EDMONTON — Showing cattle might be the ultimate male bonding experience for three generations of Flewelling men.
Craig Flewelling, his son, Curtis, and 12 year-old grandson, Nathan, work together preparing their polled Herefords for events such as the Olds Fall Classic and Farmfair International. Their herd at Bowden, Alta., may be small at 25 cows, but they have produced champions over the years.
“This is our bonding time together,” said Craig.
Added Nathan: “Our bonding is washing the cows.”
The Farmfair Hereford judge gave them the nod and they won grand bull and female championships and were named premier breeder and exhibitor.
The grand champion female was Nathan’s 4-H heifer project and the family knew she had potential from the beginning.
That bred heifer also stood in the Supreme circle at Farmfair, and although she did not win the big prize, being there is good publicity.
“It’s fun because you know there are lots of people watching and you want to show well and it is good for our breed,” said Curtis.
Farmfair International, held from Nov. 7-11 in Edmonton, is a major event for the Flewellings.
“We are here to meet potential bull customers and local people to sell cattle privately,” said Curtis, who also works off the farm as a banker.
“Our biggest motivation is to try to meet potential customers.”
They are also looking to meet commercial producers who live within driving distance of their place near Bowden because they sell everything off the farm.
It is also a fun and educational experience for Nathan, who has to take time off school, where he is an honour student, and keep his commitments to hockey, where he plays peewee defence in Olds.
“It was my choice to come,” said Nathan.
Showing takes skill, and breeders tend to make their own luck.
“When you’ve had a good show and you have been around the block enough times, you really enjoy it when it happens. It takes a lot of hard work and it might not happen next year,” said Curtis.
Added Craig, who showed the supreme bull at Canadian Western Agribition in 2004: “The stars don’t always line up every year.”
The Flewellings originally raised Angus at Westlock, Alta., and got into polled Herefords in 1978. They moved to Bowden, where Craig managed Kilmorlie Farms, a large Hereford operation at the time owned by George Hervie and later an American family.
He worked with that company from 1978-94 and then went on his own.
“We had one of the most successful polled Hereford operations in North America,” he said.
He was also involved in Herefords Today magazine.
Craig is often seen at purebred beef sales across the country, where he freelances as a ringman, taking bids and providing chatter to keep the crowd enthused.
There are production sales every day throughout the fall and winter, and it gives him a good opportunity to watch the markets.
Sale averages are relatively good this year, but prices are under some pressure because of drought and uncertainty as the Canadian herd continues in a holding pattern with no growth.
“Nobody wants to buy just another one. They are prepared to buy a good one, but they don’t want to just increase numbers. Most people want to add something that will better them,” said Craig.
“There is always a demand for good ones.”
The travel takes him from home for long stretches, but he has made friends across the country.
“There are not many towns where I don’t know where the beds are and decent places to eat,” he said.