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Does The Show Cattle Industry Need A Wake-Up Call?

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An article appearing on MSN describes the overuse of drugs in the show ring. How should the industry respond?

One of my favorite hobbies is showing the cattle we raise. Since I was five years old, I’ve been helping my dad break bulls for consignment sales and prepare my 4-H steers and heifers for summer shows. I learned a lot from showing cattle. As a kid, they were my responsibility. I washed them each day, which allowed me to really bond with these calves and helped me to fall in love with the beef cattle industry.

Over the years, I’ve felt the sting of last place and the glory of a championship. Even though I disliked the taste of losing, my parents always reminded me that win or lose, at the end of the day, showing cattle was much more than a place in a class line-up.

As I grew older, I became aware of some of the short cuts other showmen took to gain an edge in the show ring. Again, my parents stressed to me that if you can’t win honestly, what is the point? I needed to be proud of the cattle I raised and the honest work I put in to get them ready for the show.

If you’re around the show circuit, I’m sure you know of a few competitors who don’t always follow the rules. This isn’t unique to just the show ring; anytime you have a competitive sport, someone is going to try to gain an edge, honest or otherwise. That doesn’t mean it’s right.

 

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This past summer, the show industry was put in the spotlight when the “fluffy cows” trend hit mainstream media. Everyone wanted to know about those pretty show steers and how they got so much “pretty hair.” It was a chance for the industry to showcase the bright kids, high-quality cattle, and family-bonding that make up cattle shows.

However, a recent article appearing on MSN online titled, “U.S. Farm Kids Lavish Shampoo, Drugs On Prize Cattle,” is less than flattering to the show cattle industry.

Lisa Baertlein and P.J. Huffstutter write, “While performance-boosting drugs are banned in most human competitions, they are generally allowed on the livestock-show circuit. Many also get muscle-building livestock drugs added into animal feed. While performance-boosting drugs are banned today in most human sports competitions, Zilmax and other drugs of a type called beta-agonists are federally approved and generally allowed on the livestock-show circuit. For many contestants, the secret weapon of choice is Zilmax, a controversial feed additive sold by Merck & Co. Zilmax-based feeds can give show kids an edge in the headline competition for market-ready steers and heifers, say show sponsors and competitors.”

While there are some inaccuracies in the article, the tone doesn’t bode well for the beef industry. Of course, it was meant to be sensational. Zilmax, which was recently voluntarily pulled from the U.S. and Canada market while it undergoes additional study, is an FDA-approved product. This mainstream media outlet is taking some liberties in demonizing a legal product. It is not known why some cattle developed lameness when fed Zilmax in the last stage of finishing, and most did not, but the matter is under study while the product is under a voluntary recall by its maker.

What is your opinion on this issue? If it's legal, shouldn't producers have the right to use the products? Should its use be banned on the show circuit? Conversely, consumer perceptions about fluffy cows and livestock shows could quickly change, and the climate might not be so friendly. Do we need to police ourselves and make sure we are doing the morally acceptable (by society’s standards) thing when it comes to cattle shows? What about those who break the rules entirely? How should rules be better enforced at livestock shows? And how should the industry respond to this negative article? These are just a few of the questions I’m mulling over this morning, and I would love to hear your thoughts. Leave your opinions in the comments section below.

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Discuss this Blog Entry 45

Anonymous (not verified)
on Nov 5, 2013

You are talking about beauty contests. Who cares?

Anonymous (not verified)
on Nov 6, 2013

We care. While those of us in the livestock industry understand that the show group is seperate from the production side, people outside of the industry that are less informed see show cattle as the face of the Beef industry. This goes the same for all species.
This is where all of us need to stand up for Agriculture and defend ourselves from articles such as the one discussed in this article. While I am a proponent of using beta agonists, because I understand the science behind the products, I understand and respect the views of others. But quite frankly, us arguing with eachother internally is doing nothing to help. Why not use the show industry to help us in production get the word out about how and why we use these products.

on Nov 5, 2013

It's a sad day when a producer in the BEEF cattle industry says at a show "we don't grow beef, we grow hair". I doubt the general public will pick up on the difference, or the subtleties of hair versus muscle in the show ring but the appeal of a "fuzzy calf" to the kids of the wired world makes the real business of the beef industry that much harder to promote to the public.

Ben Campbell (not verified)
on Nov 5, 2013

All it would take is someone with a cell phone to capture video of what these slime balls do to these calves behind the barns before shows. This video gets leaked to the media or worse yet, an animal rights organization and we can all watch the beef market drop by a nickel or more.
Does anyone remember what big mouthed Oprah did over a decade ago to lose us money. That was done with just her ignorant opinion of red meat.
What would a video be capable of? Remember the average US citizen doesn't know how to distinguish between a commercial producer and a club calf guy.

