Barn boss a referee and coach

At Agribition | Organizing the barns and stalls is like a fall vacation for one boss

REGINA —Jim Hallberg heads to Canadian Western Agribition every year for a week’s vacation as barn boss.

With his wife at home feeding their herd of commercial cattle, Hallberg joins 18 other bosses, plus one supervisor, to make sure that the more than 500 exhibitors and their more than 5,000 animals have a rewarding experience while following commonsense rules.

“It’s kind of like an extended family to me,” Hallberg said. “I know all the breeders and we get along pretty well. I respect what they do, they respect what I do, and I just call it my fall vacation.”

This is Hallberg’s seventh year as boss of the Red and Black Angus breed, the largest at Agribition. There are 105 Angus exhibitors and 545 animals, which represents one-third of the total number of purebred beef exhibitors and animals.

This is also Hallberg’s second time being boss. He spent a decade as boss 20 years ago.

Boards of directors from each of the individual breeds choose their bosses, while Agribition’s board selects the barn boss supervisor.

Once the number of exhibitors and the number of animals for each exhibitor is determined, the bosses design the space each exhibitor needs and directs them to their stalls.

“It’s our job to stall these cattle in the most mannerly way and the way they fit together,” he said.

Hallberg compares the job of barn boss to a hockey referee and coach rolled into one.

“We basically are there to keep our group of people, which in my case are the Angus people, making sure the rules are followed that Agribition sets down,” he said.

“It’s just like a hockey game. There are penalties. They know it and I’m upfront with them.”

Animals need to be stalled no later than 8 a.m. and can’t leave their barn until 6 p.m. each day. Stalls need to be kept tidy and clean.

“Keep them orderly, make sure they get along with their neigbour and it’s usually pretty easy. They’re usually a pretty easy group to handle,” he said.

He said he’s occasionally had to tune in an exhibitor.

“The bad (thing) is somebody breaks a rule and he’s a friend of yours. You can’t think of him as a friend. You have to go lay the law down to him.… I always give them one benefit of the doubt.”

“I give them one shot and I don’t write them up. The second shot I write them up,” he said.

“I don’t consider myself the boss. I consider myself an equal and if you treat me that way, I’ll treat you the same way.”

This is Bob Jackson’s second year as supervisor of the barn bosses. Conflicts are rare, but he’s learned strategies that have worked well.

“I treat people how I like to be treated,” said Jackson, a former barn boss of the Charolais breed for 10 years.

“And the other rule I have as a supervisor is I never argue. If someone is being really belligerent to me, I just turn and walk away because they can’t argue with themselves, and then come back later and solve it.”

Agribition pioneered the barn boss program in the early1980s when breeder organizations started choosing their individual bosses.

“That’s why the show is number one in the world, they say, because of the barn boss program and how we keep things going,” said Gordie Craig, 13-year boss of the Polled and Horned Hereford breed.

“Everybody works together,” he said.

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