The National Western Stock Show is one of the best places to do so, as producers can view hundreds of prospects in nearly every breed and make the selection that fits their needs.

Scherer robyn
Freelance Writer
Robyn Scherer-Carlson is a freelance writer based in Colorado.

“National Western Stock Show is a meeting and marketing point for all livestock producers,” says Erin Dorsey, manager for livestock operations. “We have a central location, and we have a lot of history. It’s been a place for people to provide livestock to producers from across the country.”

She continues, “We are the only livestock show in the country that has a yard show, where producers can show pens and carloads.

"We provide an area for producers to showcase their livestock, and we have some of the best livestock in the U.S. that comes here.”

The key to finding the right animal is in the preparation. “Producers hoping to make a purchase at NWSS should do their homework before making the trip to Denver,” says Ryan Peterson, herdsman and sales manager at Leachman Cattle of Colorado.


He gives a couple of tips for producers to take care of before they ever leave the ranch. “Clearly identify goals for herd improvement, establish a budget and don’t have the mindset of having to leave NWSS with a purchase,” he says.

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Producers should have a plan for what they want to improve in their herd and should only stick to seedstock that helps them meet those goals.

The key to a budget is: Once a budget is set, a producer must stick to that budget.

It can be tempting to go over, but this can harm the ranch’s profitability.

“The beauty of a live auction is price discovery for the value of the genetics at that given place and time,” Peterson says. “Establish a budget and stick to it, or know what the added value of a lower birthweight, higher growth or better carcass bull is worth to your operation to justify spending more or less on those genetics.

Sale managers for auctions at National Western will have sale averages for previous years and can help indicate what the current market is doing for bulls or females.”

Many buyers attend an auction wanting to bring an animal home, but sometimes this is not possible due to quality of the animals and price.

Producers should not purchase an animal that does not fit their needs just to have something to take home.

All of the sales provide sale catalogs, which are available on the NWSS website, according to Dorsey. This catalog will allow buyers to see the offerings, as well as which seedstock producers will be in attendance.

“Regional breed association representatives and the NWSS office will have a good idea of what breeders will be in attendance, so take time ahead of your trip to research their operations and make sure their objectives and genetic selection philosophies match that of your own,” Peterson says. “Take the time at NWSS to visit with the producers of the cattle you are interested in and ask as many questions as you can think of.”

Producers should also have a familiarity with EPDs and what the averages are for the breed they are buying.

An easy way to have this information on hand is through a phone app, such as Beef Cattle EPDs. This app can gives producers EPD explanations and averages for all of the major breeds.

“EPDs are still the best tools to accurately predict the impact of an animal on your herd’s performance,” says Peterson. “Cattle that have high-accuracy EPD parents with proven track records of performance rarely disappoint.”

There are also several other tools producers can use, such as selection indices. “Selection indices help to simplify your selection process by scientifically balancing the important traits.

Again, doing your homework ahead of time to understand what goes into those indices and their trade-offs will be very beneficial,” he said.

Another technology buyers can use is DNA profiles. “DNA profiles from Pfizer Animal Genetics and Igenity can help strengthen the accuracy of EPDs and are incorporated into an animal’s EPD profile by its respective breed association.

Obtain any performance data you can on your animals of interest and talk to the breeder about its pedigree and performance history of its parents,” Peterson states.

However, buyers should also visually inspect the cattle before they purchase them, to make sure they are sound and healthy.

“NWSS is known for bringing in the highest quality of cattle in the country. Even with EPDs and DNA profiles, visually inspecting cattle is still very important,” he says.

He continues, “When evaluating your potential purchase, be sure the basics are there. Sound structure, good feet and legs, testicle size in bulls, udder quality in females and disposition are important.

Inquire into the animal’s current diet and what their herdmates back home are eating. Understand that the cattle have been fed to express their genetic potential and once they get home and adapt to a new environment and different management, they may look or perform differently.”

During the actual auction, buyers should remember the resources they have available. “As always, work with the staff running the auctions or NWSS staff to coordinate private treaty sales, to ensure health papers and brand inspections are completed accurately and timely and to ensure fairness between both parties,” he says.

For those not able to purchase the animal they wanted, private treaties are also a great way to buy seedstock. “In private treaty sales, you have the ability to negotiate price with the seller. Use this to your advantage,” says Peterson.

Buying livestock at the NWSS can be a great experience for producers, as they can see a variety of type and kind within a breed. If producers make proper preparations, they can find the right animal for their herd.  end mark

Robyn Scherer is a freelance writer based in Colorado.


TOP: Evaluate show cattle closely for sound structure and disposition. Ask about the animal’s diet and what herdmates back home are eating.

BOTTOM: Producers should stick with their plan to improve their herd and buy according to their prearranged budget. Photos courtesy of Robyn Scherer.

Denver officials work to keep NWSS at historic site

Officials from the city of Denver and the National Western Stock Show announced in mid-November a commitment to keep the iconic and century-old event at its historic location.

The city will seek ways to help improve facilities and find long-term sustainability through its economic development agencies.

This year will be the 107th NWSS at the 95-acre complex in Denver’s Elyria-Swansea neighborhood.

Mayor Michael Hancock worked with NWSS officials this past year to learn business, financial and facility plans, and had Denver Urban Renewal Authority review possible facility improvements on the complex.

“The National Western is a cherished cultural and economic asset that enriches our Western heritage,” Hancock said. “We stand at the ready to help them find a sustainable model that will deliver long-term success to the complex and the surrounding neighborhood.”

The city agencies and NWSS will conduct a feasibility study by VISIT DENVER and Arts & Venues Denver.

The study will evaluate market demand and assess the facility and amenity characteristics needed to accommodate those markets.

In August, the National Western also created a Business Plan Committee composed of local business and community leaders.

The committee’s mission is to assist the stock show in defining its brand and provide input into plans for the future.