Health of cattle industry reflected in event’s attendance

EDMONTON — Exhibitors, visitors, cattle and spending were all up at Farmfair this year, says the president of Northlands, which hosts the event.

Tim Reid said the health of the cattle industry is reflected in the numbers at Farmfair.

Attendance was up 30 percent over previous years after the first two days of the event. Reid said concession sales have doubled, and cattle numbers are up.

“There are more animals here than we have had in decades. The participation is way, way up. The international delegation is much stronger than we ever thought it would be. That also speaks to the health of the industry,” said Reid.

“The agriculture industry is in such a favourable place right now.”

Slightly more than 950 head of purebred cattle from 16 breeds were shown this year. Twelve of the breeds held shows, and another 200 head of commercial heifers and bulls were shown in other events.

The number of exhibitors was up slightly from last year, but the number of entries jumped 35 percent.

Dawn Wilson of Bashaw, Alta., said there was “tremendous optimism” in the barns this year.

“There are lots of new people getting in, and show numbers are up. The atmosphere is fantastic.”

Wilson said strong livestock prices are likely the main reason for optimism.

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“Any time people have money in their pockets, they’re happy, and we’re farmers and we spend it.”

Peter Boake of Alix, Alta., said he has sensed a positive atmosphere in the barns because of prices and the weather.

“Everyone is loving the nice mild fall, especially after the way summer started. Everyone seems pretty positive,” said Boake, who brought six Shorthorns to the show.

Garth Rancier of Killam, Alta., said there is a “ton of optimism” in the cattle barns.

“Everybody is happy to be here.”

Strong livestock prices are driving the optimism. The downturn in the oil economy is prompting young producers to move back to the farm.

“In the last three years you see a lot of people coming back to the industry.”

Farmfair’s international buyers program, which brings in qualified cattle buyers from around the world, has been a tremendous boost to cattle, semen and embryo sales at the show.

“There is lots of international interest. It’s an unbelievable program they have,” said Rancier.

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Stacy Felkar, international marketing manager of agriculture with Northlands, said more than 150 international buyers and agricultural delegates from 21 countries attended the show this year, which is double last year’s numbers.

Based on previous year’s sales, each international delegate spends an average of $15,000 to $18,000 on livestock and genetics at the sale.

Buyers from Portugal, Finland and Kyrgyzstan attended the show for the first time.

Rancier hosted the international delegation at his Killam farm last year and made embryo sales from the visit.

“There is a ton of interest in Canadian genetics.”

Reid said the international program has the potential to bring even more international delegates to the show in the future.

“We have had a very strong turnout. The international side of Farmfair has grown far more than anything else, but more importantly it has such incredible upside.”

Wilson agreed the program is an important part of the show.

“Farmfair has worked extremely hard, and it has been highly successful. There has been millions of dollars of genetics sold out of the country because of the program,” she said.

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“Each year we meet new clients here. Absolutely every year we make sales because of the inbound buyers program at Farmfair.”