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ASR Press Release

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Altenburg Super Baldy Ranch, LLC

Under Range Conditions
By Dan Rieder, Editor of the Register, November 2011 (Updated 1/2021)
              “We have been raising Simmentals for more than 40 years with the commercial man in mind, and we treat them just like commercial cattle,” says William “Willie” Altenburg, who with his wife, Sharon, is the owner/operator of Altenburg Super Baldy Ranch (ASR), located just north of Fort Collins, Colorado.

            The Altenburgs’ cowherd of 250+ head, comprised of Simmental and Angus genetics, both black and red, spends several months spanning summer and fall on large, native grass pastures of the Soapstone Grazing Association that is just south of the Colorado-Wyoming state line. Cattle are allocated on the rough, rather sparse pasture at a stocking rate of 25 acres per cow/calf pair.

            “We wean our calves approximately October 1st and leave the cows at the ranch.  They remain there, on large native pastures until February 1st, and are brought home just before calving. Right after the National Western Stock Show, we bring the pregnant cows and heifers closer to home to begin calving on February 1. Our cows calve outside and are brought into the barn only when we’re trying to “save the calves” ears during times of severe cold,” Altenburg explained.

            “After all, if that’s the way our bull customers operate, shouldn’t we produce cattle that add value to the same production system that they use? That’s our approach,” he says with obvious conviction.

            He was drawn to Simmental back in the early 1970s while working in the AI industry and seeing first-hand what the breed and the American Simmental Association brought to the beef industry: 1) superior maternal attributes; 2) ASA’s stance on performance; and 3) the Association’s open A.I. rule, which allowed him to enter the breed with minimal investment.

            They have capitalized on the term Super Baldy, which they coined several years ago to give instant recognition to their genetics. “Years ago, we became aware of the superior breed complementarity that Simmental and Angus composites have exhibited. We incorporated it into our ranch name and utilize it in any promotional work that we do. We’ve found that when folks hear Super Baldy, they tend to associate it with us,” he commented.

            In recent years heavy emphasis has been PAP (Pulmonary Arterial Pressure) testing of bulls.  Approximately a third of ASR bulls are sold to customers where the mountain elevation is above 7500 hundred feet and PAP is an issue.  This data is collected by Dr. Tim Holt, Colorado State University, provided to the bull customers and submitted to the American Simmental Association for genetic evaluation. 

            After undergoing a 100-day gain test, 120 to 130 bulls are offered on the third Saturday of March (Third Saturday of each March). “Each year, about 75% of our cattle go to repeat buyers, mostly from Colorado, western Nebraska and Kansas, and southern Wyoming."

            Altenburg grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin, as one of six children. He earned a degree in Animal Science from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, working weekends and summers in the bull barns at nearby American Breeders Service (ABS), part-time employment that led to a lengthy tenure with ABS. A few years ago, he made the transition to Genex CRI.  He now serves as Beef Development advisor for Select Sires and helps with Simmental bull selection.

            “I try to keep my position at Select Sires and my cattle operation separate. In my travels for Select Sires, I do have the opportunity to see many AI sires and their progeny so I know how to use many of those sires in our AI program,” he says. “I rely heavily on our ranch manager, to handle the day-to-day decisions and responsibilities.  But I am hands on.  I really enjoy the cattle … I like to know my cows.”

            Sharon grew up in western Kansas and Colorado. “Although she does not come from a cattle background, she is a quick learner and has become very proficient,” he said. “She is the primary bookkeeper for the ranch operation.  She keeps an eye on the profit margins.”

            Altenburg’s three grown children reside within a few hours driving time. Jennifer and Josh Boka reside in Dillon, Montana, have given him two granddaughters, and recently a grandson, and Jennifer works as Manager of the NILE in Billings. Ryan and his wife, Rikki, daughter and son, live in Casper, Wyoming, where they own an Agricultural Engineering firm; and C.J., married to Jaimie, works for TransWest trailers north of Denver.  They have a daughter and a son.

            All three went through the AJSA program. “Like many other junior members who do not necessarily stay in the production phase of the Simmental breed, they have carried their AJSA experience and knowledge into some other sector of Agricultural business,” he reported.

One of Altenburg’s goals is ‘taking technology and information and making it practical.’ “We believe in using all the genetic tools available to us, but also feel it is important that we help interpret that information for our commercial customers,” he elaborated. “With the use of such powerful tools as artificial insemination, the use of sexed semen, and embryo transfer, we can produce the best genetics en masse, even providing multiple full brothers to larger commercial breeders who are looking for greater uniformity. We advise them that if they can’t A.I., then they should use A.I.-sired bulls.”