David P (not verified)
on Nov 5, 2013

I've never understood the idea that the show side of the industry has any bearing on the commercial side of the industry. It's much like saying that the Miss America pageant is a good determinant of what is important to the success of an individual in real life. It doesn't. Overly fat heifers, fluffy hair to lend a perception of additional body mass, rear legs groomed to appear posty, how does any of this lend to the realities of the beef business? If you want show cattle to be relevant, they need to be judged loose and ungroomed (or body-clipped) with ultrasound grid values added as another criteria. One other dirty secret that no one adds is the December calf that's registered and shown as a January. The show ring has done far more harm to breeds of cattle than good in the form of chasing harmful trends such as frame score 10 cattle in the 80's and straight shoulders in the 90's.

avatar (not verified)
on Nov 5, 2013

The show ring has always been somewhat separate from the industry, but it's probably farther apart now. At one time the genetics of show winners got widely dispersed in a breed. Commercial cattlemen went to shows and bought the genetics of winners. Not true today. As for show steers, at one time you stood a good chance of winning a steer show if you could get hold of a line-back Hereford steer out of the Denver Champion bull and female. Not today. The steer show ring has never been farther from the commercial industry.

As for body clipping helping the situation, I live in Texas where all but one of the major steer shows slick shears and believe me it has not made the cattle better, there is just as much art to winning as ever, and jocks are still a big factor.

Ben Campbell (not verified)
on Nov 5, 2013

Since the mid 90's the club calf people have given our industry a bad name. Not to say that they are all unethical but a certain percentage are. Our mainstream liberal media isn't going to give it's viewers stories about the good of beef projects for America's rural youth. How many more soccer moms do we need to skip the beef case and buy chicken?

Rodney. (not verified)
on Nov 5, 2013

I think that any drug like that should be illegal to use. What does it show our kids, that it is ok to cheat? The shows are more for teaching the kids things and how to work hard if you wanna have success. So it would be great to see them be able to test the animals at the shows for any drugs that could help enhance the animal.

ShowKid (not verified)
on Nov 15, 2014

If you're talking about zilmax you are very lost. Since the feedlots have been using that long before the show cattle people. Honestly you all are very lost when it comes to the show industry. I always forget that losers like to peg winners as dirty cheaters! If you actually cared you would walk in the ring with something other than a rat!!

Meadows Ranch (not verified)
on Nov 5, 2013

I will agree with your parents, that if you have to win by cheating than what is the point. The show cattle should represent your animals capabilities without drugs. I think that showing your cattle should represent a good clean way of life that many young people never get to see. Everyone likes to win, but how you play the game is far more important.
Amanda, I like the way you and your parents think. Thanks for your articles.

Roanboy (not verified)
on Nov 5, 2013

I'm not sure if the product is available to all to buy that you can call ita secret wapon.

W.E. (not verified)
on Nov 5, 2013

November 5, 2013--Our son was never one to do anything for show, but when he was 14, we encouraged him to raise a show heifer. We gave him a well-bred weanling heifer out of one of our best-looking current-pedigreed cows, bred to an A. I. bull that we thought would produce better for the show ring than our usual pasture-type cattle. He worked hard, bathed and brushed and walked her daily, came to love her, slept in the show barn right next to her. Some other kids helped him block her. With no experience, and with parents who had always raised cattle with beef in mind, not the showring, he came in at last in a big class. He took the show stick he was awarded for being a good sport, smiled, and told us that he was never going to go through all of that trouble again for something that had nothing at all to do with raising good food for people to eat. We thought that was pretty good wisdom from a 14 year old kid and never suggested such a thing again. In 4-H, riding the mare he trained mostly by himself, he competed and sometimes placed pretty well at the state level against kids who traveled with their own hired trainers and groomers. He grew up to be a sought-after diagnostic mechanic who truly loves the farm and its animals but must live on the outskirts of a major city to find the kind of work that will pay him for his talents. Now he has an infant daughter. I say we need some better way of getting our grandchildren involved in farming and food production than fluffing up calves and feeding them noxious stuff that no cow should consume, all for the sake of the entirely different industry which revolves around the show ring. In our own breed, we avoid most of today's show cattle like the plague, and search the A. I. stud books in vain for animals that we think will do well in our environment to produce quality beef on grass for our customers who want 100% grass-fed beef. Grain-oriented EPDs are virtually useless for that purpose. So yes, we think the entire beef industry needs a wake-up call.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Nov 5, 2013

