Bull sales Millar Angus fulfills bull sale dreams on the ranch
Published on Jan. 18, 2020
Jon and Breezy Millar have a purebred Angus operation near Sturgis, S.D. They both grew up with cattle. Jon’s roots go back to Onida, S.D. where his parents, Ellis and Pat Millar and his brothers, Jess and Jim, operated a purebred Angus operation.
Jon has always loved cattle and purchased his first registered Angus cow in 1975 when he was 12 years old from his parents’ herd. Breezy grew up on her parents’ commercial cattle operation east of Sturgis, S.D.
Jon and Breezy met at South Dakota State University, where they were both active in rodeo. Jon earned a degree in general agriculture and Breezy majored in advertising. After college, they purchased 20 registered Angus cows and started leasing the ranch where they live today, along the Belle Fourche River.
With the lease, came a chance to run some cattle on shares. With hard work, including Jon’s custom farming and Breezy’s job at KBHB Radio, their registered Angus herd gradually expanded.
In 2011, they were able to purchase the ranch. Jon, Breezy, their son Ryle and daughter Kobi handle the daily chores.
“At Millar Angus we place a great deal of emphasis on the mama cow, knowing we need to have a good factory,” says Jon. “For a cow to stay in our herd, she must be efficient and functional, raising a big calf with a consistent breed-back year after year.”
“She must be a hard-working female with calving ease, good replacement heifers and good temperament. Our herd consists of deep-bodied females that provide the thickness, length and good udder quality our customers look for. Our cattle must be easy-fleshing and as economical and profitable as possible to help reduce ever-rising input costs in today’s beef industry,” he says.
The heifers are synchronized to start calving Jan. 10 and the cows are AI bred for one natural cycle, with cleanup bulls turned out for 45 days. The cows start calving Jan. 20.
Today, the Millar Angus herd is backed by nearly 35 years of AI breeding. The first cows they purchased trace back to cattle in Jon’s parents’ herd, with foundation bloodlines of Traveler 8180, Marshal Pride and Black Revolution.
More recent sires utilized in the Millar herd include Tombstone 050, Millars Cash, Connealy Consensus and Millars Designer.
On Feb. 26, 2002, their goal of hosting their own production sale became a reality when they sold 16 bulls to a crowd of buyers at Philip Livestock Auction, at Philip, S.D.
They continued to hold their production sale in Philip until 2015, when Jon and Breezy fulfilled another dream by hosting the sale at their ranch. They built their new sale facility, where they sold 120 bulls in late February 2015 for their first at-home annual bull sale.
There are many things that go into producing a successful sale.
“While we always enjoyed working with the crew at Philip, it was nice having our sale right here, rather than hauling our bulls more than 100 miles to the sale,” says Breezy.
Their sale takes place on the third Wednesday in February each year.
“The first year we had a lot of extra things to do because we were still finishing up the new sale barn, so it became a little easier the second time around,” she says.
Breezy takes care of all the advertising.
“I graduated from South Dakota State University as an advertising major and that’s been helpful. When I place my advertising, I like to utilize a variety of different media,” says Breezy. “I use local radio stations geared toward the ag sector and always use regional ag papers. This provides more chance to reach potential customers.”
“In college, I was taught to never buy advertising based on our own personal tendencies and preferences, but to think more in terms of what our customers might see or hear. I try to think about our potential customers when I place ads,” she says.
“We use other avenues, such as our website, social media and our quarterly Millar Angus Bull-e-tin,” says Breezy. “This is a fun newsletter that features customers, photos and things that have been happening around the ranch as well as updates on our sales and the bulls offered.”
“I also handle the graphic design and layout of all of our ads and the sale catalog,” Breezy says.
Part of having a successful sale is catering to the customers.
“We offer donuts and coffee in the morning prior to the sale, while people are viewing the bulls, and serve a complimentary ribeye steak sandwich lunch, catered by a good friend who owns a catering business. After lunch buyers can enjoy a piece of homemade pie, made by a local women’s auxiliary.”
Putting on a sale is often a team effort.
Right outside the sale barn is a large lot, used for various things throughout the year. On sale day, however, it becomes multiple pens for bulls.
“We use free-standing, continuous fence panels, with gates, to create our bull pens,” she says. “People can go right outside the door and view the bulls, walk among them and make evaluations.”
She continues, “During the sale, it’s a video auction. We started this type of auction when we moved the sale to our ranch.”
“A couple weeks prior to the sale, the bulls are all videoed by DV Auction. Then we upload these videos to our website so people can view any bull they want to look at online,” she explains. “The video sale saves a lot of labor and leg work on sale day. We don’t need a crew bringing bulls in, taking them back out and re-penning them. “
She continues, “The bulls just stay in their pens and the audience watches the video screens in the sale barn. DV Auction supplies us with three large screen TVs that we set up in front of the auction block and I set up a mock sale ring around them.”
Jon develops the bulls.
“We try to grow them, rather than get them too fleshy too fast. We want them to gain to meet their genetic potential without being fat,” Jon says. “People don’t like to buy fat bulls, but they also don’t want a lean one either.”
“Our customers tell us the bulls they buy from us go out and do their job and hold together well, and come back in the fall in good condition. I think this is due to the fact that we develop them properly,” he says.
About six weeks before the sale, the bulls are trimmed and clipped.
“At that time, we also take pictures of some of the bulls for our sale catalog. We like a lot of photos, to give a good representation of the bulls,” he says.
A couple days before the sale, the bulls are brought in and cleaned up, with any touchups necessary on the clipping.
“It’s like buying a new car, people want to buy a clean one,” he explains. “It makes a difference if they look nice. The morning of the sale all we have to do is run them in and blow out their hair and they are good to go.”
“When we pen and display the bulls on the day of the sale, we like to pen them by sire group and size,” says Jon. “Their weight on sale day will be anywhere from 1,000 pounds for the younger ones up to 1,350. “
He explains if they put a single 1,000-pound bull in a pen of six 1300-pound bulls, the small one looks out of place and is at a disadvantage when people are looking at the bulls.
Please visit millarangus.com for more information.Heather Smith-Thomas is a corresponding writer for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.