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    Tara Mulhern Davidson
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    Ponteix, Saskatchewan
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    Tara Mulhern Davidson ranches in southwest Saskatchewan, along with her husband Ross. They operate the Lonesome Dove Ranch, where they raise commercial and purebred Gelbvieh cattle, ranch horses, working cattle dogs, and of course, their three young children. Tara writes a biweekly column on ranch life and also works in the grassland, forage and beef sectors as a consultant.

No Business like Show Business

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Livestock exhibits and cattle shows are a unique way to market animals, and they also present an opportunity to agvocate.

no-business-like-show-businessFall is a busy time of year for livestock farmers across Canada. Feed is hauled in, calves are weaned, and cattle are sorted and shipped. For some cattle farmers, autumn is also synonymous with the much-anticipated “show season.”

Livestock exhibits are a great way for cattle producers to showcase their animals, market their commercial and purebred cattle genetics, and engage with current and potential clients around the world. Cattle shows are always a great time for friends to catch up with one another, and they are also a great opportunity for many generations to work together. You often see young kids pitching in at the stalls alongside their parents or grandparents, learning the value of caring for animals, and the importance of commitment. In the show ring, kids learn respect, the pride of accomplishment, and how to be a good sport, while making new friends and learning skills along the way.

Cattle shows are also a great time to agvocate. School groups, international tours, and interested members of the public often walk through the displays in awe. Exhibitors can use this opportunity to engage with curious consumers, answer questions, and put a face to farming for many visitors. Here are a few tips:

Introduce yourself and invite questions: For many visitors, this may be the first time they have ever met a farmer, let alone been up close and personal with a show animal. As an exhibitor, you have an opportunity to share your story and have a positive conversation about how beef is produced. Simply ask the visitor if they have any questions. If they have concerns, respond by explaining how you actually address those concerns on your farm.

It’s all in the details: To people who are a part of the show cattle subculture, certain things like bathing a bovine, blow-drying their hair, or giving cattle a quick haircut, may seem like second nature. To the curious public however, these activities may warrant a quick explanation. It’s true that cattle typically don’t get beauty treatments out on the range, however when cattle are competing in the show ring, they certainly want to put their best hoof forward.

Set boundaries: While those sweet show animals with the kind-looking eyes may have fluffy, soft fur, it is important to explain to inquisitive visitors that they are still animals. Even though cattle are safely tied up, animals can still pull back unexpectedly, or even shift their weight or step on an unsuspecting set of toes. For the safety and wellbeing of the public as well as your animals, clearly communicate to any stall visitors whether they are allowed to touch the animals, and how and where they may give them a pat.

Be patient and listen: If cattle exhibitors had a nickel for every time we heard “Eeewww! What’s that smell?!” we would have a lot of jingle in our jeans. The reality is that many visitors do get sidetracked by certain things, but manure happens! It is best to acknowledge the situation but re-focus the discussion to other things they may find more interesting. Everyone’s perspective is different, and a quick trip to the city always reminds me that I don’t enjoy crowds, something that urban spectators likely don’t even notice.

Canada is home to several world-renowned livestock exhibits and many show barns will be buzzing in the next few months. While showing cattle involves friendly competition and camaraderie among cattle enthusiasts, it also provides an opportunity to share your passion for cattle to a diverse audience of consumers.

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