It is very difficult to regulate a legal product that is being used off label. There is absolutely NO extra label use of any feed product. The product label has specific amounts and duration that must be followed. While we all live in the real world,the show cattle world is anything but. Why the beef industry puts up with this is beyond me. The use and abuse of drugs like these and others not approved in animals that are supposed to be slaughter ready is a black eye we should not support. There are lots of great experiences and friends made at cattle shows. Lets focus on those and be firm on rules to root out this culture of abuse of drugs.

on Nov 5, 2013

I've often wondered how long it was going to be before this topic hit the public. I can't tell you the number of show calves I've seen here in Alabama shows that come in blood shot eyed, and just want to lay down in the middle of the ring and take a nap. Two hours earlier they were out back in the barn kicking, snorting, fighting the whole situation till they had a miraculous change of heart! I also know of quiet a few that spend their lives in a walk in cooler. It's hard to grow hair down here in the South's heat and humidity! Win at any cost? That seems to be the name of the game for many down here. This will probably be yet another blow the cow-calf producer will have to bear as it will no doubt be blown out of proportion. My best friend is a club calf producer and we have often argued on what I feel that sector of the cattle business is doing that is harmful to the rest of the beef industry, whether it be the functionality of the cattle produced or the sometimes questionable ethics of some involved in the show circuit. It's dangerous business in a time when consumers seem to be getting their news from the National Enquirer and Mother Earth News. More and more,farmers and livestock producers are being vilified,whether it be GMOs or Zilmax by a consumer base that would seemingly follow the liberal media like lemmings over a cliff. Next thing you know Barack Obozo will be on T.V. investigating the club calf industry for doping! Here we go again..... Happy Tuesday!

Tammi Didlot (not verified)
on Nov 5, 2013

I personally think the show ring should go back to the basics and teach the kids the fundamentals about caring for an animal, responsibility, sportsmanship and good solid work ethic. It like almost all sports and activities has been impacted by too much money. Core values and principals are being missed and replaced with the more money we spend the better we are and this isn't what showing is supposed to be about. I'm not opposed to using tools to improve cattle, but not to a point to hurt the industry. I think if Zilmax is used properly and within reason it is a tool, but unfortunately, many abuse their tools!!

Anonymous (not verified)
on Nov 5, 2013

Years ago, as a research scientist, I was involved in testing products that enhance production Now I haul my lighter weight, all natural calves to town without the benifits of performance enhancers. If I won't eat it, I don't expect anyone else to.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Nov 5, 2013

The show ring should be a great educational tool, however it has distanced itself so far from the real world of beef production that it is virtually useless to the industry.
It is a sad day when the genetics represented there are only used to create more show cattle. Virtually none of those genetics are used to benefit the real beef cattle industry.
It is an expensive costly venue and is mainly used to feed ownership egos.

CashAI (not verified)
on Nov 5, 2013

My biggest concern is when the judges continually use heifers that look like steers for their winners. They want them fat which is negative for milk and makes them very hard breeders in the future. The muscle bound heifers are also usually terminal as they are not able to have a calf successfully because of all the muscle in the hind quarter. We need to be picking heifers that will make great cows not market heifers. The extra fat on all the show steers would keep them all from being considered for Certified Angus Beef which only allow a small amount of external fat.

Peter Franzky (not verified)
on Nov 5, 2013

All cattle business, including show business should only be true and honestly done. There is, unfortunately always one "rotten apple in a bushel basket" runing our good reputation in the cattle business. To bring out the best true genetic potential in any show animal no drugs or gimmiks should be allowd. Anyone not complying by the rules should be disqualified for at least one year, then given a second chance of doing right.

Tom Reed (not verified)
on Nov 5, 2013

You can't eat "fuzzy" and cattle are to eat. Trading drugs for "fuzzy" don't help the cattle industry.

on Nov 5, 2013

Although it has been years since my children showed cattle with the FFA. I remember then how unfair it was.We would take steers which would make the weight from our own beef herd.They would train,feed and show them. By the second show we attended I realized the winners all came from specialized breeders of show animals. These animals were fluffed, color dyed and tranquilized. I would be wary of putting them on the dinner table. The auction sale of these animals was political although it was good advertising for the buyers. Our steers would sale at a price equivalent to the local sale barn. I'm not a fan of these shows,but I am a fan of the responsibility and great behavior improvements of the youngsters showing these animals.

