The History of Black Charolais at Three Trees Ranch

In an era of rising input costs like higher corn prices and higher fuel prices and higher fertilizer prices, every cattleman in America needs the opportunity to maximize the return from every calf that he raises. For years, the feedlot and packing industries have recognized and rewarded the exceptional feedlot performance, improved feed efficiency and the enhanced cutability of the famous “smoke” calves sired by Charolais bulls. Unfortunately, as the consuming beef public has increased the world-wide demand for quality beef products originating from the branded programs that require a black hide, the sons of Charolais bulls have been excluded from what often amounts to a $25 or more per head premium. When one projects that loss of potential revenue over a possible 100 calves that a bull can sire in his lifetime, a potential loss of $2,500 without even factoring in the potential loss from forfeiting the hybrid vigor influence on growth, efficiency and cutability, the financial need for Charolais bulls that will sire black-hided calves becomes quite obvious.

More than half a decade ago, Three Trees had the opportunity to acquire a dark Red Charolais purebred cow from Western Canada to serve as the foundation female for our research project into the potential of producing AnChar hybrid cattle that were not “smokes”. In the fall of 2003, a large embryo flush was born from that cow sired by one of the most predictable sources of Charolais carcass excellence ever used at Three Trees Ranch, WCR Prime Cut 764. In the fall of 2004 as the scan data came back from those calves, they got our attention as they absolutely dominated all of our other Charolais cattle for marbling genetics with no loss of muscle or performance. Described by most people that see them as “straw colored”, these cattle, that our friends from the Northern Plains and Canada call “buckskins”, have done some interesting things for us. We have used three of the high IMF full brothers for breeding registered Angus cows and they have sired some exciting young Black AnChar cattle that are 50% Charolais and 50% Angus.

In our best bull sale to date at Three Trees Millarden in November of 2007, we sold three Black AnChar percentage Charolais bulls – one that was 50% Charolais and two that were 25% Charolais. The sale was broadcast on RFD TV by Superior Productions and the phone rang for several weeks with questions about what these Black AnChar bulls were and when we would have more of them.

We did not need to be hit across the head with a baseball bat to see what was happening!

While we were waiting for our research with the red factor Prime Cut purebreds to unfold, we made hybrid embryo calves from our Red Charolais cow by proven Red Angus marbling sires, Glacier Logan, BJR Make My Day and Cherokee Canyon and we mated her to our Angus herd sire that currently has the Number 4 Marbling EPD among proven Angus sires, Stevenson Benchmark N190.

A few weeks after our November 2007 sale where he experienced first-hand the demand for our Black AnChar bulls as he sold them, our good friend Steve Dorran sent us to meet a progressive young Charolais breeder named Steve Quinton at Cardston, Alberta, Canada. Steve Quinton began breeding Charolais cattle several decades ago and quickly became a serious breeder of red factor Charolais cattle that were increasing in popularity in his country.

About 15 years ago, several of Steve’s good commercial customers began to have the occasional calf with a black hide sired by one of his Red Charolais sires. A light came on for Steve Quinton. He purchased the best of those black-hided F1 heifer calves, documented their sire through DNA parentage verification, and recorded the results with the Canadian Charolais Association.

Five generations later, with each generation DNA parentage verified and recorded with the Canadian Charolais Association, Steve produced the bull calf that he named MAIN Black Pepper 10S. When he scanned Black Pepper at 313 days of age he recorded an IMF score of 4.5% that roughly translates to the equivalent of a USDA Prime level of marbling.

Steve liked what he saw from Black Pepper’s performance, scan data, and his productive dam and he bred the promising yearling to nearly all of his Black and Red Charolais spring yearling heifers in 2007. Black Pepper settled every one of slightly more than 20 heifers he was exposed to and every one except the very first heifer that he bred calved in one heat cycle from his first natural service. The first Black Pepper calves have gotten great reviews from everyone who has seen them as they are polled, moderate in frame size and thick and muscular in appearance. The real test will be how consistently they possess the superior marbling genetics of their exciting young sire!

When we visited Steve Quinton in December of 2007, saw Black Pepper and his mother, and then heard the story of the time and effort that it took to make them, the negotiation process began. Three Trees now owns full possession and 50% of the world-wide semen rights to this exciting purebred Black Charolais sire and his dam has become a cornerstone Black Charolais donor at Three Trees Ranch.

Knowing that breeding up to purebred Black Charolais is a long term and painstaking process that requires both patience and persistence, Steve made the decision early in the game that he would not transfer the registration certificate of any purebred or percentage Black Charolais bull or female to any other purebred Charolais breeder in Canada except the small group of partners who call themselves “Men In Black” and use the prefix MIB. The “Men In Black” group in Canada and Three Trees Ranch in the United States are among the very few places in the world to find or acquire Black Charolais purebred cattle bred up from foundation females that truly carry a black color gene.

A few years ago, the “Men In Black” partnership of Steve Quinton and Henrick Rasmussen produced the now-deceased MIB Scorch 34N, the first homozygous Black Charolais bull in history. Three Trees’ pick of Steve’s spring 2007 heifer calf crop was a MIB Scorch 34N daughter produced by a full-sister-blood to the dam of Black Pepper. A cornerstone of Three Trees’ second selection of foundation Black Charolais genetics is a full sister to that exciting young female that is raising a January 2008 bull calf that could be the best son of Black Pepper born to date. The dam of these two full sisters, MAIN Black Babe 449P, is a Three Trees foundation Black Charolais donor that has a powerful January 2008 herd sire prospect at her side by MIB Nighthawk 107N who will be named TTR Black Knight.

