Oklahoma to fill the NWSS gap
for The Fence Post
When Denver’s National Western Stock Show canceled its 2021 show in mid-September, it left a gaping hole in the beef cattle breeding world.
A show has stepped up to fill that gap.
In Oklahoma, a group has come together to form the Cattlemen’s Congress, to be held Jan. 2-17 at the Oklahoma State Fair Park in Oklahoma City, with the Oklahoma Youth Expo hired to manage the show.
The cancellation of the NWSS was a blow to beef producers in a year that has seen plenty of challenges.
For Jane Evans Cornelius and her family, who run a Hereford operation near La Salle, Colo., called Coyote Ridge Ranch, no Denver show means a lot of uncertainty.
Her children, Hampton Cornelius and Katie Cornelius Mayo, both showed at the NWSS, as have her grandchildren, John Hampton Cornelius and Brayson Mayo.
But just as important as the showing is the marketing and sale aspect of the show, she said. “We go for business reasons,” she said. “We go to exhibit our livestock for potential customers to see.” They market much of their higher-end breeding stock in Denver, but it’s also the people who wander through the yard and take note of cattle, Cornelius said. “It’s people who aren’t in the market that minute, but see your cattle and call you two years later,” she said. “There’s a lot of that.”
They are working on alternate marketing plans, she said, including videos and more mailings than normal, “just a whole different way to market our seed stock.”
Cornelius pointed out the educational value of the NWSS as well. School kids and the general public often came through the show, “throngs of little kids who have probably never seen a baby pig or a baby duck, or whatever,” she said. The Denver event “brings a community that has no exposure to agriculture into real-life agriculture. And that is a very valuable tool.”
A day after the NWSS was canceled, the Grand Island (Neb.) Livestock Complex Authority announced a one-time show, to be held Jan. 9-24 at the state fairgrounds in Grand Island, as a replacement for the Denver show.
But on Nov. 19, it was canceled. In a letter posted on Facebook, the group stated “the Nebraskan livestock show has become another casualty of the COVID epidemic…. with the rise of the epidemic nationally and the recent guidelines enacted in Nebraska and other states, the logistics of putting on a quality event is no longer possible.”
Cindy Hinrichs, who, alongside her husband Scott and children Bailey and Brock, raise Charolais cattle on their farm east of Ayr, Neb., began attending the NWSS when Bailey could compete in the junior show. She had competed locally but was ready for a bigger stage, Cindy said.
From having cattle in the yard, they have “gotten follow-ups from that, or folks who come and look because we were there,” Cindy said.
The NWSS is a marketing tool for them, too, a place to showcase the cattle they raise, but it’s also a place to see industry trends and look at bulls from the AI sire book. Hinrichs enjoyed seeing the AI bulls in person, because “sometimes a picture or write-up isn’t necessarily how you perceive the bull,” she said.
Cindy and Bailey had contemplated attending the Grand Island show because they live 50 miles away, but now they may head south.
The major breed associations have designated the Oklahoma show as their official show. As of press time, the Angus, Hereford, Charolais, Chianina, Chi-Angus, Gelbvieh, Limousin, Maine-Anjou, Red Angus, Santa Gertrudis, Shorthorn, Simmental, Braford, Brahman and Brangus associations have stated OKC is their official show.
Camaraderie is a big part of stock shows, and for 17 days during the NWSS, everyone in the beef cattle world congregated in Denver. There will be fewer people in Denver, Cornelius predicted. “In Denver, every breed and every breeder you’ve heard of is there,” she said.
Hinrichs said, if she made the trip to Oklahoma, she hoped to see old friends. “There are folks you don’t get to see any other place, so it’s nice to connect with them on an annual basis.” Livestock shows provide commonality, she said. “There are people you don’t hardly ever see, but you have so much in common, that you’re instantly close.”
A committee of seven board members formed the 2021 Cattlemen’s Congress.
JD Rosman, OYE vice-president of communications, talked about the background of the OYE, the managing organization for the congress, and its plans.
“The OYE (Oklahoma Youth Expo) is the world’s largest junior livestock show,” he said, open only to 4-H and FFA members living in Oklahoma. The OYE hosts an annual show with 7,500 exhibitors and 13,000 head.
In the past year, the OYE has managed several other new shows that popped up with COVID cancellations. When the NWSS canceled, the group saw an opportunity to start a new show.
The Cattlemen’s Congress, as it is named, will be held Jan. 2-17. It is formatted after the Denver show, Rosman said, with pen cattle shows and “hill” cattle shows, in a different layout, “but we’re still going to offer all the shows that everybody’s come to expect,” he said.
The Cattlemen’s Congress is not looking to replace the NWSS, Rosman, said. “Our biggest priority is to provide for cattlemen and women to exhibit their cattle and do business. We’re not in it to push anybody out or replace anything. That’s not our goal. Our goal is to provide the best experience for cattlemen and cattlewomen to showcase cattle, do business, and meet up with everybody. In this year (with COVID), we’re due for a reunion at some point,” he laughed.
One advantage the congress has over Denver is its shows, pens and stalls will all be indoors, Rosman said. And the committee has decided to do one thing different in its livestock shows: select a supreme champion in the open heifer, open bull and junior heifer shows, “to add a different spice and up the level of competition here in Oklahoma City,” he said.
Oklahoma City was able to secure the “official” show designation from the major breeds for a couple of reasons, Rosman said. “With a lot of relationships that have been built over the last several years, along with the location and the ability to have a lot of hotels, meeting spaces, and places for sales and events to take place, Oklahoma City proved itself a strong, flexible venue that the big breed associations could get behind.”
Rosman wasn’t willing to predict the number of entries, but he thought they would be good. “We’re expecting one heck of a show and we’re excited for everybody to come in January and see what Oklahoma has to offer.”
The Cattlemen’s Congress will include webcasting, to help promote breeders and their operations to people who may not be at the show. The Congress will also host the collegiate judging contest, an ancillary event at the NWSS that was also canceled.
But wherever the cattle are, will be the men and women who raise them, along with the opportunity to promote cattle and breeds. “The NWSS has been such an excellent marketing tool for us,” Cornelius said. “And that’s why we were there.”
More information on the Congress can be found on their website: http://www.cattlemenscongress.com.