In our last 75th Anniversary article, we talked about the significance of the stud code 13 and the origins of All West/Select Sires. But we wanted to take it a step further. What was the atmosphere like at All West Breeders in the 1970s? Did the morals of the company and nature of its employees back then reflect the close-knit All West family of today?
To gain an insight into All West Breeders of the past, we recently talked to Kirt Sloan, an AMS Robotic Specialist with DeLaval, who used to work at the bull barn in Burlington prior to when the company joined with Select Sires.
It was 1974, Sloan was in high school and All West Breeders’ employee Archie Nelson decided to hired him as… a painter. It was around the time that All West was preparing to join Select Sires and Sloan was responsible for painting the pipes on all the bullpens to spruce it up for Select’s upcoming visits. When not at school, Sloan eventually began working with the barn crew, which entailed cleaning pens, feeding bulls, and sweeping alleys on the weekends. Sloan worked under herdsman Mike Junger and describes it as the “most fun job ever,” though the bulls could be unpredictable at times. He claims the Jersey bulls were the worst and almost every Saturday morning when he showed up one would be loose, having slipped its collar in the tie stall barn. Sloan and his fellow workers would have to navigate around the barn in between all the other bulls to catch the Jersey and tie him back up.
While the Jersey bulls seem to have been avid escape artists, there were definitely many other prominent bulls being held in the barn too. One well-known bull was 13HO0294 Puget Sound Highmark, who is notable as being the All West bull that sired an All-American. Sloan remembers when the bull was so popular that they sold around 5000 units of his semen to South America at $30/unit! However, while Sloan witnessed Highmark at his high point, he also witnessed the bull’s worst. “They collected him on the lawn out back because he was pretty straight-legged. Once during collection, he hit the mount steer, his right leg shot straight out to the side and he collapsed in a heap… that was the end of Highmark.”
Among the many bulls at the All West Breeders barn in Burlington, there were some that Kirt Sloan has described as the “monster” bulls. He remembers at one point there being at least six that were hitting 3000 pounds! One of the more aggressive bulls that always kept the employees on their toes (and ready to run) was 13HO2031 Westport Rag Apple Wis. The bull tore his first ring out, and then after adding another one, he tore that out too, leaving him with four pieces of skin sticking out that definitely made him noticeable as a bull not to mess with. “He was mean as hell. He would hit the mount steer then pivot and try to kill the guy collecting him. I remember seeing a guy with the AV in one hand slide through the safety fence with his other hand on the bull’s head as he cleared the fence. They only got him on the beef truck by stuffing a pair of coveralls full of straw and tying a rope on them. They ran the rope through the truck and out the escape door and then they drug the dummy onto the truck. Wis followed behind bellowing the whole way.”
Another great story Sloan has is about the bull 13HO2015 Wilbar Pride Admiral Peachum, who was known at the time as one of the high type bulls in the Holstein breed. According to Sloan, Peachum was “a great bull that was stifled. He could not mount the steer and he was too deep to electro.” The solution: use a Guernsey cow as the mount! “Mike Junger brought Peachum out and he went for that old cow like he was a young bull again. Did that about three times I think. It was totally against all the rules as no cows were supposed to be at the stud and it took Peachum about a month to recover each time. He had poor quality semen…but those collections were the best he ever made.”
Kirt Sloan has many great, and sometimes crazy, stories about what was happening inside the barn back then, but not all of them center around the bulls. Sloan says his favorite memory was when he got to spend his breaks in the lab talking with Louis Mikota. “Louis Mikota was a prince. I would spend my breaks in the lab when I could, just to hear his stories. One piece of advice he gave that I still repeat myself is, ‘those young bulls they don’t make good semen until they are 15 months old.’”
When asked what lesson he learned while working at All West Breeders, Sloan said that his time at the barn taught him that “good cattle make a difference but good people make things that last. That was over 40 years ago but the All West family is still a part of my life as I run into people across the west working for DeLaval that are associated with All West/Select Sires.”
While he may not work for All West anymore, Sloan is carrying on the tradition of still being connected to the large family that has worked for the company over the years. This is even seen in his breeding decisions, as he recently found 20 units of All West Breeders’ Guernsey bull 13G180 Western Glow Darimost and used it to breed one of his Guernsey heifers. We hope that Kirt Sloan sees a heifer calf sired by the old bull in the coming months and thank him for his wonderful stories and the glimpse he gave us back to the barn in 1974!