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Echo Press photo by Celeste Beam

This Saturday is all about cows

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His name may be synonymous with the Douglas County Jail, but Steve Sibell, retired jail administrator, now spends all his time making sure his cows stay behind bars.

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Sibell, along with his brother, Allen, runs Sibell Brothers Farms, which is located about eight miles north of Osakis.

Sibell Brothers Farm is a fourth generation farm. Steve and Allen have worked with their parents, Reuben and Mary, since their childhood. Both now own their own farms, but continue to help run their parents' farm.

"We keep about a dozen or so cattle for mom and dad," said Sibell. "It's an incentive for them to stay on the farm."

Sibell's father is 83-years-old and has farmed his entire life. His mom is 77. Both are healthy enough to remain on the family farm and help out with chores. Sibell's grandfather and his great-grandfather were also farmers.

Although the Sibell family started raising hogs and diary cattle, over time, the family - mainly Steve and Allen - switched to beef cattle, particularly the Salers breed.

The 120 head of cattle in their herd are either full-blooded Salers or are Salers influenced, according to Steve, who talked with the newspaper last Friday about the Salers breed of cattle and the upcoming National Salers Tour.

The tour is a highlight of the Salers breeders' annual event schedule and this year - for the first time ever - the Minnesota Salers Association is hosting the tour.

More than 100 members of the American Salers Association will tour eight farms in Minnesota, including three local farms - the Sibells, along with the Craig Salers farm in Lowry, which is owned by Dale and Sarah Craig, and the McIvers Happy Acres farm in Farwell, which is owned by David and Marilyn McIver.

The tour group will be at the Sibell Brothers Farm this Saturday, September 18 from 1 to 2:30 p.m. The Sibells will host lunch for the group.

The Salers breed of cattle

Sibell noted that the Salers breed originated in France and is known as the last continental breed of cattle imported from Europe. This breed, according to Sibell, was brought to the states in the 1970s.

Although they are mainly beef cattle, Salers have a dual-purpose use. In the United States, they are mostly bred for their beef, but outside the U.S., they are also good for harvesting milk for cheese.

The Salers, noted Sibell, are known for having a high butterfat content in their milk.

The Sibells mainly raise commercial cattle for beef, but also sell a handful of their registered bulls for breeding.

Sometimes, the family will sell their cattle to private parties or otherwise, they sell to different auction barns. They calve their herd from March to May and then market them out in October, said Sibell.

One of the reasons the Sibells farm the Salers breed is because this particular breed is hardier than others. In addition, because of the higher butterfat content in their milk, the cattle tend to grow faster and are known for having good carcasses - or meat. The Salers tend to have a good grain of marbling in the meat, but are not necessarily fatty. The hamburger is quite lean and the steaks have great flavor, said Sibell.

"A piece of meat on the grill is a little bit of a celebration," he said.

He also noted that Salers are known for their calving ease, meaning, he said, that they have decent udders, which helps for calves.

"They are the most trouble-free breeds that we've dealt with," said Sibell.

He also noted that his herd is docile. In some breeds, Sibell said, it can be like a rodeo and get all crazy.

With his herd, he said, "I can walk among 'em."

Sibell bought his first Salers in 1994. It was a bull, he said.

"It was kind of a fluke," he said. "I went to this auction and saw this bull and just fell in love with the animal."

That bull, he added, was the foundation of the Sibells' Salers herd.

Just like the pride he takes of having spent 33 years in the law enforcement field (during which time he also farmed), Sibell takes great pride in farming.

"I am a farm kid. I always will be. You can take the farm away from the kid, but you'll never take the farm out of the kid," said Sibell. "It's a pretty good life. I wish a lot more could live this life."

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