Charolais Reminiscenses

By: Jim Chatenay
Here are a few stories that happened when we were over in France buying Charolais cattle.

Story No. 1.
Ken Bargholz was going to be the volume buyer of Charolais cattle that year so he decided that he could use some help. He offered to buy my ticket and pay for all of my expenses, if I would go over and help. My prime job description would be French interpreter. We landed at the Orley international airport in Paris and it wasn’t that crowded that day, except for where Ken was. He could hardly move. I could see that he was getting quite frustrated and began to fear for his safety. He noticed that I wasn’t having the same problem and he yelled over to me. Hey, what the hell is going on here? We all remember, how Ken looked and dressed. There was no doubt that a rugged 6’t foot 2 inch cowboy had caught the eyes of those
little Frenchmen. They all thought that he was John Wayne and wanted to be next to him while he tried to walk to the baggage area. A fight broke out and what a commotion. Listening to all the comments was very amusing for me. Now, the challenge would be; how could I translate them without having it all going to J.K’s head? Of course it turned out great and we sure had a good laugh once it was all over. I guess Ken must have had a feeling that he would need an interpreter right from the start.

Story No.2.
We were all in the hotel Terminus in Nevers, France when someone in our group decided that we should throw a party for the late arrival of Wayne Malmberg. So we went up stairs in one of our rooms and started planning the party. There were plenty of jokes, drinking and laughter that carried well into the nite. Soon the planning was forgotten and the sun was coming up. Management were less than pleased that morning with the outcome and were seeking damages for a broken chair and a problem with one of the beds. They also wanted compensation for cleaning and repainting a wall across the
street. You see Gordon Banks from Texas chewed tobacco all night long and was able to spit out our window clean across the narrow street. Several hours later the juice landed on the sidewalk and made a real mess. Ron Rouse said. Have no fear, I am here and I will take care of this little problem in a matter of minutes. He said, all we have to do is get management to bill the damages to Don Pochylko, Erskin, Alberta. But, Ron, I said. Don went home. Ron replied, precisely. Ron took off and after 10 or 15 minutes. No Ron. The lady in charge was a heavy set women with a very, very large bust. She couldn’t speak a word of English, short tempered and spoke loud and fast. No one else spoke English. There was an awful lot of noise down there. There was a real commotion going on in the lobby and soon the place was full of curious people. The police were called in and were asked to take Mr. Rouse away. One of the cleaning ladies ran up stairs to
tell me what was going on. I ran down and pushed my way through the big crowd and immediately talked to the police and to management .I was speaking in both languages as fast as I could in order to keep up. Ron could feel that things were finally looking a lot better. Things were  good enough now with his self image and confidence that he waded into the discussion. He said. Honey, if you don’t slow down, one of those big teats is going to jump out of that dress and land on that desk! I continued to translate a mile a minute, not realizing what he had said. I came to big and STOPPED just before I would have said teats in French. I started to laugh and could not stop. Buckets of tears ran down my face!   I completely
lost it!! The heavy set lady and the police asked me; What’s so funny over and over again!  Ron chuckled and took the odd quick look at the ladies chest while I was trying to breath again. The cops started to laugh and then she started to laugh as well. The puzzled crowd started to leave. Management decided that the damage wasn’t that much and that they would
cover the cost and told us to come back next year. It certainly is nice to know that big boobs can save the day from time to time, especially when you’re with Ron Rouse!!!

 

Bill Hartell – For twenty years Bill was cattle marketing manager for Western Feedlots Ltd. at Strathmore, AB during which time he was responsible for the marketing of close to one million head of finished cattle. Bill wrote:

