Farmfair scouts for market opportunities

Exposure produces sales | The international buyers program offers incentives to attend the Edmonton show

EDMONTON — They are often hard to spot in the barns, but international buyers pack an important financial punch at cattle shows.

International buyers have spent more than $1.5 million since 2010, buying cattle, embryos and semen from 11 cattle breeds at Farmfair International, said Stuart Cullum, vice-president of agriculture at Northlands.

“When they come to our shows, they are here to do business.”

Angus breeder Dawn Wilson said international buyers are an important part of Miller Wilson, the cattle business she helps run near Bashaw, Alta.

“It’s one of the markets we certainly focus on and it’s one of the reasons we come to venues like Farmfair,” she said.

“You get all these international people here that you can’t necessarily get to your farm. They can see a snippet of everyone’s operation.… It’s a great way to market your cattle.”

Two of Miller Wilson’s cattle won national grand champion female and national grand champion male at the National Angus Show in Mexico this year.

They were both bought through Farmfair International’s international buyer program, which helps bring pre-qualified international buyers to the show and offers them up to $1,000 for travel expenses.

Cullum said Farmfair screens the buyers to ensure they have their own cattle, have bought cattle in the past and can afford to buy cattle.

“It’s a hook in a sense to get them coming to our show.”

Cullum recently returned from a trade mission to Eastern Europe to entice more international buyers to the show next year. He hopes to attract buyers from Kazakhstan and Russia.

“There’s a great opportunity in those two countries, where they want to increase their beef herds and they view western Canadian genetics as not only world class but very conducive to the conditions they have.”

Hector Robles of Mexico is a returning buyer looking for more Canadian genetics. It was his cattle, which he bought from Miller Wilson last year, that won top prizes in the National Angus Show.

Speaking through an interpreter, Robles said Angus cattle from Canada have worked well with his breeding program.

“They have worked with this breed for several years and are comfortable with this breed and like the quality of this breed,” he said.

“Their goal is to cross breed the genetics he has down there with the Canadian lines. He is looking for muscle, bone and also some milk production.”

Wilson said international buyers are attracted to good cattle wherever they’re from.

“Obviously, they’re successful with Canadian genetics, so that is wonderful,” she said.

“Worldwide, people like good structured cattle. Sometimes they like them a little bigger, sometimes a little more moderate, but in general they’re liking the same kind,” she said.

Rachael Wheeler’s visit to Farmfair is her fifth trip to Canada in the past two years, buying Canadian cattle for her family operation, Hollywood Angus, and representing other Australian cattle breeders.

She said Canadian cattle are starting to get a lot of attention in Australia, especially cattle that are earlier maturing than traditional Australian breeds.

Last year Wheeler bought cattle from Miller Wilson, and the newborn calves from Miller Wilson’s supreme bull and cow have started to attract attention in Australia.

“They are absolutely sensational calves. They are probably the top of our drop.”

Wheeler is in the process of working out semen rights on one Canadian bull and buying a “fair package” of embryos. She is also looking at buying live heifers that will stay in Canada until their embryos can be exported to Australia.

“In the future, it’s something we want to build our herd on,” Wheeler said as she watched the Angus show.

Her family was also watching the show in Australia through live internet streaming and comparing notes on preferred cattle.

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