Loving Brahman cattle for their own sake
By Tim Kalinowski
A rodeo animal with legendary reputation for fierceness is the “Brahma” bull, but David Andrews of Andrews Polled Brahmans, located near Irricana, Alta., says they are really gentle giants which have been mischaracterized for years. He has bred and sold “Brahmans,” (the proper name for the animals), since 1989, and feels rodeo has really done the breed a mis-service.
“They are very much like a dog, is how I describe them to people,” says Andrews. “If you handle them rough when they are babies, or at anytime in their lives, they are going to return it double what you did to them. That’s where you get into the rodeo area with them. They treat them a little bit rough and then they give it all back to you. If you are gentle with them, they will sit on the couch an watch TV with you.”
Andrews is one of only a handful of registered Brahman breeders in Canada, and is the only North American breeder who currently has licence to ship embryos and semen to Europe for breeding purposes.
“I have an unbelievable market,” he confirms. “I am the only person in the western world who can ship this genetics to Europe. Canada is the only country which can ship genetics to Europe because once you get further south no other country can qualify which raises Brahmans. I have shipped embryo and semen to a whole mess of countries no other breeder can ship to. This year I have orders for over 100 embryos and there is no way I can possibly produce that anymore.”
He says he sells embryos for $500 each and straws of semen for $25 each. He feels it’s a lot like shipping frozen embryos or semen in Canada as far as regulations and procedures go, just with a higher freight rate which he passes on to customers in the price.
“Every year I have been able to ship as much as I wanted to produce; so it worked out pretty good,” Andrews explains. “It’s actually not that bad at all. If you ship an order to Europe it will cost you about $1,000 to ship. And you can send a number of embryos or semen for that. I usually put all the orders together in October, November, December, something like that, and ship it all at once.”
Andrews says another aspect of breeding Brahmans he enjoys is the broader, world-wide Brahman community.
“They have every two years the World Brahman Congress,” he explains. “In 2004 we went to the one in Mexico, and we got treated like gods because we were Brahman breeders from Canada. They treated us really good … In 2008 we went to Fort Worth, Texas. In 2010 the Congress was in Brazil, and we went to that. That was really good. In 2012 it was in Panama, and we went to that. 2014 was in South Africa, and we went to that. To top that one off, one of our embryo calves was in the show.”
Andrews says he has a love for the Brahman breed, which means he is willing to go the extra mile to ensure this hereditarily warm-weather breed thrives in Canada’s colder climes. He acknowledges it is a passion project for him, which does not conform to modern livestock trends in western Canada at the moment. Andrews points to the star breed of the moment, Angus cattle, as an example of what he means.
“I have to say one thing really good about Angus; they can handle more cold than any other breed,” he admits. “Their breeders have also done a tremendous marketing job. They have sold the idea their meat quality is better than any of the rest, which I don’t think is really true. You really wouldn’t know when you are eating (a steak or hamburger) which breed it was. But they have done one helluva a job of selling them, I’ll give them that.”
Andrews says he doesn’t know how much longer he will be able to continue championing his breed. He has been forced to cutback severely the past few years from over 60 animals to a much more manageable 12 cows.
“I am getting pretty old so it is all I can do to handle it,” he says. “Plus I’ve got two types of cancer, and who knows what’s going to happen with that? But I honestly can’t think of a better way to retire. The only trick is now I am getting to the point where I can’t do the physical work I need to do, and I am not sure how long I can go at this. I guess it depends on what happens with the cancer.”