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Valley View sale sends bulls all over west

Bulls on the Block

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Tulips, mud and bull sales all mean spring in Montana, and all were present for the Valley View Charolais Ranch 47th annual bull sale on Saturday. Pickups and cars with license plates from Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Wyoming as well as Montana were parked near the sale barn as bull buyers came to purchase the 188 2-year-old white bulls.

T.E. “Buddy” Westphal, his wife Lin, and son Scott, Scott’s wife Amy and grandchildren Jaden and Jace live on the family ranch in Valley View, where Buddy has lived since 1969. 

The Westphal cowherd started more than 50 years ago with bloodlines from the Michaelis Ranch, according to the sale book. The Michaelis Ranch had the first Charolais cattle in the United States. The big white cattle are one of the oldest of the French breeds, dating back to the Jurassic period. They came from the Charolles area in the central part of France.

It didn’t come for as far away as France, but a big yellow school bus arrived at the ranch on Thursday, March 26, carrying Jaden’s second grade class from Linderman Elementary School. The kids ate their sack lunches in the sale barn, toured the machine shed, and tried to pet the bulls standing in their fresh yellow sawdust. The kids learned a bit about raising cattle as Amy answered questions, and Jaden explained how each machine was used and how to get a bull to let you pet him. Then they took turns running through the chute leading into the sales ring.

As the kids enjoyed the sunshine and a day out of the classroom, the bulls got a shampoo. Ten or 12 bulls at a time were sorted off into a small corral, and hard-working ranch hands squirted them with soap and water and then rinsed them. Then it was off into the sunshine to dry. It was a wet job and took several days to run all 188 bulls through the “beauty shop.” Buddy said there’s no way to keep the bulls snowy white, but the washing process removes much of their winter hair. 

Friday brought prospective buyers, each with a sale catalog, to walk through the pens. Each bull was tagged with the lot number in one ear so a buyer could match him to the information provided in the catalog — sire and dam, dam’s age, the date and weight of the bull at birth, weaning weight and the 18-month index, which offers a good indication of the bull’s condition. 

Birth weight is a big predictor of the size of calves they throw, according to the Westphal’s sale book. The 18-month index determines the sale order of the bulls and indicates their size. The bulls have been on their own since weaning. In the spring after weaning, the Westphals turn the bulls out in pasture, where they’ve been making a living for themselves climbing hills and walking over rocks and drinking out of streams and the Flathead River. 

“When they come in at fall, they know life is not just a pile of bedding and a bunk full of feed,” Buddy said.

Selling 2-year-old bulls allows Buddy and Scott to cull rigidly for “fertility, growth, disposition, feet and legs, traveling ability and easy keeping on the range.”

The Valley View Charolais Ranch advertises their bulls as affordable, easy calving, problem free, and they guarantee all their cattle.

Asked why he buys bulls from Westphals, Vince Husted of Jackson, said, “Well, the first thing is Buddy Westphal and his integrity.”

Of the 47 Westphal sales, they’ve bought bulls in 46 of them. 

“The bulls are good performers and backed with integrity,” Husted said. 

Repeat buyer Bill Stovall of Bridger said the Valley View Charolais Ranch bulls are “really top quality.” He crosses the white bulls on his black cows and likes the ease of calving. 

Greg Kreuger, his son and neighbors Deb and Dave Harsche made the trip from Killdeer, North Dakota, for 2-year-old bulls. The country around Killdeer is badlands, and bulls “have to travel some ground,” Kreuger said. 

Yearling bulls “just fall apart,” he said. 

Adding he’s been using Charolais bulls for 30 years, Kreuger said he hasn’t had any calving problems; they only had to pull three heifers’ calves last year and only one was a Charolais calf. 

The bull sale averaged $7,377, Buddy said, adding, “It’s the best bull sale we’ve ever had.”

Another perk of buying a Westphal bull is that the Westphals deliver. After Buddy spent Sunday selling heifers, he loaded a 30-foot trailer with bulls and prepared to hit the road for Hobbs, New Mexico, on Monday, March 30. 

“They want Christmas calves,” he said, grinning, “so we have to get the bulls there so they can turn ‘em out with the cows.”

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