Agribition and fluffy cows: Why are cattle shown?

By and in Opinions

Have you ever attended the Canadian Western Agribition? This is the largest livestock show in Canada, and it is held annually. This year’s show was held from Nov. 19 to 24 in Regina, Sask.

You’re sure to see nearly every species of farm animal if you attend Agribition, including many different breeds of cattle! A beef breeder is a rancher or producer who breeds and raises cattle for the purpose of selling breeding animals to other ranches or for meat production.

Livestock breeders attend shows across the country to advertise the genetics of their herd. They exhibit their animals at these shows with two major goals in mind — to market their animals to other producers in the industry and to compete for numerous championship titles.

Although the methods in which breeders pair cattle for breeding may differ, it is most often done to maximize on great cattle characteristics and quality genetics within the herd. There are many genetic traits that breeders may want to incorporate into their farm. Traits like feed efficiency, the amount of muscle an animal produces for its age or lack of horns — which increases safety when working with the animal — are a few examples.

It is quite an accomplishment to win a championship title at a livestock show, and it serves as a signal of quality to other breeders in the industry, both in Canada and globally. Last year’s Agribition attracted 329 livestock buyers from 23 different countries!

The Bull Championship Class Supreme Ring at the Canadian Western Agribition, 2017.

It’s important for breeders to network with others in the business in order to continue to incorporate genetics from many other farms to increase genetic variety and improve the genetic program within their own herd in order to raise the best animals they can.

In preparation for the show, calves are washed to train the direction of hair growth, stimulate their hair follicles and keep their hair clean and shining. Calves may be housed in cooler barns or put under fans to promote hair growth. They are also trained to be led on a halter and to build trust with humans.

On the day the cattle are shown, they are washed, blown dry, rested and prepared by breeders who clip, glue, foam and paint their hair to enhance the animal’s best qualities. For example, some desired qualities in a bred heifer — a pregnant young female — may include a trim neck and feminine head, wide hips and a long body as well as strong bone structure and smoothness in her walking ability.

Breeders always ensure that their cattle are always comfortable at Agribition, making sure they are fed and watered throughout the day and have space to lie down in a clean stall. Every night, they get to relax outside in fresh air and enjoy even more space.

Breeders work hard to maintain their cattle in a calm, clean and comfortable environment, making sure that this entire process of preparing and showing cattle brings them no harm.

After all the hard work involved in caring for, transporting and showing cattle in different cities, it is easy to see why some breeders might be frustrated by people who make claims against the treatment of show animals or who believe the animals are treated unfairly in these environments.

Having a conversation with a breeder who shows cattle is a great way to understand how much the breeder personally cares for their animals’ welfare and the purpose they have in showing them!

Never been to Agribition? Maybe, now, you’ll be inclined to spend time in the livestock barns to talk with a breeder and understand the importance that all of the animals have there. Next year might be the time to go and see all the hard work that these breeders do.

Keep your eyes open for the 2019 dates for the Canadian Western Agribition. You may find the show industry to be even more impressive and purposeful than it seems.

Morgan Heidecker, Amy Carruthers

Photo: Morgan Heidecker / Supplied