Like many in the cattle industry, Annette Delaplaine grew up on a farm and participated in 4-H. Her family raised hogs and horses and Annette had cattle breeding and steer projects. “I’ve been doing it on a larger scale for 21 years now,” said Annette, describing her work at Heart Felt Farms in Gettysburg, PA. “The boy who was working with me had Limousins and I decided to stick with that breed. I knew the bloodlines and it wasn’t as popular a breed so it was a good one to start with. Now there are a lot of Limousins crossed with Angus, which is called a Lim-Flex.”
The Lim-Flex, a Limousin x Angus cross, was first recognized in 2002. Registered Lim-Flex animals must be 25 to 75 percent Limousin and 25 to 75 percent Angus (or Red Angus). Annette’s herdsman, Kyle Fleener, explains more about the cross. “Breed a purebred Angus to a purebred Limousin and you get a 50 percent calf,” he said. “Then breed that one back to a purebred Limousin and get a ¾ blood calf. Or breed two half bloods and get a half blood.”
Annette describes the cattle she has now as Angus with a hint of Limousin. “We have mostly Angus and Maintainers now and a few Shorthorn Plus,” she said. “The Shorthorn Plus is working well with our purebred Limousin bull – a Triple Crown bull that we bred and raised.”
That bull, KYLD Vegas, has numerous championships to his name and received the coveted Triple Crown award after winning three consecutive major shows. KYLD Vegas’s offspring are proving to be strong representatives of the bull’s ability to pass on superior genetics. Kyle says that most offspring on the farm are three-way crosses and are eventually bred to purebred sires for consistency in calves.
The farm is currently home to 70 mature cows. Calving begins in early March and continues through April, with show heifers calving later. “Sometimes we’ll put embryos in late just to have some later-born calves,” said Kyle. “Next year, we’re going to have more fall calves and more early January calves.”
Cows are bred via both AI and bulls, with plans to do more ET work. “We’ll put eggs in AI, then clean up with a bull,” said Kyle. “That will help us with consistency.” For AI breeding, Kyle synchronizes the females and does the AI himself. Annette noted that good working facilities are important for efficient working of cattle and the safety of those working the cattle.
What about animals’ performance outside of the show ring? Both Annette and Kyle agree that their breeding program is focused on producing animals that can do well in the show ring then contribute to herd improvement. “The Triple Crown winner produced a lot of good heifers and bulls that have gone back into the herd or been sold,” said Annette. “In 2013, we had the champion heifer and bull in Louisville out of that bull – I don’t know if that has ever happened before.”
Although a lot of cattlemen are following EPDs (expected progeny difference – the prediction of how future progeny of a given animal are expected to perform relative to other animals in the database), Kyle and Annette haven’t found that those numbers make a lot of difference for them. “Milk is a very important number,” said Kyle. “But a bull can have a high milk number yet be very low in milk production.” Annette noted that one bull from which they have a lot of progeny has a relatively low milk number, yet his first calf heifers have nice udders and good production.
Kyle says that birth weights are important, although there are still some inconsistencies between the numbers and reality. “Normally, on heifers, I use a low birth weight Limousin bull,” said Kyle. “I’m not going to use a crossbred bull that has a chance of throwing 100-pound plus calves and breed him to heifers.”
Prior to calving, females are brought into the barn, and this year, most of the herd will calve at another 100-acre farm where Kyle lives. “When calves are being born and you know they could be worth a lot, we want to be checking on them,” said Kyle. “It’s easier if we know when they’re going to calve so we can pen them a few days before that and keep an eye on them.” After newborns are vaccinated, cows and calves are turned out to pasture.
Kyle, who has served as the herdsman for Heart Felt Farms for 11 years, says that he can tell early which calves have potential for the show ring, and Annette agrees. “He has a really good eye for young, green cattle – whether they’re going to work or not,” said Annette. “When he first came to work for me, we’d go out to Oklahoma and pick out young cattle, bring them home and make them work.”
In addition to operating the farm, Annette owns Heart Felt Livestock Supply, a livestock supply business that she operates both on the farm and at livestock shows. “We’re going to most of those shows anyway,” she said, adding that this will be the third year for the business. “We have show supplies for all species. A lot of people preorder supplies to pick up at the show.”
Heart Felt Farms exhibited the supreme heifer and bull at last year’s Pennsylvania Farm Show. “The bull is a Limousin and a full sibling to the Triple Crown bull,” said Annette. “The heifer is a Maintainer.” Kyle noted now that they’re showing Angus and Maintainer, which are more competitive breeds, it’s harder to win classes and divisions. Annette’s two children showed extensively as youth, but have aged out. Several youngsters have purchased heifers and steers from Heart Felt Farms, and will be showing during the 2016 season to carry on the legacy that Annette started as a young 4-Her.