To win best of breed is one thing. But to be named best of show can mean bullish business, say former winners of the Calgary Stampede’s beef supreme contest.
“To win breed is quite an accomplishment. But to win overall is the best of the best. It’s awesome,” said Dawn Miller of the Miller Wilson Angus farm near Bashaw, northeast of Red Deer.
Last year, Miller and her husband Lee Wilson showed the supreme champion bull at the Calgary Stampede’s international livestock show.
Nineteen beef breeds competed for the supreme champion title, and each competing animal had been named grand champion in its own breed show.
This year’s beef supreme contest will be held July 15, on the final Sunday during Stampede, which runs July 6-15.
Miller and Wilson also showed the supreme champion female in 1999. That cow, a two-year-old Red Angus, went on to win at the Canadian Western Agribition in Regina which brings together the top cattle from the largest shows in Canada and the U.S.
The Stampede win comes with a $10,000 cheque, but the benefits to business are the real boost, said Dawn.
“The impact on business is phenomenal,” she said. “In actual direct sales, we do between $5,000 and $10,000 worth of business at Stampede. But the aftermath is even greater.”
After the Red Angus supreme female win, the farm sold about $10,000 worth of embryos, with Germany the biggest buyer, Dawn said.
“When you get to sit in that supreme alley, it exposes you to the international market.”
It took Rob and Gail Hamilton six attempts to win a beef supreme championship at the Calgary Stampede, but last year was their turn to stand in the winner’s circle with their Black Angus cow and bull calf. Four months later, the cow was named Agribition grand champion.
Winning at Stampede allows you to enter the Agribition supreme championship — which also comes with a $10,000 cheque — as well as more than $60,000 in stock trailers, veterinary supplies and other prizes.
“It sure helps with expenses,” said Rob who ranches with Gail near Cochrane, west of Calgary.
They raise about 200 cows on their Hamilton Farms and will be showing between 12 to 15 animals at this year’s Stampede livestock show.
The $10,000 prize is “nothing to sneeze at,” but farm name recognition alone makes the show worthwhile, Rob said.
“The Calgary Stampede is a major show. It’s synonymous with good cattle,” he said. Exposure at the Stampede has attracted visitors to the farm’s annual bull sale.
Taking first place in the beef supreme increases the value of the winning animal, as well as the value of its offspring, said Hamilton, who sold a calf from his winning cow for $16,000.
The show’s international flavour also sets it apart from other summer shows, he added. “You’re not just there to win a ribbon. You want a big audience, and you get that with the Calgary Stampede.”
The Hamiltons have made contacts in Germany, Australia and the U.S.
“It may be 10 years before you make a business deal, but you keep in touch. They know our name.”
No other agricultural show has the same worldwide recognition, said Dawn. “There are other international shows, but the Stampede is perceived as being the biggest. So if you win there, people know you have a quality animal.”
There is a “bulge of export cattle” following the Stampede, said agriculture manager Don Stewart.
About 1,600 people, representing more than 30 countries, register as international visitors at the agriculture pavilion, he said.
During Stampede, more than 1,000 exhibitors are involved in more than 70 international stock show events and educational displays, Stewart said.
A survey four years ago indicated 39 per cent of the Stampede’s visitors attend the agriculture events.
The 10-day Stampede has its roots in agriculture, with the city holding its first agricultural fair in 1886.
Its annual livestock shows gave producers the opportunity to showcase their animals, as well as encouraging wealthy businessmen who were moving West from Eastern Canada to invest in the ranching industry.
The Stampede became part of the Exhibition crop and livestock show in 1923. Preserving this agricultural heritage continues to be the driving force behind the Stampede, Stewart said.