To complete the foundation for Three Trees first selection of purebred Black Charolais, we chose three Black Charolais purebred bred heifers from Steve’s 2006 calf crop. In the process of crossing the border into the United States in a snowstorm in the middle of January, we had the misfortune of losing a Black Pepper bull calf from a Nighthawk daughter produced by a powerful Red Charolais dam. A MIB Scorch 34N daughter produced by a three-quarter sister to the dam of Black Pepper has a promising January 2008 bull calf at her side by Black Pepper. The female that Steve convinced us to add to our original list is a maternal sister to MIB Scorch 34N by a great Red Charolais female sire.

At Three Trees Ranch, we are flushing four of our foundation Black Charolais donor females to Black Pepper to make black purebreds for our use and use in the industry. To create new American Black Charolais genetics, we are also mating them and Black Pepper’s dam to Three Trees Prime Cut 4125, our red factor purebred Charolais whose first 16 F1 progeny scanned have an average IMF ratio of 107 when compared to all of our other F1 AnChar calves.

At the 2007 National Charolais Show, the bull that most impressed us of any breed in the entire barn at the North American International was a red factor Charolais bull from our long-time friend and customer Troy Thomas of Thomas Ranch in South Dakota. When we learned that his dam was a daughter of our past Tifton Test Station top-performer and top-seller, Three Trees Advantage E308, from a Red Charolais dam, we found another ingredient for our project. We have mated this new red factor Charolais donor to Black Pepper to produce more new American Black Charolais genetics.

Black Pepper has seen extensive natural service at Three Trees Ranch breeding black and red AnChar percentage cattle as Three Trees pursues the development of new lines of southern-adapted Black Charolais genetics. In addition to the numerous F1 daughters of the original Red Charolais donor by both Angus and Red Angus sires, we have their daughters by Angus and Red Angus sires and a promising group of young females from our foundation Red Angus purebred cows by the red factor high IMF sire Three Trees Prime Cut 3649 who will be important ingredients in breeding up to new lines of purebred American Black Charolais.

The existing literature on the inheritance of color in beef cattle indicates that unless there is an animal in the pedigree of a black or near-black Charolais, that animal is most likely a carrier of the “wild type” color gene and not a carrier of a black gene. We have always liked to push the envelope at Three Trees Ranch and last fall we acquired a bull calf that is most likely a carrier of the “wild type” color gene. Named G Bros Charcoal 119T, this calf was the first Charolais bull to cross the border into the United States when it opened in the fall of 2007. We would like every AnChar and Charolais bull that we produce to have his skeletal and muscle structure and we have sampled Charcoal on Black AnChar percentage females, Black Charolais purebred females and Angus purebred females to learn more about how his color genetics are inherited and transmitted and to make AnChar cattle with a look and kind we know that our customers will like.

During the fall of 2008 and the spring of 2009, Three Trees Ranch will have 50 AnChar embryo bull calves by Three Trees Next Step, 50 by Rito 4L60 of 2536 BVND 208, and 20 by the exciting young sire Connealy All Around from red factor Charolais donor dams that were members of the high IMF flush that included Three Trees Prime Cut 4125. These calves were produced using sexed semen at the Trans Ova IVF lab in Iowa. Purebred Black Charolais and percentage AnChar calves by both Black Pepper and Prime Cut 4125 will be joined in the fall 2008/spring 2009 Three Trees calf crop by the first purebred Black Charolais embryo calves at Three Trees Ranch.

The extensive interest that has been shown by Three Trees customers in Black Charolais genetics took us back to Alberta during the 2008 BIF Annual Convention that was held in Calgary. Extensive study of the HEJ and MAIN cow herds of the “Men In Black” partner herds that comprise most of the Black Charolais purebred females in existence in the world today, led us to choose 12 more foundation donor females and four more Black Charolais herd sires to add another dimension to the growing Three Trees Black Charolais program.

The now-deceased Red Charolais foundation donor HEJ Juanita 87J is a cornerstone of existing Black Charolais genetics with her son HEJ Coaltrain 58M ranking as one of the first and most significant Black Charolais bulls to be born in 2002. An embryo flush from this great cow born in 2003 by HEJ Black Bandit 162K produced some of the most significant growth genetics currently available in Black Charolais. From that flush, Three Trees Ranch has added the flush brothers MIB Nitehawk and MIB Blackhawk along with a powerful black flush sister to them and a red flush sister that has produced excellent black calves.

A homozygous black young sire named HEJ Carbon 163T adds another dimension to the Three Trees Black Charolais program as we begin the process of producing high quality homozygous black cattle that will achieve the original goals of the project.

Black AnChar percentage bulls will be offered for sale at Three Trees Ranch in the 2008 and 2009 Three Trees Millarden Fall Sales with the first purebred Three Trees Black Charolais bulls to be offered for sale in the 2010 Three Trees Millarden Fall Sale that is scheduled to also include the first Three Trees Brangus bulls.

By the 2013 Three Trees Millarden Fall Sale, Three Trees should have a complete array of diverse high carcass value genetics with a black hide that will be focused on the highest quality Angus genetics available in the world along with purebred Black Charolais and purebred Brangus bulls, Black AnChar percentage bulls, AngusPlus bulls that combine the best of Angus and Brangus genetics and BranChar bulls that combine the best of Black Charolais and Brangus genetics.

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