Farmfair vital to marketing, say winners Quality, not quantity, is focus of breeding program
EDMONTON — Lee and Dawn Wilson are modest in their answers, but the couple from Bashaw, Alta., must be doing something right after winning supreme champion bull, supreme champion female and supreme breeders herd at Farmfair for the second year in a row.
“It is a consensus of opinion. Every single animal in the ring is a champion, so it could go to any one of them. We are fortunate to be named supreme, but there are so many really extremely good cattle in our industry. I guess we’re lucky,” Dawn said moments after six judges named their Red Angus bull, Black Angus female and breeders herd best of the 12 breeds in the show ring.
“I am just speechless, it is just amazing, absolutely amazing,” said Dawn, whose family won another two trucks to go along with the pair won last year, bringing their total to five trucks won in recent years.
Building a herd of winning cattle isn’t an overnight success, said Dawn, who began showing and building a cattle herd more than 40 years ago and continued with her husband when they were married 24 years ago.
“We focus on females in our herd, but when we get the bulls along the way we are thrilled,” said Dawn, whose family runs the Miller Wilson farm.
“It’s been a lot of years breeding. You can’t take away from the rest of the breed champions.”
The couple continually searches for cattle that will fit in with their breeding program.
“There is all kind of good cattle in Canada and the world, and it’s a matter of going out there and seeing what is out there that fits in with your herd,” she said.
“We focus on sound structural cattle, feet and muscle, the same as everyone else. We are always on the search for something new.”
The couple runs 120 cows on their central Alberta farm, focusing on genetics, embryo and semen sales.
“We don’t have a really large herd, but we try and focus on a good quality animal.”
Wilson said her family spends hours working with the cattle, both at home and at shows throughout the year. Their next trip is to Canadian Western Agribition in Regina.
“We are very, very lucky to have three kids involved and nieces and nephews that are tremendously helpful to us,” she said.
“There are good cattlemen within our family, but a lot of good cattlemen within this industry we look to for guidance and direction as well.”
Wilson said they don’t always get the breeding right. What looks good originally doesn’t turn out to be the showstopper they’re looking for.
“Often we’re right, but sometimes we’re wrong, but that’s the fun of breeding cattle. You’re trying to mix parts and come up with the best piece you can make and that really is where our passion lies is in breeding.”
Lee said it’s those years of trial and error that have built their cattle herd.
“We change our mind daily and they come and go,” said Lee, after the judges slapped the back of his Red Angus bull declaring it the supreme champion.
Shows like Farmfair play a vital role in their marketing strategy, helping to show off their herd to people from overseas and across Alberta. Winning supreme champion is just one more way of encouraging prospective buyers to visit their farm, he said.
“It’s always great advertising, but it allows us to advertise internationally and adds credibility to our program. If people aren’t at the show, people can look at the results and say, OK, someone thought they were good animals,” he said.
“You have to show to export. You have to let our customers know how we stand within our peers.”