The Provincial Exhibition of Manitoba more than doubled down on purebred cattle for Ag Ex. The fall fair included three national breed shows this year.
Ag Ex typically draws one national breed organization, the most recent being the Canadian Charolais Association last year. This year, Angus, Simmental and Shorthorn all hosted their national shows at the Brandon fair.
Shannon Carvey, cattle show co-chair, said the triple hit marks how much Ag Ex has grown in stature. The fair has jumped from about 400 head years ago to an easy 800 head entry list.
“Once a breed has had a national show here, we’ve almost always gotten another one a few years down the road,” she said. “I think a lot of times, the thought was that Agribition was the place to have a national show or some of these bigger shows, and we’ve grown to the point now that we are one of the bigger shows too.”
The three national shows translated to higher entries this year. Two hundred Angus entered the ring, about 50 to 75 head more than normal, while Simmental entries jumped from their average 80-90 to about 135, according to Carvey.
Range also expanded, with exhibitors travelling from B.C. on the western side to Quebec in the east.
It was the first time that Manitoba’s Shorthorn breeders could stay close to home and still show nationally. This year’s Ag Ex is the first time the breed drew a national show in Manitoba, according to show organizer, and also one of the big winners of the day, Russell Thompson.
“It was nice to see that we had breeders from Alberta all the way to Quebec come out for our national show, which is great,” he said. “One of the big highlights, I would say, for our show is that 13 cow-calf pairs came this year.”
The Shorthorn lists had 115 entries in total, according to Carvey, a substantial boost from 80 last year.
“It means the world that our Canadian association decided that Brandon was a fitting place to have a national show,” Thompson said. “We’ve had a group of us that have really worked hard to get it here and to see the numbers come out because of it was just tickling.”
Thompson’s operation, Poplar Park Farm in Hamiota, earned a reserve banner for Senior Champion Bull, but his string of success in the splits also earned him one of the show’s top accolades. Poplar Park Farm became the first national Shorthorn premier breeder and premier exhibitor to be named in Manitoba.
It is partly due to Thompson that the national show landed in Brandon, his fellow organizers have said. President of the Manitoba Shorthorn Association and a long-time breed representative with Ag Ex, Thompson was one of the driving forces in bringing his breed to the fair and then organizing and participating in the show after Shorthorns debuted.
Twelve Manitoba names walked away with a national banner, although top results came from the bulls. Carvey’s own Swindon Ranch claimed a 2018 national title after clinching Senior Champion Bull Calf from the national Angus show. The locals from Alexander, Man., were one of two Manitoban exhibitors to take a full championship banner. Anderson Cattle Company of Swan River also rose to the top of their Red Angus class with Senior Champion Bull. All said, six local Angus and Red Angus breeders earned a nod as champion or reserve champions, while four Shorthorn and two Simmental breeders can say the same.
Next year’s Ag Ex is set for Oct. 23-26, 2019, at Brandon’s Keystone Centre.