The BULL SHIPPERS Blog

Liar Liar…

I usually try not to use my blog for a rant-I usually am very upbeat and positive.  But we have been dealing with an issue here on the ranch for the last couple of weeks that I think we need to share.

I have addressed customer service issues in the past, about how I treat my customers as I like to be treated: this involves integrity, respect, honesty and doing our very best to make things right.  This past couple of weeks, we have encountered a company that excels in TERRIBLE  customer service, and it’s with a company based in Ontario called H.S. Knill Company Ltd.  They are livestock carriers who claims to “specialize” in purebred cattle hauling in North America.

I had made arrangements to have a single bull delivered to a well known drop point in Saskachewan for a very good customer of mine.  I personally met the truck and truck driver with the bull, ensured the paper-work was correct, phone numbers were right and felt confident that everything would be as it should be.  I have NEVER been so wrong…….

The bull didn’t show up at his destination the next day as planned.  I had phoned the new owner of the bull to see how he liked him the day after he was supposed to arrive, and the bull had never arrived.  The buyer started making phone calls and discovered that the bull was in Thunder Bay, Ont.  There had been a mistake and the bull never got dropped at the destination.

WHAT???!??!?!?  I thought these guys were professionals….. And knew how to read a manifest.

What I experienced next was the most unprofessional display I think I have encountered in my adult life-I phoned one of the owners of the company, Bruce, to clarify where the bull was and when we could expect the bull to return to proper destination. And to express some urgency as the owner wanted to start breeding cows – after all, it is the start of breeding season and the bull was needed and was scheduled to arrive a few days prior.

What I got on the other end of the phone when I POLITELY inquired??  Hostility.  Defensiveness.  Attitude.  Complete disregard for time.  And not to mention, Lies.

Both the new owner and I were told the bull would be back in SK on Thursday, a week to the day of when he was supposed to be there.  I told Bruce that I thought this was unacceptable, and to please try to get the bull out sooner.  Nope, that was it, that was the best they could do.

As the bull is in Ontario what can I do at this point??  So I waited.

Thursday comes and goes, I contact the new owner again, do you have the bull.  No.  Knill’s won’t be back until Sunday, 4 days later than they said, and 10 days later than the original drop-off date.

I make another phone call, and POLITELY inquire about the bull, this time speaking to Butch-no, Butch insisted, he was right there when Bruce was on the phone with me and told me the bull would be loaded on Friday and not delivered until Sunday.  And in the background, I can hear Bruce…..coaching Butch as to what to say…….

Huh.  Here again, I have no control, the bull is in Ontario and has been on a cross-country journey for 10 days.  Butch assured me the bull looked great too……..just another lie I am sure, as at this point I wouldn’t trust these guys as far as I can throw them.

This was my first experience with Knill’s, and will DEFINATELY be my last.  If anyone out there is debating using this firm for livestock transport???  save yourself some grief and stress and load them on your own trailer!!!!!

I did get a phone call from the truck driver John when the bull finally arrived at his destination tonight-he apologized profusely, and proceeded to tell me that since he screwed up, the trucking bill was being paid for by, him, the trucker.  Just another nail in the coffin for the company as far as I am concerned, if they won’t stand behind their people out in the trenches….

Promise, next blog will be more uplifting, once I peel myself off of the ceiling from this wreck.  And I keep my promises, unlike some people…..

 

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Paying interest….

Well, calving is almost wrapped up, and our bull sale is just around the corner….time flies!! It’s so hard to believe these little babies bouncing around right now will be 1400 lbs. next year this time, and ready and able to go breed cows!!
Bull sale results are starting to trickle in, and sounds like Simmental bulls are in demand again this year. And why wouldn’t they be? Easy calving, fast gaining, with the added bonus of excellent maternal traits, Simmental is definately the breed of the future. Our sale is on Saturday in Veteran-The bulls are semen checked and the truck comes on Thursday to take them to Dryland Cattle Trading Corp. This is by far and away the most stressful week of the year….a whole year’s work-the payoff is just a few hours. I always freak myself out, and actually give myself nightmares about what could possibly go wrong….the quote ‘worry is the interest we pay on trouble before it comes’ often comes to mind….good grief I pay alot of interest!!!
A new year, a new set of challenges. I am sure next year will have all of it’s own challenges, and I will have to pay interest all over again….
But….that’s the bull biz. I love it. I love helping someone find the right bull for them, seeing their excitement when they get the bull bought, and then again when I deliver the bull to their farm. I love meeting new people, and reconnecting with my very loyal customers, most of which we call friends.
So I guess all the interest I pay is really just part of the business-but you think since I am married to a banker, I would get at least a good interest rate???
See you Saturday in Veteran!!

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Not a Triple A Farmer?

