Manitoba Livestock Expo brings in nearly 600 head of show cattle

Best turnout in recent memory indicates optimism returning to province’s cattle sector after a dismal decade

If the record number of entries at the Manitoba Livestock Expo is any indication, the province’s beef sector is well on its way to recovery after a dismal decade.

Event co-chairs Albert Rimke and Ron Kristjansson said about 570 head of purebred and commercial cattle were brought in to compete in over a dozen show categories.

“I think we’re starting to look pretty good,” said Rimke, who brought in 15 head from his own operation, AM Ranching, near Oak Lake.

The lingering effects of BSE hit the commercial cattle sector hard, with many farmers beset by low prices opting to exit the industry.

Purebred breeders took a thumping, too, as many cash-strapped ranchers put off purchases of top genetics or opted for cheaper alternatives such as trading and bartering with neighbours for bulls, added Rimke.

“It took a lot of years to get over that big hump. It seems optimistic now,” added Kristjansson.

Wild weather in recent years also dampened sentiment in the cattle business, with both drought and drenching floods cutting into bottom lines.

“There’s guys within half an hour of Brandon who were severely affected by flooding,” he said. “And then they had neighbours two miles away who were affected by drought at the same time.”

During the depths of BSE, purebred breeders still found good prices for their elite bulls – which often went to other purebred operations – but faced mediocre prices for the bulk of their bull production.

The Brandon show was also host to a sale of top Simmentals formerly held each year in Alberta, drawn by support from the 80 or more purebred breeders active in the province.

In the sale of 50 head plus embryos and semen which sets the pace for upcoming fall sales, one bred heifer fetched the top price of $28,000.

“We’ve had Simmental sales here before, but not of that calibre,” said Richard Bramley, a second-generation breeder from Minnedosa.

The Taste of Beef promotion, featuring a dozen or so dishes prepared by students from Assiniboine Community College’s Culinary Arts Program, served up a feast of local beef for about 500 diners at the bargain price of $15 each.

Sponsored by the Canadian Limousin Association, the hormone-free, “natural” beef for the buffet was provided by Cochrane Stock Farms of Alexander and processed at Renard’s Meats, a small abattoir near Virden.

Recipes for the dishes have been posted online via the Provincial Exhibition’s website.

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