“I look back to 1959 when I was Shorthorn Beef Cattle herdsman with the Animal Science Dept. at the University of Saskatechewan.
My wife, Wanda and I took a trip to Edmonton and visited with Jack and Joyce Francis. Jack had the same position with the University of Albera that I had with the University of Saskatchewan. While there, Jack arranged for us to go on an Alberta Shorthorn Association tour. One of the first stops on the tour was at Western Feedlots Ltd. at Strathmore, AB (little did I realize I would end up spending over 20 years of my life working for Western). Mr. Eion Chisholm, a very well respected commercial cattleman, who was manager of the operation, showed us around. I had the pleasure of referring to Eion as the “Boss”, for the better part of twenty years.
There ware 900 head of cattle on feed at that time, “a lot for a young buy from Saskatchewan to see”. Among those 900 head of cattle were about 30 head of Char-Cross steers, from the John Minor Ranch at Abbey Saskatchewan. They were the first Char-Cross cattle I had ever seen – they were “different” cattle with more frame, various colors ranging from gray to tans. I have no idea how they turned out, gain or carcass-wise.
The following year, the Animal Science Department of the University had set up a little feedlot research facility. Six pens in total with six head per pen. They purchased fory head of steers from the Bert Hargrave Ranch at Walsh, AB.
Twenty head were feather-necked Herefords, twenty head were sired by a Charbray Bull that was ½ Charolais, ½ Brahma (that Bert Hargrave had got somewhere ) and out of the same cowherd as the straight bred Herefords. Now they were Different1e a variation in type, color and temperament. I recall one big, rough, brown brindle steer. We called him “Bert”. He was not as wild as some of the crossbreds, but he did have the ability to jump over any fence on the place. When you compare these steer to the Char-Cross steers of recent years – quite a change.
I’m not sure what year it was, I recall going to the underground parking of the Bessbourough Hotel in Saskatoon to see some of the earliest importations of full French Charolais – now they were different, but when you think of it they would be the ancestors of many of the Charolais and Char-Cross cattle here today.
In the early sixties the Animal Science Department of the University of Saskatchewan established its “Beef Cattle Research Project”. Prior to the construction of the facility it was called and “Experimental Feedlot”. The work “feedlot” caused a lot of opposition from Saskatoon City Council and many local residents. As far as I now the facility is still there. Surprising what a change of name will do.
The following year the ROP Bull Test Station was built. It was funded in part with money from the Horned Cattle Trust fund. The management consisted of one representative from the Provincial Department of Agriculture, one from the Federal Department of Agriculture and one from the University Animal Science Department. I was foreman of both facilities and since these three gentlemen didn’t always agree on thing, it did prove to be interesting times.
The bull test station had eight pens of 25 bull calves (sire group for five Hear). We tried to pen them by breed and incoming weight, which wasn’t always possible.
The first year we only had two sire groups of Charolais calves. One from John Rudiger of Cutknife, SK and one group from Biensch Bros. of Marsen, SK. We managed to find three groups of another breed (likely Hereford) that fit in nicely with the Charolais groups in starting weight. When the test period was over these Charolais groups ranked at or near the top in rate of gain.
Some of the traditional British breed breeders would make the comment “but Charolais eat too much”. We did not keep track of feed conversion the first year, the second year we did. The second year, we managed to end up with five sire groups of Charolais bull calves, which filled the pens nicely. With feed conversion being measured, the 25 Charolais calves “blew the others out of the water” and quieted the critics. Some of the critics of the breed started to look at what these big white cattle were doing, but there was still opposition to them. I recall one year attending the Saskatchewan Livestock Association Convention at the Bessborough Hotel in Saskatoon. The banquet fratured “Prime Rib” and was it ever “good”. This seemed to be the opinion of everyone at the table. One Shorthorn breeder passed the comment “it sure wasn’t Charolais beef”.
It was interesting to watch some of the British breed breeders make the transition to a different breed, based upon what they had seen Charolais do. As soon as Simmental, Maine Anjou, Limousin, Gelbvieh, Chianina, etc. came on the scene, they jumped on the bandwagon rather quickly!
As Charolais crossbreds became more available and the transition was made to finish more calves, rather than yearling, the Char-Cross calves began to shine. I think back twenty to twenty-five years ago when Western Feedlots were feeding the Canadian Charolais Association “Conception to Consumer” test calve. They would almost always be the high selling cattle in Alberta on the week they were sold. My good frien, Gerry Bowed, who was in charge of the C-C program at the time, and myself sould get a lot of pleasure and satisfaction from “topping the market”. At that time Westen Feedlots sold nearly all of their cattle on the “bib” system. Every Thursday local packers and order buyers from Eastern Canadian Packers, they would bid on the cattle on a live weight basis. Starting in about 1990 I.PB.P. “Iowa Beef Packers” at Pasco Washington would give us a flat rail bid on our cattle. I would work out what their rail bid would return our customer, based on the conversion of the U.S. dollar and the estimated dressing percentage of the cattle.
One spring and summer I sold and shipped 90 loads of cattle to I.B.P. and I can honestly say these cattle “worked” with exception of 2 or 3 loads where I would have been better off accepting the local live bid. I.B.P wanted cattle with lots of muscle, U.S. yield grad 1 and 2 and only needed 15% to 25% U.S. choice grade cattle.
I recall one spring shipping four loads of tan Char-Cross cattle to I.B.P. that I was proud of, and having the head buyer phone me saying “Bill, where did you find those four loads of cattle? They’re the best set of cattle I’ve seen in our plant since last fall”.
Over the last 35 years I have collected many beef breed magazines, including the “Charolais Banner”, some of which I hadn’t looked at for years. So this past winter I decided to do a severe “cull” on the magazines. It was interesting to look at the pictures of the top show cattle: back when the words “tall” and “flat muscled” were popular terms in the purebred industry. Fortunately these terms have been replaced with terms like moderate framed, structural soundness, carcass quality and calving ease, ctc. In the feedlot industry, the Charolais breed will remain as the breed by which all others are gauged.