About BGF

Big Gully Farm is located 12 miles north of Maidstone, Saskatchewan in the west central region of the province. The namesake of the farm, “Big Gully”, describes the picturesque terrain on which part of the farm is located and utilized for grazing. Steep north and south facing slopes, native grass, springs and a continuously flowing creek make it ideal for cattle development. The farm currently comprises nearly 4,000 acres of owned, rented and leased land. The land base comprises native and tame grass for pasture, along with hay and cultivated acres for greenfeed and grazing corn. The current cow herd includes 235 registered females exposed each spring, of which 180 females will actually be calved during the winter months. The remaining inventory is either culled or sold as commercial bred females to make way for a large replacement female inventory. Registered Hereford, Polled Hereford and Angus females form the maternal base. As the costs and inputs associated with ranching and farming continue to increase, while commodities stagnate, we are thankful to raise cattle that permit extended grazing, modest feed requirements, low overhead, adaptability and handling confidence for anyone.

The People Behind BGF

Lance & Shari Leachman, along with Lance’s mother Frances, reside at the farm. Lance was raised at the present location and continues as the fourth generation to operate the herd and the third generation to breed Hereford cattle. Both sets of his grandparents founded Hereford operations: the Leachman and Oddan families. Lance participated in 4-H and the Canadian Junior Hereford Association growing up. From 2003-2005, he attended Dodge City Community College in Dodge City, Kansas to compete on the Livestock Judging Team and earn an Associate of Arts in Agriculture Transfer. From there, he transferred to Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas to compete on the Livestock Judging Team and received a Bachelor’s Degree in Animal Sciences & Industry. From 2007 to 2010, he attended Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia and obtained a Master of Science Degree in Animal Breeding & Genetics, while coaching the judging team.

Shari was introduced to the operation when she ultrasounded the yearling cattle for carcass merit in spring 2011 as a replacement for the previous technician. Shari grew up in Hamiota, Manitoba on a commercial Angus mixed farm operation. She was active in 4-H and the Canadian Junior Angus Association. She attended Lakeland College in Vermilion, Alberta from 2003-2005 and obtained her Diploma in Agribusiness. At that time she took beginner and advanced training from the Centralized Ultrasound Processing Lab in Ames, Iowa and became a certified ultrasound technician. Lance & Shari were married at the farm in 2014 and provide all labor and management necessary.

Our History

The Leachman family has been in the Maidstone area for four generations. The current farm yard has been utilized since 1964 and included commercial cattle and grain components. In 1967, Lloyd and Pam Leachman adopted the “Big Gully Farm” name and initiated the registered Herefords that have been continuously bred to current day. For many years private treaty sales and the Lloydminster Bull Sale was the primary marketing avenue for bulls. Buddy and Frances Leachman assumed responsibility for the farm and over time upgraded the facilities, land and herd. The farm continued as a mixed operation for several decades, but in the early 2000’s began to shift toward cattle and away from farming. Land was maintained to grow feed and a local farmer rents a portion of acres, agreeing to provide straw. Traditionally mostly horned, the cow herd has included polled genetics for several decades and has evolved toward a more even ratio. In 2010, an online female sale was initiated and that soon transitioned to a live Bull Sale at the farm beginning in 2014. Currently, the farm hosts a bull sale the second Thursday of December offering Hereford and Polled Hereford options of yearling and coming two-year old ages.

Our Philosphy

It is difficult to summarize what traits, breeding objectives or mating practices are most important and relevant to us since the reality is we try to address most all of them and incorporate the most ‘good’ in the cattle that we can. Visual assessment is paramount to describe and select traits for which no current measures exist-structure, foot quality, docility, fertility, mothering ability, maintenance of body condition, balance and sex characteristics more notably. However, genetics separated from environment via EPD’s are also very useful to evaluate an array of traits and therefore we strive to find a successful compliment between genetic strength and visual assessment. In our opinion, many believe one can only happen without the other-for us that will never be a consideration in moving the breed and industry forward.

Rate of Genetic Improvement

Rate of Genetic improvement has four components: Accuracy of Selection, Intensity of Selection, Genetic Variation and Generation Interval. Accuracy of selection is addressed by collecting comprehensive performance data, utilizing genomically enhanced EPD’s and sourcing genetics from breeders who do the same, our customers and ourselves can have the most confidence and information available in making selection and mating decisions. Intensity of selection is approached through the use if AI or ET and traveling many miles to single out superior sires to own or utilize from the available population. Genetic variation is fairly static and doesn’t have a huge impact other than to allow diversity available for improvement. Finally, generation interval is something we feel strongly about and many times have a contrary opinion to others about. Generation interval is the average age of the cowherd and a lower age means generations turn more quickly-beneficial to advancing genetic merit if the right decisions and better cattle are being bred. We try hard to have a youthful, productive herd that out-breeds itself and incorporates a margin for error in case drought, harsh markets or expansion, when old cows can quickly accumulate or begin to diminish in production. By no means do exceptionally productive cows not stay in the herd for as long as necessary, it simply means we introduce a relatively high percentage of replacements every year because we are hopefully excited about what they can do and believe they are an improvement on the prior generations.

Visual Distinction

Structural integrity is probably our singular most important criteria if one had to be chosen. Sound structured cattle that are high quality and for which you can be proud to look at everyday puts the appeal of raising cattle in perspective. Most environments demand mobility and longevity for cattle to serve their purpose. This doesn’t mean they need to stay on the farm forever, it means they can remain in the herd for as long as necessary till younger, more productive and genetically advanced daughters or females replace them. Past this foundation, it has been the focus of our operation to increase muscle, early growth, moderate frame, body length, increase center body dimension, add pigment and maintain fertility.

Maternal Superiority

As a maternal breed improving udder quality, milk, calf vigor, mothering ability and fleshing ability are paramount. Hereford cows are and should be known as docile, hardy, long lasting and versatile in crossbreeding scenarios with the hair and thick hide to survive on modest inputs in harsh environments. Modest feed requirements and corresponding efficiency are extremely underrated strengths of the breed in the profit equation. We believe crossbreeding in commercial scenarios is absolutely necessary and Hereford bulls or cows are complimentary to so many breeds because of the unique and complimentary attributes they offer.

Progressive Multi-Trait Genetic Profiles

We are firm believers in EPD’s and now genomically enhanced values to remove environmental/management differences and allow comparisons across herds. Raw and even adjusted weight measures don’t interest us near as much as how the animals might rank relative to their contemporaries and or the greater population-when environmental influences like quantity of feed and management have been accounted for. Garnering accurate measurements in sizeable contemporaries for a variety of traits is critical in advancing our own goals but also trying to make the breed more broadly accepted-particularly in regards to growth and predictors of carcass merit. Breeding cattle that appear impressive to the eye, but also offer strong breeding values for an array of traits is the long-term direction we are dedicated to.

Ultrabeef Scanning

Shari founded Ultrabeef Ultrasound Services in 2005 and travels throughout western Canada each spring to scan bulls and heifers. Images of backfat, ribeye area and percent intramuscular fat are captured and sent to the CUP Lab in Ames, Iowa for independent measurement. Results are then forwarded to the respective breed association and incorporated into cattle evaluations to increase EPD accuracy. Carcass traits are among the most heritable, so selection progress can be more rapid than many traits. If you ever require more information about this service, contact Shari at 306-903-7289.

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