By Candace Krebs
When Cody Beach was getting ready to display his bull Halftime at this year’s Cattlemen’s Congress, he decided to have a little fun.
He designed the sign above the display to look like a scoreboard, showing Oklahoma City 2, Denver 0.
Denver’s pandemic loss — the cancellation of last year’s National Western Stock Show — turned into Oklahoma City’s gain, as organizers scrambled to put together a replacement show and salvage what they could of a tumultuous year. Their efforts were enthusiastically received, and the event returned in 2022 bigger and better, with nearly 10,000 entries, an expanded trade show and a wider selection of herd sires for visitors to view.
More than two dozen breeds held shows and sales in conjunction with the two-week extravaganza, which concluded with a junior market steer show on Jan. 15.
Beach is a third generation registered Limousin breeder from Bristow who got into direct-marketing beef off the farm 13 years ago.
“We started on the front-side of that,” he said. “Around 2010 or 2011 is when that fire first started taking off. In 2011, Bristow had the fastest growing farmers market in the state.”
A few years later he and his family opened a local restaurant, called the Beach House, which also features their beef.
The same pandemic that threatened to upend last year’s show season was challenging for their business as well, but it also had a silver lining.
“The restaurant side of things was hit pretty hard by it, but I probably had more phone calls asking about what it takes to buy meat directly from a farmer,” he said. “We’ve been able to sell everything we can raise.”
In addition, their community gained a new custom meat processor, a huge asset to the Beach family after bouncing around between as many as nine different plants. Watson Farms Processing of Council Hill is one of 19 new facilities that opened across the state last year and among 40 processors statewide to receive CARES Act funding through the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture.
Beach considers having the nation’s pre-eminent cattle show relocate to Oklahoma another bright spot amid the pandemic.
“It’s been a great crowd here,” he said standing next to his prize Limousin-Maine-Angus-bred yearling bull. “I’m a little biased because we live less than an hour away, but I think it’s great.”
Though he often attends the National Western Stock Show, it’s more difficult to take cattle there due to the distance, expense and weather, he said.
Over in a neighboring barn, another bull display paid tribute to an important eastern Kansas roadway.
Highway 69 was the name printed in big bold letters above a purebred Maine-Anjou bull displayed by Gregg Stewart and his son Brig, owners of Mid Continent Farms located at Washington, Kan. The bull is owned in partnership with Three Fires Cattle Co of Lacygne, Kan.
Stewart said he was pleased with the foot traffic and didn’t really miss being in Denver.
The Mile High version of herd bull alley is held out in the stockyards, whereas the bulls in Oklahoma City were spaced out across several large livestock barns.
“It’s a little different. But a stock show is a stock show,” he said with a grin. “This is great. This is a great facility. It was built for this.”
British White, American Aberdeen and Belted Galloway were among the new breeds to join the show this year.
That diversity is one of the things that appealed to Jarred Britton, who owns Britton Livestock Services of Broken Arrow.
“You’ve got people from every breed walking by here and looking at the bulls,” he said. “Everybody I’ve talked to loves it here. I’m glad to have a show of this scale in my home state.”
Britton was at a booth promoting Semex Beef USA, a company that offers semen on around 20 different beef breeds.
The purebred segment of the industry is thriving, he said, with the number of semen companies proliferating in recent years. Artificial insemination makes it cost effective for even small herds to bring the best genetics into their own breeding programs, he said.
“There are a lot of good genetics out there, and a lot of diversity,” he said.
“Some people are sending cattle to the rail, and they’re looking for a more moderate frame, more marbling and a bigger rib-eye. Others are focused on material traits and on growing their herd from a single cow. They are mostly aimed at getting replacement females.”
In turn, the purebred industry serves commercial cattlemen, who are looking to produce high quality beef as efficiently as possible.
“If they can deliver on that, it doesn’t really matter what the breeds are,” he said.
Britton has been a sales representative with the company since 2016.
“I grew up with an agricultural background and wanted something to provide me with a supplemental income,” he explained. “I sold my cows to go to college, and I wanted to get back into agriculture. By being involved with semen sales, I was able to use that income to get back into the cattle business.”
In 2020, he started a small registered Angus herd with a business partner.
As someone who grew up showing cattle and pigs at the Oklahoma Youth Expo, he wasn’t surprised by the quality and professionalism of the Cattlemen’s Congress knowing the history of the organizers behind the show.
“They do an exceptional job,” he said.
Among those making the rounds at the Oklahoma City fairgrounds was Governor Kevin Stitt, who came out on at least two occasions to shake hands and show his support for an event that injected $50 million in revenue into the state’s economy in its inaugural year.
In addition, Governor Stitt continually has touted the importance of providing a venue for last year’s national cattle sales, which generated $10 million, a figure that by all indications will be easily surpassed in 2022.
“It’s great to be in a state where your governor stands behind the industry the way he does,” Britton said.
Krebs is an Enid freelance writer. This article first appeared in Farm Talk.