Oh to be a triple A farmer on a day like today! Minus 25, and with the windchill minus 42! If I was a triple A farmer today, I would be in Arizona right now, not calving cows in this crazy weather. What is a triple A farmer you ask-April to August, then off to Arizona!!
This winter has been so busy, but so great, I really have nothing to complain about! Calving has been going very well, with virtually no losses (knock on wood) and some twins, we are ahead of the game as far as calving goes.
Our bull sale catalogue went online today, and off to the printer-super excited, by far the nicest catalogue we have ever put out-hats off to Jill Mader for designing our catalogue. Not only the most attractive catalogue, but by far the best pen of bulls we have ever produced. Rugged ranch bulls who will go out and work for years under varying conditions is the kind of bulls we produce. I hope you can find a few minutes to have a look at the catalogue on our website.

I am now in heavy herd bull shopping mode for ourselves-poring over catalogues, talking to breeders about their programs, researching pedigrees and EPD’S.  The bulls we buy are only as good as the people who are producing them…will they stand behind them if there is a problem?  Are the bulls what they say they are?  Are they going to stand up to the rugged conditions in East Central Alberta?

We are very fortunate to be involved in a breed where the majority of breeders are honest as the day is long and are chalk full of integrity.  I like to think this is the kind of seedstock producer that we are, as I treat my customers as I, myself, like to be treated.

And I like to be treated well.  My husband Eric says it’s from all the years he’s treated me so well.  Yup, that’s it.  😉

Happy bull shopping!

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Sleeping with a banker…

I love this time of the year (maybe not the weather!) as it is fall female sale time in the cattle biz. As I sit at our kitchen table littered with sale catalog’s a notepad and my laptop, pouring over pedigree’s and EPD’s I wonder how other’s determine how they choose?
Is it pedigree? Numbers? Epd’s? how she looks? How she’s bred?
There are so many factors to consider-personally, I take them all into account, plus one more….whose is she? Does this outstanding future matron cow come from people who will stand behind their product? Who treat me, their potential customer or future customer, as a person rather than as an inconvenience? How have their cattle performed in other operations? Will these new cattle and this new relationship with their former owners be mutually beneficial?
We are definately hoping to pick up some fresh new genetics this fall, but also have females going to two sales before Christmas. The sales, both commercial and purebred, have been very strong so far, which is encouraging to the whole business.
I feel very fortunate that we are apart of the super breed, Simmental, with excellent fellow breeders-There are so many people I would like to purchase cattle from just because I like and respect the people so much.  If it was up to me, I am afraid our budget wouldn’t hold up.
Which brings me to a big deciding factor……$$$$$$’s. My husband reminds me frequently that just because I sleep with a banker (yes, he’s still working at the bank!) doesn’t mean I can’t stay within my budget.
Huh.
What’s the fun in that 😉

Budgets are merely guidelines.
Good luck to all of my fellow consignors in Friday Night Lights on Dec. 14, and Camrose Country Classic on Dec. 20.

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Tuff Love….

Swath grazing Red Proso Millet

If you are a Mappin cow today, you are feeling quite sorry for yourself as it’s clean-up day on the bale-grazing. The day where the cows wander the fence, snuffle through the left-overs, all the while quite indignant that they are forced to rummage for feed. It’s the day we call ‘Tuff love day’ around the ranch, as the cows look mournful even as they are napping in their leftovers.
We have been bale-grazing cows for about 5 years, give or take, and absolutely love it! The cow herd is fed for several days, the manure is spread, and no tractors are needed. The best part is driving the pickup out once a day to drop mineral and check the nose-pump hasn’t froze up (so far so good!…Thank you Frost-Free-Nosepumps!) which takes a total of about 10 minutes.
Actually, I am corrected-the best part about bale grazing is the land’s reaction to it the following years. With all the manure spread out on the land, combined with the grass seed that is tramped in from the bales, what a great way to add nutrients to the soil and rejuvinate grass that is in need.
We bale graze in the back 40 where the neighbours can’t see it-for the most part I think our neighbours think us a little odd-chase cows round n round all summer (cell grazing) and let cows demolish and waste 30 big rounds at a time (again, nutrients, organic matter right back into the soil)…but the land is happier, the grass is thicker and greener following years.
Everyone’s happy.
Except the cows today.  They are getting some tough love-but don’t feel too bad, ’cause tomorrow is buffet-world-onto a new field of millet swath-grazing!

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People are everything…

Fall is always a busy time of the year on the farm. We all associate fall with harvest, and winter preparations. On a mixed farm there are so many things going on, and throw in a purebred cowherd and we are bordering on chaos…..barely controlled chaos!
But the steer calves are sold (what a great market-and looks to stay strong into the fall run), the cows are preg-checked, and the sale females are selected. With the early snow fall hitting us a good month before we were really ready (actually, to be honest I wouldn’t be ready if the first snowfall was in April, but I do hope that one day I will be organized!) this busy fall just got busier with extra bedding and feeding needing done every day.
Eric and I were fortunate enough to attend the Harvest Gala at the Calgary Stampede grounds on Saturday nite, put on by the Ag for Life group. It was quite the event-alot of really interesting people and an interesting concept; excitement about being involved with agriculture, educating the masses about where their food comes from…..finally!!!!
I was lucky enought to be seated with Iris Meck, Iris Meck Communications-what a truly outstanding lady! We covered alot of ground in our conversation throughout the evening and discovered that we share many values and beliefs about the Ag industry. I shared with Iris my passion for the industry, and how I have been excited to be a part of the industry for years and years, however it’s been a lonely place to be as few shared my enthusiasum in the past during tough times, but now when things are better (let’s face it, there’s money to be made now!), people are showing some excitement about this business of producing food.
Allison Redford was the key note speaker at the gala, and stressed how she and her government value agriculture and it’s contribution to Alberta’s history, and the economy, and how rural area’s are important and necessary-as are their hospitals and schools-A comment I found extremely ironic since we received word this week that our small town Byemoor School is on the chopping block and may be closed. Even though we do not have children in the school, the closure of it would have a huge impact on our community as I know of several families who would leave our community and relocate closer to a larger center with schools.

