For many decades, the Angus carload (10 head) and pen (3 head) shows have been a staple at the National Western Stock Show in Denver, Colorado. Traditionally, the show only showcased bulls, but this year, for the very first time, the show also featured a heifer pen show.
“We have wanted to start the heifer show since the Herefords started doing it. We have a lot of breeders who wanted to promote their heifers, so we thought this would be a good way to do that,” said Jaclyn Clark, American Angus Association events and education director.
The show this year featured four exhibitors from the states of Colorado, Kansas, Montana and Nebraska. “For our first year, we had nine entries and four that actually showed. We feel that was a good turn out. We know this event will continue to grow, and the interest in it has been really good,” said Chelsea Smith, assistant director of events and education, American Angus Association.
She continued, “It is a good sign that we had the number of entries that we did. The entries were due back in November, so sometimes producers sell a heifer from their pen, or maybe they are calving right now and had to miss the show. So we were happy with the breeders who came.”
The champion pen of three heifers was exhibited by McCurry Angus Ranch of Burrton, Kansas. They also had the first place pen in the yearling division.
“It means a lot to win this show. It is an endorsement by fellow breeders and cattlemen, and our breeding program and the type of cattle that we are breeding,” said John McCurry.
McCurry Angus Ranch decided to enter the pen show because they wanted to take advantage of this new opportunity. “It is just a fresh, new perspective of evaluating females from a cattleman’s perspective,” he said.
McCurry has competed at the National Western Stock Show for years, both on the hill (individual shows in the Stadium Arena) and in the yards. “These females probably would not be able to compete up there [on the hill], but we are proud of them. They are what we want to raise and promote. They were three consistent heifers, so we decided to bring them, and we wanted to support the pen heifer show. We picked these three because of the combination of performance and phenotype,” he explained.
McCurry is a fifth-generation rancher, who has a passion for the Angus industry. “I like their versatility. They are so maternal, yet they can cover all the different facets of the industry. Some people have said that through all the different fads, we have tried to kill the Angus female hundreds of times, but they are so good that we cannot,” he said.
McCurry Angus Ranch was named the Beef Improvement Federation Seedstock Producer of the Year in 2015.
The reserve champion pen of three heifers was exhibited by Bear Mountain Angus of Palisade, Nebraska, who was also the first place pen in the early calf division. Bobcat Angus LLP of Galata, Montana, was second and Colorado State University of Fort Collins, Colorado, was third in that division.
For the show, the judges utilize the EPD information provided on the animals and evaluate the phenotype of the cattle in front of them. They look at each heifer individually and then at all three together. The heifers are shown loose, and not on a halter. The best pen is selected based on the genotype and phenotype, and the three that match and are superior in quality. Judges want the set that best represents the breed and are consistent.
The pen and carload show was initially developed for breeders to show the uniformity in their herds, so large producers could buy a set of cattle that would produce consistent offspring in a herd. Denver had the facilities to do the pen and carload shows, so that’s where it started. The National Western Stock Show is the only pen and carload show today in existence.
Many breeders utilize the show to help market their cattle. “We felt the heifer show was a great opportunity for our breeders, and a great marketing tool. Most of the producers come here to exhibit and may sell these heifers later, but their participation in this will help them to market their cattle,” stated Smith.
When focusing on a set of cattle, instead of just the individual, consistency is very important. “Here we see heifers that will make good mamas, and that speaks to the breeders that are trying to raise these types of cows. Showing at these shows helps to get your name out there, and there is a good selection of people who come to these shows who are looking to buy,” she explained.
The bull pen and carload show has always boasted a large number of entries. In the bull pen and carload shows, the bulls that show in one show (either pen or carload) cannot show in the other show. Most breeders do one or the other, but some of the bigger breeders do both or bring multiple pens, according to Smith.
“We had a deep set of quality cattle at this show, and I am happy with it. As for the heifers, we wanted to start with the pen show, and if we find success with that, we may look at maybe doing a carload for heifers in the future,” stated Clark.
The heifer pen show was held between the bull carload show and the bull pen show. Hundreds of producers and buyers filled the livestock center to watch the show.
“We feel this event was a success and look forward to greater participation in the future. It takes a lot of effort on the part of the producers to get to Denver, so we really appreciate their commitment,” said Smith.
She added, “We want to give a big ‘thank you’ to the breeders. We look forward to growth in the heifer pen show and genetic success with our breeders.”
Robyn Scherer-Carlson is a freelance writer based in Colorado.
PHOTO 1: McCurry Angus Ranch (left) was the grand champion pen of heifers at the 2016 National Western Stock Show. Bear Mountain Angus (right) was reserve.
PHOTO 2: McCurry Royal Lady 4170 was one of three in the McCurry's champion pen of heifers at the 2016 National Western Stock Show.
PHOTO 3: Jera Pipkin, Miss American Angus, and Hunter Royer, Indiana Angus Jr. Princess, present the champion and reserve champion pen of three heifers banners. Photos by Robyn Scherer-Carlson.