As previously mentioned, I've been in Denver at the National Western Stock Show (NWSS), covering meetings and working on a feature story for the paper.
I learned a lot, and have a lot of topics to share with you on here. The ILC is a great conference, and does an excellent job of informing attendees on national and international issues facing agriculture today. My head is still swimming with quotes, comments, names and ideas I picked up at the one-day event.
I also had my camera along (as always) and grabbed a few photos of the stock show to share. First is this photo, which shows the catwalk over the "yards" at the NWSS. The event is held at the old railroad stockyards, which is how this area of the NWSS got its name. Catwalks were, and still are in some places, a common sight at livestock auctions, railroads, and other places large numbers of livestock were, or are, held. They allow spectators, potential buyers, and owners the opportunity to look at cattle with ease.
Today, this catwalk offers a great view of the NWSS yards, and is a photographer's dream come true for getting a different angle.
As you can see this is a big event. There are thousands of cattle of every breed in attendance from all over the country, and some from other countries as well.
People show cattle at stock shows. This is a different aspect of the industry than my family is involved in. We are commercial cattlemen, or ranchers, and we sell beef. These people are showmen and registered breeders, and their cattle are registered and/or prospect cattle. They're bred to excel at shows, or to sold to registered or commercial cattlemen.
They bring their cattle to these shows to compete against each other. Cattle are separated into "classes" to be judged based on sex, age, breed and a number of other, more detailed reasons.
At shows, judges rank them based on a number of things, including how they look, how well they can walk and their pedigree. That may sound pretty broad and straightforward, but it's actually a very in depth thing that takes into account a lot of different things in each animal. It's a matter of the judge weighing the pros and cons of each animal, then ranking them. The judge's opinion on what pros outweigh others is what makes or breaks it for any animal on any given day.
It's a big deal, and highly competitive. There are also shows for sheep, hogs, goats and other livestock species at stock shows. A trade show, art show, number of sales, and other events and forms of entertainment make them a lot of fun for both the public and the people competing.
Lots of cattle are also put "on display" for the public at stock shows. This allows people to see popular sires they may not have the chance to otherwise. It's a great opportunity to see a bull you may want to use in your herd through Artificial Insemination (A.I.), or to look at cattle from a producer you buy bulls from.
At the top left of this photo, you can see another building. That's where the trade show is located, and more cattle are housed, and shown, in a lower level. That area is called, "The Hill." People will refer to locations based on whether it's on The Hill, or in The Yards.
You can also buy bulls, heifers, cows, calves, shows steers, and about anything else cattle wise at the stock show. There are a number of breed and prospect (young show animal) sales.
This backdrop is actually bright blue and yellow in real life. Pictures taken in front of it are seen throughout the year in major breed catalogs, sale catalogs and other livestock related publications.
A prospect heifer. One thing about show cattle is they are bred, fed, groomed and cared for specifically to win at these shows. Their hair is also cut, which the industry refers to as clipped, in specific ways to enhance the animals appearance. You can see this heifer's head and neck have been clipped.
People also groom these cattle regularly, and have big blowers that work like a hair dryer. They train the animal's hair to lay in certain ways that will also enhance the animals appearance. Before a show they use a lot of hair spray type products to keep hair in a specific place. Then it's all washed out afterward.
Like I mentioned previously, this a is a big deal to these people, and while it's very different than what my family does, they also spend a tremendous amount of time, energy and money on their cattle, usually in an effort to make them the best they can be.
I've always had a soft spot for Herefords. When I showed cattle I had both black and Hereford cattle. I never showed at the level of the NWSS, and have found other areas of cattle production to be more my taste, but I did love it, and the Hereford breed is still a favorite of mine.
People bring what are called "strings" of cattle to these shows. This terms refers to the entire bunch they brought, which can be several dozen in some cases. They will bring bulls, heifers, cows, or a combination of all three.
Some also bring steers, and the most prestigious show to win at a stock show is usually the steer show.
It's a unique world, and fun one to visit, especially when a major show is so close. Other major stock shows are held throughout the year across the U.S., including the NAILE (pronounced Nile) in Louisville, KY, the American Royal in Kansas City, and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, to name a few.