By Jean Caspers-Simmet

APLINGTON, Iowa — Father and son team La-Vern and Brian Wolff farm 1,000 acres between them. They also have about 160 acres of pasture, and Brian has a custom baling business. The cow-calf operation consists of 90 purebred and high percentage Salers.

They sell bulls privately off the farm and feed out cattle they don’t keep as breeding stock. They sell their fat cattle to the Manchester Livestock Auction, and they sell their cows to the Aplington Sales Barn.

They do some embryo transplant work to increase good blood lines in the herd. They work with Westwood Embryo Services in Waverly. They AI to bulls that are the best in the breed.


"We’re known for the bulls we sell," Brian said. "We sell bulls to commercial herds all over Iowa, and through the Iowa Beef Expo sales we’re getting all the way across the country in purebred herds. Our bulls have gone to Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Tennessee, Ohio, Oklahoma, Illinois and North Dakota. We have really good repeat business."

Salers are known for calving ease, calf vigor and good mothering ability. LaVern explained that Salers cows are a little bigger in the pelvic area than the average cow.

"We don’t even own a calf puller," Brian said.

Calves are born a little lighter, but have good growth and catch up in size to calves from other breeds within a couple of months. Salers cows usually wean a heavier calf.

"Salers cross well with almost every breed," Brian said. "They’re also known for good carcass traits. They have lean meat and a good ribeye and they don’t carry a lot of backfat."

LaVern said that 15 years ago, the breed had a problem with disposition, but that’s been addressed.

"Now Salers are really quiet and easy to work with," Brian said.

Brian picks the AI bulls and he looks for the herd bulls to buy. The Wolffs have purchased a lot of their bulls at the Denver Stock Show and have acquired Denver Pen of Three bulls. The first thing Brian looks for when selecting bulls is structure.


"They have to be sound on their feet," he said. "You start from the ground and work up."

He also looks at birth weight, calving ease and growth EPDs, and carcass data.

"I think Brian has a gift from God when it comes to picking out cattle," LaVern said. "He’s better than I am."

Calving is just getting under way with most calves being born between March 1 to April 15. The ET and AI calves are born first. The first calf heifers are in the pasture closest to the house. Half the cows are at LaVern’s place south of Aplington and half are at Brian’s place just northwest of town. They calve outside unless the weather is really cold. They check on cows at least three times a day when the weather is warm and more frequently in bad weather.

Within a day of birth, the calves are weighed and ear tagged and get iodine on their navels. The Wolffs wean in mid-September. When they work cattle in the fall, they weigh them and the veterinarian pregnancy checks cows and gives them shots. They work with Thomas Pollock from Highview Animal Hospital. Brian handles the record keeping.

They feed their cattle ground ear corn.

"It’s a pretty cost efficient way to feed cattle," Brian said.

The Wolffs rotate pastures dividing them into five sections. Much of their pasture is along Beaver Creek. It flooded last summer and took out most of the fences. They spent the summer and fall putting things back together. LaVern said that they noticed lower weaning weights on the calves from those pastures. Flooding hurt grass quality.

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