Producers welcome return to the ring

Organizers say last week’s Stockade Round-up in Lloydminster is the only cattle show to be held in Canada this year

LLOYDMINSTER, Sask. — A sense of homecoming washed over a gathering of western Canadian cattle producers Nov. 4-7 as they participated in the only cattle show held this year, the annual Lloydminster Agricultural Exhibition Association Stockade Round-up.

“This is the most normal thing that we’re doing this year. Showing cattle in the fall is something we’ve done since the ’80s and this is the only show that’s going and we’re really happy to be here,” said Richard Moellenbeck from Englefeld, Sask., as he walked his Shorthorn heifer calf out of the wash bay.

Brad Tkacik was part of a fitting crew that put the finishing touches on a Black Angus bull before heading to the show ring.

“We’re one big family here. We’re hungry for this and it’s like we’re all friends, but it’s still a competition,” he said.

The four-day event included purebred cattle shows as well as the bull and heifer jackpot shows, junior events, premier exhibitor and breeder awards and the supreme show.

“This is the only cattle show in Canada for 2020,” said Jenelle Saskiw, executive director of the Lloydminster Agricultural Exhibition Association.

Now in its 43rd year, the show provides an opportunity for purebred producers to market their cattle and their genetics.

Virginia Peters and family from Purdue, Sask., have been making the annual two-hour trek for more than a decade to market their purebred Simmentals.

Because it’s the only show this year, Peters said there were many new entrants.

“There are people that have never been here before … down by Regina and southern Saskatchewan, because it was their only show to come to. They had made a plan for their fall show run and it didn’t happen,” she said.

“So all those genetics are here and they’re showcasing their programs and the show grew big time because there was nothing else for people to go to.”

While other long-standing cattle events were cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions, Saskiw said a combination of co-operation, tenacity and good timing allowed organizers to produce this year’s show while following health protocols.

“We had many discussions over it with our committee and management team. We’re kind of a mix between a trade show and an outdoor event. We had a really great response from the business response team from Saskatchewan and Sask Health, working through protocols, design, layouts, flow of people, and looking at regulations to see how we can make this happen,” she said.

Producers who competed within the past three years had the first opportunities to enter, followed by newcomers and previous exhibitors like Moellenbeck, who had not shown for six years.

However, he said he may need to improve his typing skills if future shows require online registration like the Stockade Round-up did. It sold out in less than 30 minutes.

“I had all my (pedigree) stuff organized and laid out at 9 a.m. I thought I did pretty good. I think I hit the send button at 9:35 and a little while later I found I was on the waiting list. So I guess I’ve got to type faster,” he said with a laugh.

A few weeks later, the Shorthorn breeder was contacted and allowed to bring three animals: a two-year-old bull, bull calf and heifer calf. He was lucky because several exhibitors didn’t make it past the waiting list.

Social distancing requirements and guidelines limited the number of attendees at shows to 150, excluding participants, staff and volunteers.

Visitors entered a dedicated door, washed their hands and had a digital temperature taken before signing in. Masks were mandatory in the show ring and marshaling areas, while bleacher seating and participants at the wash rack were socially distanced.

Kailey Brandl of Jarvie, Alta., leads her Black Angus yearling bull in the senior yearling bull class. | William DeKay photo

Cattle booths increased from six to 14 feet, stalls doubled from four to eight feet and walking laneways increased from six to 14 feet.

A third pavilion was also opened, which allowed the event to host 500 animals, an increase from past years.

Several jumbo viewing screens were mounted in the barns, which allowed attendees to keep an eye on the show ring while fitting their cattle before their class.

“They don’t have to come into the show ring area and that was to eliminate the movement of people throughout the building,” said Saskiw.

“Everybody loves (the screens). They can be in the convenience of their stall, watching the show and knowing what time it is and when they’re up. So that’s definitely a feature that we’re going to keep.”

Also popular was a virtual component that broadcast the show internationally through YouTube.

Mike Panasiuk from Airdrie, Alta., has been showing his purebred Charolais for six years and puts the Lloydminster venue at the top of the cross-Canada tour he makes each November.

“I’ve never seen so many contacts in my years coming here as this year. I think everybody’s just excited to get out and see how it is going to operate and transpire going forward, and what we have to do to make adjustments to our marketing and that type of thing,” he said.

Added Saskiw: “It’s unique how you see everybody adjust. Maybe this is part of the new norm.”

She said the virtual component could allow the Stockade Round-up and other cattle shows to promote the industry while reaching a wider audience.

“There really are certain aspects I think that we’ll keep forever. I’m not referring to what’s going on right now as a pandemic. It’s an endemic because I think this is the way that we are going to be, moving forward. And it’s up to us to adjust and make the best of it and look for unique opportunities,” Saskiw said.

“Everything that existed prior to March of 2020 doesn’t exist. And there’s no manual on how to move forward through this either. Long-term planning, it’s a futile effort because we don’t know what happens from day to day.”

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