It was 1959 when Lester Laue’s registered Hereford bull fell into the icy waters of the Little Blue River, creating the need for a new bull in the Laue operation. In response to a small ad in a farm paper, a Charolais bull was purchased from Charley Litton of Chillicothe, Missouri, and brought back to north central Kansas. In only a brief time after the first Charolais calves were born, it became obvious that they possessed growth characteristics previously unknown to the cattle industry. When these calves actually caught up in weight with their older siblings from the ill-fated Hereford bull, a major decision was made. It was then that Lester decided to go full-scale into the production of registered Charolais cattle.
The foundation females of the Laue herd came from the great Charolais pioneers of Texas – the 4T and Michaelis ranches. The early herdsires used on these females and in the breeding up program bore names like FWT Bar 136, MGM Bennett, and FWT Ranger 461. These bulls and females were highly instrumental in building the cow families which are at the core of the Laue herd yet today. By 1965, Laue Charolais had topped sales and been winners in major shows throughout the Midwest from Dallas to Kansas City. The ever-expanding demand for quality Charolais created an active market for the Laue cattle.
In 1966, shipments of French Charolais to this continent were resumed after a lapse of some twenty years, and the Laues seized the opportunity to be at the forefront of utilizing the best of the French blood. At the 1st World Charolais Sale held at the Calgary Stampede in Canada in 1967, two of the first French fullblood bull calves born in North America were purchased to bring back to the United States, with funds that LeAnna Laue had hoped might build the family a new home on the ranch. The calves – Beau Ivo and Aiglon Jr. – soon distinguished themselves as the best of the new imported Charolais. Aiglon Jr. was named Reserve Grand Champion at five major shows before he reached a year of age, an unthinkable accomplishment in those days, and was then sold for the record price of $100,000.
Beau Ivo captured the attention and imagination of beef breeders world wide when in March 1968 he set the world yearling weight record at 1,579 lbs. Only a few months later, he sold for the record auction price of $85,000 for a one-third interest, yielding a total value of a quarter of a million dollars. Soon after that he was named the “Bull of the Year” and became the first bull ever pictured on the cover of the national breed magazine. Beau Ivo’s progeny kept him in the spotlight as a superior sire by winning breeding cattle shows, steer shows, carcass contests, and bull tests throughout the country. The late 1960’s were a time of great change in the cattle business, as single trait selection and breeding fads had devastated many herds in the traditional breeds. The influence of Beau Ivo attracted much attention to the new Charolais breed, bringing stability to the whirlwind of change and establishing Charolais as a permanent fixture in the beef business. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, LeAnna Laue got the new ranch home she had dreamed of, complete with custom made Beau Ivo wallpaper in one room. The Wichita Eagle-Beacon newspaper correctly called it “the house that Beau Ivo built.”
In 1973, the best of Canada was again chosen for the Laue herdsire battery. Choice and Prime, a son of Cyrano, was purchased in the World Sale. He was a perfect complement to the Beau Ivo daughters, and his own legacy would be a herd full of great milking females. He was followed by Independence, who was selected at the Denver Stock Show, became a Grand Champion at five major shows, and rose to prominence as one of the best breeding sons of National Champion Expectation. Independence was also the last major Laue herdsire that was not polled. As profit margins for commercial cattlemen tightened in the late 1970’s, the economic significance of the polled gene became increasingly apparent. Once again, the Laues were at the forefront with a homozygous polled sire, Fame. Fame became a fast favorite of cowmen, and his sons gained a reputation for topping just about any bull test in which they were entered. Today, the vast majority of the Laue cattle are polled, including the newly developed red and black factor herds.
By the late 1980’s, the Laue cattle had been marketed to customers in more than half of the states of the United States, as well as Canada and Mexico. Laue bulls were popular with farmers and ranchers – in some cases bull buyers were the grandchildren of original customers from the early years. We began to notice that some customers who saved heifers over several generations were looking to other breeds to diversify their increasingly white colored commercial cowherds. With an eye toward maintaining those customer relationships, we investigated the feasibility of adding other breeds to the Laue program. A few Angus cattle were even purchased. At about the same time, Brant Laue attended the Canadian Charolais events at the Calgary Stampede -- the same spot that had launched the Beau Ivo story for the Laues 25 years earlier. In Calgary, Brant learned that a number of Canadian breeders had been selectively mating offwhite or tan animals to develop a strain of “Red Factor” cattle within the Charolais breed. It had reached the point that some of these cattle were dark red, and even a black heifer calf had been reported. The opportunity to diversify color without changing breeds seemed like a ready-made answer to the market trends we had observed.
The first Red factor cattle arrived at the Laue Ranch from Canada in 1994. They were joined by other good cows selected from U.S. herds, quite often with the seller commenting that “I just never could get her to have a white calf.” Semen on Canadian bulls was used, along with embryo transfer, to accelerate the genetics. Some in the breed were disturbed by these developments, and controversy erupted. Back in Canada, that black heifer calf turned to out be true, and we bought the first pair of embryos for $29,000, along with our Canadian partners. One of those embryos was Doctor Joe – a name that successfully poked fun at the controversy and one of its personalities. Common sense prevailed, and those disagreements were ultimately resolved. “Doc Joe” became a celebrity in our Denver Stock Show displays, and predictably made waves when he appeared in the arena with a group of white bulls. The world’s first all Red Charolais show was held in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada in 1996. Laue cattle won several championships, along with the prestigious Breeders Cup for the best two head. In 2001, Lester and Brant Laue returned to judge the show.
Our experiences with the Red Charolais have mirrored those of our Canadian colleagues – commercial breeders are intrigued by the option, and the cattle seem to become darker with each generation. A second black female appeared in Canada in 1996, and she produced a black son by Doctor Joe. We acquired this bull, Eclipse, and in 2000 he became the first black Charolais bull in the United States. His 2001 calf crop included the first black bull and heifer to be born in the U.S., both out of females raised on the ranch and from American cow families. The bull calf, LCL Gus – named for Lester’s favorite character in the TV western “Lonesome Dove” -- has developed into a very impressive herdsire in his own right. The red and black Charolais story at Laue Ranch represents history in the making.
Traditions are not built overnight. It takes years of hard work and tough decision making to reach a position of satisfaction with a purebred cattle breeding program. It has been said that the average purebred breeder is in business for less than seven years. The Laue program has come far in its nearly fifty years of existence and has truly established a tradition in Charolais quality, as well as a reputation for innovation. With the experience of the past and enthusiasm for the future, the tradition will continue.
Bulls for Sale | Red & Black Charolais | Quarter Horses | TOP OF PAGE