I hope that with all the renewed enthusiasum about agriculture that we as producers, and our partners in the business, don’t forget what built this industry up to what it is today-people, all the moms and dads, the kids, the families.  We can talk all about technology, farming tens of thousands of acres, huge equipment, corporate farms……..but people built this industry, and without thousands of individuals contributing everyday to their community, the industry, the economy, we would have nothing.  Our people are everything.

 

 

 

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I Love this Land…….

We are a proud bunch, those of us in the agriculture biz.  We are proud to be growing food for ourselves, our neighbors, our world.  Everyday, we quietly go about our jobs as farmers and ranchers in Canada, producing top quality safe food.  We do it day after day, year after year, continually striving to do it better, more efficiently, with better results than last time.

We are a proud bunch, but a modest bunch…..

…….how many people know where their food comes from?  Shockingly few.

……..how many people care where their food comes from?  Shockingly many.

Which is great news for us as producers.  We have our work cut out for us, educating the masses about the food we produce and they consume.  What a great opportunity for us to share with consumers what we are so passionate about.

Although this isn’t a blog for ATB Financial, I do think their Ag. Marketing boys have got things figured out…..check out their video and tell me if it doesn’t give you goose-bumps and make your chest stick out a bit with pride.  The cool part about this video is we know so many of the people in it and they are top-notch producers…we know it, they know it, and now the world can know it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oMeZhaH0p9U&feature=share

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It ain’t easy….

We all have problems-bad weather causes a bad bug to go through freshly weaned calves which makes for a challenging week to 10 days of temping and treating calves. Not fun.
But in reality this is such a minor blip in our operation- Nothing that tight management and a few thousand dollars in drugs like Draxxin and ResFlor can’t handle. But what our operation, and so many other ranches in Western Canada can’t handle, is one of the major players in this crazy business of beef, being benched for who knows how long.
With the closure of XL Foods at the end of September, one of only two packers in Alberta, back came the market uncertainty in the Alberta cattle business. I will not defend any of the players because there likely were issues needing to be addressed.
I would like to point a few fingers though:
1) CFIA-XL Foods employs approximately 40 CFIA people…..what the heck were these guys doing when they were supposed to be doing their jobs and ensuring these ‘levels’ didn’t get out of hand? One heckofa coffee break I am thinking….
2) Our federal politicians: who were so busy running around pointing fingers and railing on one another, totally missing the whole point of the closure and it’s effects on thousands of people’s livelihoods. Stephen Harper was busy giving away tens of millions of dollars to other countries in aid. Awesome-thanks Stevie, and here I thought you called Cow-Town home.
3) The provincial government-again alot of finger pointing and no action. Yup, I do believe Alison Redford is going to teach rural Alberta a thing or two for going with the Wild Rose this last election-Alison we got it- you don’t like us out here in the sticks, but get this-it’s mutual.
4) XL Foods. Could you please say………..anything?? Good grief, nothing is more damning than your silence, speak up, either admit your wrongdoings or defend yourself and your product.
5) Last but not least, the media…..Never in my life have I been so disgusted with the media as I have when they have been covering this story: there are radio stations I have totally boycotted due to their sensationalism of this story, which was blown so far out of proportion-660 Newradio Calgary, you know who you are.
I have heard it said over the last few weeks that this crisis at XL is the best case scenario of what not to do. I have also heard that with the tens of millions of dollars that this debacle has cost XL, they likely won’t be killing cattle anytime soon, if at all unless they can get a partner with endless cash, maybe a new name, and a more pristine reputation.
Which brings me back to the ranch. It hasn’t been easy to be in the cow business lately, but I think it’s easier than being in the cow killing business.

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Giving Thanks…

Thanksgiving is a great time to reflect on the past year. At Mappin Simmentals, we have so much to be thankful for; everyone is healthy, the agriculture industry is very strong in Alberta in both the grain and cattle sector, and the future continues to look bright.  Some days, it is so easy to get caught up in our own problems, whether it be challenging weather conditions, equipment break-downs, sick calves, issues affecting the markets; but at the end of the day we are so fortunate to live where we live and be doing what we love.
We are also thankful for our very loyal customers who, year after year, put their trust in us and our bull program. Not a day goes by when I don’t think about how very fortunate we are to know so many fantastic people in the catte business, and not only be able to call many great cattle men and women customers, but also call them friends.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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