            He is a strong advocate for EPDs, but believes that they need to be tempered by ‘cowboy common sense.’ As an example, he breeds Simmentals for below-average milk production on the assumption that it pays off under western range conditions.

            “Balancing EPDs and physical structure is a real art. Savvy bull buyers won’t buy an unsound or visually unattractive bull just because he happens to have great EPDs,” he said. “Furthermore, cattle should be evaluated in an environment that closely matches their home conditions. Cattle that are pampered with added condition, simply don’t do as well when they’re asked to perform on open range.”

            Altenburg places heavy emphasis on a wide array of other traits, including sound udders, calm dispositions, pigmentation about the eyes and udders, and especially, fertility. “She better be bred up early or she goes down the road,” he states.

            He’s a fervent proponent of wise crossbreeding. “Cattle need to be bred to compliment a crossbreeding program. For example, I select Simmental to add ribeye and carcass yield and Angus, both red and black, to add carcass quality and marbling – and don’t chase either to extremes. Both breeds better make a good crossbred cow. An excellent way to incorporate desired crossbreeding traits into a herd is through the use of composite SimAngus bulls. Satisfied customers provide the incentive for us to keep producing them.”
Leading the Way.

                        Early in his career, Altenburg recognized the significance of getting involved in beef industry organizations, earning recognition and respect as an industry advocate.

            In addition to his work within the AI industry and his cattle operation, he has served as president of the Beef Improvement Federation, was a member of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Board of Directors, and served six years on the Board of Trustees of the American Simmental Association as well as involvement in local and state beef industry groups.

            In 2010, he was awarded the prestigious Industry Partner award by nearby Colorado State University, “in recognition of contributions to the beef business.”

           He continues to believe in ASA’s progressive programs. “We’ve entered several of our sires in the ASA Carcass Merit Program,” he summarized. “We also believe very strongly in Total Herd Enrollment. The cow is extremely important to us and our customers.



 



Wayne Kruse, Centennial Livestock Auction, selling a set of Altenburg Super Baldy Ranch sired calves during special feeder calf sale.
Click here to view our feeder calf sale report


Registered cattle are managed to simulate the same conditions as their commercial cousins on a Northern Colorado operation



Tate Hodgson, Altenburg Super Baldy Manager


Moving cows, rotating pastures in some tough country



A brand new one


Breeding Philosophy

           One of our Altenburg’s goals is ‘taking technology and information and making it practical.’ “We believe in using all the genetic tools available to us, but also feel it is important that we help interpret that information for our commercial customers,” he elaborated. “With the use of such powerful tools as artificial insemination and embryo transfer, we can produce the best genetics en masse, even providing multiple full brothers to larger commercial breeders who are looking for greater uniformity. We advise them that if they can’t A.I., then they should use A.I.-sired bulls.”

            He is a strong advocate for EPDs, but believes that they need to be tempered by ‘cowboy common sense.’ As an example, he breeds Simmentals for below-average milk production on the assumption that it pays off under western range conditions.

            “Balancing EPDs and physical structure is a real art. Savvy bull buyers won’t buy an unsound or visually unattractive bull just because he happens to have great EPDs,” he said. “Furthermore, cattle should be evaluated in an environment that closely matches their home conditions. Cattle that are pampered with added condition, simply don’t do as well when they’re asked to perform on open range.”
            Altenburg places heavy emphasis on a wide array of other traits, including sound udders, calm dispositions, pigmentation about the eyes and udders, and especially, fertility. “She better be bred up early or she goes down the road,” he states.

            He’s a fervent proponent of wise crossbreeding. “Cattle need to be bred to compliment a crossbreeding program. For example, I select Simmental to add ribeye and carcass yield and Angus, both red and black, to add carcass quality and marbling – and don’t chase either to extremes. Both breeds better make a good crossbred cow. An excellent way to incorporate desired crossbreeding traits into a herd is through the use of composite SimAngus bulls. Satisfied customers provide the incentive for us to keep producing them.”

Leading the Way
                        Early in his career, Altenburg recognized the significance of getting involved in beef industry organizations, earning recognition and respect as an industry advocate.

            In addition to his work within the AI industry and his cattle operation, he has served as president of the Beef Improvement Federation, was a member of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Board of Directors, and served six years on the Board of Trustees of the American Simmental Association as well as involvement in local and state beef industry groups.

            In 2010, he was awarded the prestigious Industry Partner award by nearby Colorado State University, “in recognition of contributions to the beef business.”

           He continues to believe in ASA’s progressive programs. “We’ve entered several of our sires in the ASA Carcass Merit Program,” he summarized. “We also believe very strongly in Total Herd Enrollment. The cow is extremely important to us and our customers.


  
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Willie & Sharon Altenburg & Family
570 East County Road 64 • Fort Collins, CO 80524
970 481 2570

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