At their 2011 production sale in December, Scott and Kim Ford sold Red Angus bulls to a range of customers seeking to add maternal traits, efficiency and carcass quality to their herds. They also sold one bull that did that and more, ultimately raising over $30,000 to support our troops.

The Fords own and operate Cross Diamond Cattle Company, a registered and commercial Red Angus operation near Bertrand, in south-central Nebraska. They run about 400 registered Red Angus cows and a commercial herd of about 450 cows — also Red Angus.

Kim Ford says they focus their genetic selection on fertility, low input and easy maintenance, along with sound feet, udders, overall structure and carcass quality in their registered and commercial cows, and in the registered bulls they sell.

I'm a Drover: Breeding for fertility and a causeThe Red Angus breed is known for fertility and maternal traits, she says, and the Fords work to build on that strength by managing their registered cows the same way as the commercial herd. Cows that maintain condition and deliver a calf every year in their low-input, forage-based system pass those traits on to their progeny, producing bulls and females that will adapt and perform consistently in commercial ranch environments.

Structural soundness relates to cow longevity, Ford says. And given the high cost of developing replacement heifers, cows that remain in the herd and produce calves every year for eight years, 10 years or more can significantly reduce production costs. The Cross Diamond website lists several brood cows over 10 years of age, including one 20-year-old that has bred back every year.

Some customers, Ford says, use Red Angus bulls in primarily straight-bred Red Angus cow herds, while others use the bulls in crossbred herds including other English or Continental breeds.

In addition to the genetic merit of their bulls, the Fords credit the Red Angus Association’s marketing support for building demand for the breed. This includes the association’s “Feeder Calf Certification Program” that provides age and source verification for calves with at least 50 percent Red Angus genetics.

The Fords schedule calving season to begin in mid-April for their registered and commercial cow herds. Cow-calf pairs spend the summer on grass until weaning time in October. After weaning, the cows move to stalks and the calves winter on stalks, stockpiled forage and dried distillers’ grains as a protein supplement. After wintering on stalks, the cows move to grass at spring greenup. Later calving helps cows maintain condition through the calving season and into lactation, with access to abundant forage. Also, the timing allows the Fords to offer 18-month-old “age-advantaged” bulls in their December sale, that will be a full 2 years old at turnout.

The annual production sale takes place the second Monday of December, including satellite video access through Superior Livestock Auction. Ford says that while most buyers live within 300 miles of Cross Diamond, the sale attracts producers from coast to coast. Bidders from 21 states registered for the 2011 sale. Cross Diamond bulls have gained a reputation for adaptability to a range of environments, including heat tolerance for southern ranchers. The Fords offer a first-breeding-season guarantee and free nationwide delivery. “Scott spends a lot of time on the road after the sale,” she says.

At their 2011 sale, the Fords offered a special deal on their bull CrsDiamnd 21 Gun Salute, which became a gift that kept on giving. Prior to the auction, the Fords announced that all proceeds from the bull’s sale would benefit the All American Beef Battalion (AABB), a volunteer-based organization that honors our troops with steak dinners preceding or following their deployment overseas. Beef producer and Marine Corps veteran Bill Broadie of Ashland, Kan., founded the organization. The AABB has, to date, fed over 100,000 steak dinners to our soldiers, sailors and marines.

Three ranches — Arcadia Land and Cattle Co. of Stringtown, Okla.; Silver Spur Ranches of Wyoming , Colorado, Nebraska and New Mexico; and Horsley Red Angus of Stringtown, Okla. — jointly purchased 21 Gun Salute, paying $7,000, and announced they would re-sell the bull at the Denver stock show and again donate the proceeds to AABB. Following the sale, the Fords also invited sale participants to make individual contributions, raising the total to $12,500.

I'm a Drover: Breeding for fertility and a causeSo on Jan. 8, bidding for 21 Gun Salute led off the Mile High Classic Red Angus Sale at the National Western. A coalition of buyers including several state Red Angus associations and individuals put together a bid and purchased the bull for $12,350. But the generosity didn’t stop there. Following the bidding, the auctioneer opened the floor for donations from sale attendees in amounts of $250 or $500, a process that also took place at the original sale at Cross Diamond Cattle Co. The enthusiastic auction atmosphere picked up in the sale arena as state Red Angus associations and individuals called out their pledges, adding more than $7,000 to the total.

Next, the auctioneer announced that the coalition that purchased 21 Gun Salute had donated the bull back for sale, with free shipping and 30 days of insurance included. The auction heated up again, with rancher Jim Odle of Odle Livestock, Brush, Colo., purchasing the bull for $4,750. The afternoon’s total proceeds for AABB came to $24,250. Total proceeds from the December sale and the National Western topped $36,000. That’s a lot of steaks.