Brandon had the full focus of Canada’s Charolais industry Oct. 26-27 as gates opened on the National Charolais Show and Sale.
Breeders from Ontario to Alberta arrived at Brandon’s Keystone Centre for the event, part of the Provincial Exhibition of Manitoba’s Ag Ex.
“A national show for us is huge,” Ag Ex cattle show committee co-chair Shannon Carvey said. “It gives us the opportunity to showcase our facility and our show to breeders from all across Canada, because a national show will draw breeders from all the provinces.
“Once they see what we have, we often get them back, which is really important to our show to keep the numbers growing and keep getting bigger and bigger.”
Numbers are up from last year, according to exhibitors and organizers. In 2016, the Ontario Charolais Association reported just over 100 entries at the national show in Toronto. This year, entries easily broke the 100-head mark.
“It’s great to have so many Charolais cattle show up for a national event,” Andre Steppler, a Manitoba farmer and chair of the 2017 National Show Committee, said. “It’s one of the highest-entered shows that we have had in Manitoba for quite a few years and we’re excited to have people from southern Ontario all the way to Alberta.”
Steppler was one of several Manitobans in the winner’s circle by the end of the two days, taking home the 2017 reserve champion senior heifer calf and reserve champion junior female titles.
The Miami farm adds that to their existing national record. In 2014, Steppler Farms walked away from the national show (also held in Brandon) with the reserve grand champion female title.
Bully for Manitoba
It was a Manitoba sweep for the bulls.
C2 Charolais out of La Riviere and Brookdale’s JMB Charolais beat out all comers for the Grand Champion Bull national title.
“To be honest, I don’t know if it’s quite set in yet,” Jeff Cavers of C2 Charolais said. “It’s unbelievable. We bought the bull to breed cows, and that’s what we did with him, and thought in the back of our minds all the time (that) we could bring him out to show him and everything that we had imagined has kind of played out in front of us. It’s a real surreal dream come true.”
Bred by JMB Charolais out of Brookdale, the animal had already claimed the 2016 Ag Ex championship and Charolais division at Agribition’s President’s Cup by the time Cavers purchased him in December 2016. JMB owners Judy Hart and Bert McDonald, however, have kept a stake in the bull.
Cavers says he expects the bull to be a “game changer” for his operation, with the animal’s first calves expected in January.
C2 Charolais and JMB Charolais were joined by High Bluff Stock Farm out of Inglis, Man., who claimed reserve grand champion bull.
“The show was just top, top notch,” Cavers said. “There’s a group of young breeders in Manitoba that I’m quite honoured to be associated with. They’re out for the betterment of the breed and it’s quite evident. The sale was an absolute success.”
Looking to youth
Steppler Farms threw its weight behind the incoming Canadian Charolais Youth Association conference, coming to Brandon in July 2018. The farm provided the raffle heifer calf to support the event.
“It’s the first year our young daughter can participate in it, so Steppler Farms decided to donate a really good heifer, which won her split today, to be raffled off and raise money for the event,” Steppler said.
The fundraiser brought in about $18,000 for the youth conference and show, according to Steppler, which he says will go to renting facilities.
“It’ll take down their registration fees and just allow more kids to come to the event,” he added.
The donation impressed Steppler’s fellow Manitoba breeders, with Cavers noting that it is “unbelievable the way these guys donate their money and time towards supporting the youth.”
Calling all breeders
Craig and Jack Oattes of Cobden, Ont., are regular faces at Canada’s largest Charolais shows, often making the trip to Regina’s Agribition.
This year, Craig was among the most far-flung entries of the national show and sale, travelling 30 hours to attend from his farm an hour west of Ottawa.
“We go to our local little fairs, some of them, too, but it’s nice to get away farther and see other cattle,” he said. “When you’re just in Ontario, you just see the Ontario cattle and it’s the same cattle, usually, all the time. It’s nice to come out here and see the western cattle.”
The Ontario producer was well rewarded for his travel time. Oattes claimed national junior female champion, adding to the reserve grand champion female title he won last year in Toronto.
For Shawn Airey of Rivers, Man., however, the national show was closer to home. The breeder sells most of his seedstock regionally and Ag Ex, hosted about half an hour south of his operation, has historically been the largest show on his schedule.
The second-generation breeder has raised Charolais since his father branched into the breed in 1971 and calves about 150 purebred animals today.
“I know I’ve been coming here for over 30 years and Dad came long before that,” the owner of HTA Charolais said.
“When times were tough, it went downhill,” he added. “We lost entries. People couldn’t afford to come. But now prices are getting better again. People are more excited and it’s just gone up and up for the last five years.”
The local breeder has taken local awards, including grand champion bull at previous Ag Ex events, in the past.
The national show was not new to Ag Ex, and Carvey says the fair typically includes a national breed show each year. Last year, Hereford breeders from across Canada made their way to Brandon, while the facility expects to host the national shorthorn show in 2018.
The cattle show in general had more entries in 2017, with over 800 commercial and purebred cattle shown over the four days.