Falls City man pays record $1.51 million for ‘freak’ of a bull

Falls City man pays record $1.51 million for ‘freak’ of a bull
Charles Herbster

The highest-priced bull in auction history is on his way to Nebraska to visit his new owner’s ranch near Falls City.

Charles Herbster won the 4-minute bidding war for SAV America 8018 earlier this month at an auction in rural North Dakota, writing a check for $1.51 million for the beefy black Angus.

In grocery store terms, that’s more than $940 a pound.

But the year-old “freak” of a bull isn’t headed to the meat market. After a brief visit to Nebraska, he’ll spend most of his months under the constant eyes of caretakers in a grassy pen west of Washington, D.C., delivering his valuable semen twice a week.

“We’ll take good care of him,” said Herbster, a fifth-generation farmer, former gubernatorial candidate, president of the Conklin Co. and President Donald Trump’s top ag adviser“We’ll give him the treatment of a Thoroughbred racehorse.”

SAV America will spend summers cutting loose with Herbster’s other big-ticket bulls where they grew up — in the rolling Missouri River hills south of Mandan, North Dakota, at Schaff’s Angus Valley ranch.

“They run with cows and breed with cows all summer long,” he said. “He’s going to be what God intended him to be. That keeps them young, it keeps them vibrant and we get more semen out of them if we do that.”

And that’s where the money is. If all goes to plan — if SAV America’s semen is as potent as expected, and if he can keep up with demand from around the globe — he’ll make his owners about $800,000 his first year. He’ll probably pay for himself in three. He’ll likely keep producing for 10.

Herbster had a long history with Schaff’s Angus Valley before he heard about SAV America.

He bought Madam Pride 8264 — the mother of Madam Pride 0075, whose embryo would give life to SAV America — about 15 years ago for nearly $100,000, the most one of the ranch’s cows sold for.

Herbster kept buying, and he kept setting records. In 2011, he paid $275,000 for SAV Harvester, and that changed things.

He realized that if he was going to traffic in world-class genetics, if he was going to sell bull semen around the globe, he’d need his own collection center. So in 2015, he bought the 60-year-old North American Breeders in Berryville, Virginia. The original owners had discovered a process to increase semen potency.

Herbster continued buying Schaff’s Angus Valley bulls: $650,000 for SAV Sensation; $725,000 for SAV Pedigree; $750,000 for SAV President.

Then he heard about SAV America.

He called SAV America “a phenomenal, phenotypical freak.” Smooth and straight in the topline; explosive in the lower quarter; soft in the middle; wide-based and perfect in foot and leg structure.

A big boy, too: 1,107 pounds by the time he was 205 days old — blowing away the industry measurement — and 1,600 pounds by his first birthday.

When Herbster’s proxy cast the winning bid and the auctioneer announced SAV America was now owned by the Nebraskan, the crowd applauded.

They’d witnessed history, according to the American Angus Hall of Fame — the highest-priced bull sold at auction.

Herbster doesn’t expect to write a check that big again.

“I think it will be a long, long, long time before this record is ever broken,” he said. “Probably not in my lifetime.”