weights. They are community minded and give back when they can to agriculture. It’s an honest program brought to you by down to earth ranchers who have their sights set on bull sales 20 years from now. And they’re not afraid to challenge the status quo. An annual field day complements their other innovative marketing concepts.

David’s wife Margaret passed away suddenly before the bull sale last fall. Recently, Matthew’s wife Adeleen suffered a riding accident. The family has had it’s share of ups and downs. However, they work together and they love the land and their lives. That common purpose moves this great Angus herd every fall to its fateful outcome: the bull sale where cattlemen from across the land  trust their herds with the Cudlobe bulls.

This all sounds like a bunch of sweet talk. So much good, so much reward, so much good stuff. There is however in between the good times, hours of drudgery. Heat, snow and  endless phone calls and bull deliveries. Then it’s handling the machinery, trailers, dogs, horses, pasture, crops and personal issues.

It’s a sweet ride sale day, but living the life is a different story. Having talked to the Bolduc’s commercial customers I know the other side of the story and it’s real. Hats off to purebred breeders who make a difference and care. Without their continued commitment to innovation we’d never improve the great Canadian commercial herd, and we must. Our very existence depends on it.

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