Kickin it in the Sticks (not verified)
on Nov 5, 2013

I have similar sentiments about this issue as well. I have been showing livestock all my life starting from horses and branching out from there. Since 2004 I have also shown goats, sheep, swine, and cattle. I have an understanding as to how the industry works and how some people go farther in order to get to the top. I have always taken great pride in producing and working with my livestock the honest way by getting up in the morning and working them and then again at night. These are the coolest parts of the day and I when I was showing I wanted my livestock to be as comfortable as possible. By working them I mean making them run short, fast bursts. This builds more muscle. Yes, I was also running along beside them. I wasn't taking any short cuts myself. My livestock and I were a team and as a team we work together. I have great care for livestock and the show industry. I dislike that some people can't go about it honestly. I know there are several products out there that some people use to try and take short cuts to the top. I do not believe in any part of this and it doesn't help make the honest people look any better in the public’s eyes. I don't see how anyone could feel proud of reaching the top using drugs and be comfortable in what they did. I believe in the honest way and working hard to get there. I, however, do not think that Zilmax is a bad item when used correctly. It is not illegal under the FDA and there isn't any real proof as to it causing the lameness in the last stages of finishing. This product is also used in some feed lots to help gain weight quicker, so the livestock are not being boarded for longer periods of time. Therefore, I do not see how using it in the showing industry is any different. I believe it should be used as based on the listed feeding instructions to insure the animal's safety. If a product such as this were should the animal also needs to be exercised more often, so that they do not become too stiff. I do not believe that drugs in order to give the appearance of more muscle by inserting air or other objects under the animal’s skin to make a fuller appearance are acceptable. The honest way in agriculture and show industry needs to be more heavily promoted. I'm not sure what procedures that might entail, but more rigorous drug control use on show grounds and testing might need to be put in place. I do believe that the livestock showing is a great one and that it helps teach many kids valuable lessons in life. I also believe in this case it allows the child to learn how to go about things honestly and be proud of his/her hard work. The child should be happy win or lose. I know I was. I was just grateful for the opportunity to do what I loved.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Nov 5, 2013

I am a life time commercial producer and have also judged a number of steers shows over the years. Each and every show I judge I give my little speech about the fact that we cannot select for extreme muscled hairy steers and make their heifer mates work in a cow herd. Last year I had a young man come up to me a say 15 years ago you put my club calf at the bottom and he said he was very agree about it but after several years of trying to make those heifers work in his herd he realized I was right. Blame the judges. There is no pratcial reason to choose the animals they choose.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Nov 5, 2013

Thanks for your comments but in reality I don't see much hope for positive change. As long as we have grand prizes and premiums we will see thousands paid for a show steers and heifers. Many show officials, at least in our county are "jocks" themselves so they support "whatever it takes to win". Three years ago a steer jock judged our show and her question in showmanship was "what are the important factors in growing a lot of hair on your calf". Never in her reasons on the mike did she mention anything about the carcass in a market class. She was invited back with enthusiasm in spite of my protest. The good thing about the show industry they are such a small part of the beef industry. When you count the straight legged poor milking cows with a lot of hair and compare with cows that produce for a profit for the beef industry the jock cows are a very small percent. Unfortunately, they get a lot of attention at shows and people confuse the show industry with the beef industry. I have and will continue to support our youth showing animals as it a great program but I tell my 4-H families that it is up to them to teach their children what they want them to value as they become voters. They can teach that you can buy and cheat your way to the top or teach the youth to take the responsibility and do their best, enjoy the project and remind them they are winners no matter where they place in a beauty contest of calves fed in a cooler and groomed by a jock. Close clipping would help the cattle show industry but suggest that and get invited to leave the 4-H fair committee.

on Nov 5, 2013

The "show cattle industry" is getting as far removed from the beef industry as it was in the late 70's and 80's. Heifers that are level from hooks to pins may be more eye-appealing, but moderate slope makes for easier delivery of a calf. I'm tired of seeing heifers so fat that they would be docked at the packer for being yield grade 4 or 5, but they win the show. They may give the impression of being deeper and thicker, but will never make good mothers. And some judges can't tell the difference between a good animal with a body condition score of 6 and a light-muscled one with a BCS of 8.
And don't get me started on the fluffy ones that carry TH or PHA. Many exhibitors are selecting for carriers of these genetic defects because they are perceived as more likely to win because of extra hair and/or thickness. With steers, it is of no concern, but what about the heifers and the 8 or 10 or more calves they should each produce in their lifetime, half of which will inherit the defect from the dam? And if she is mated to a carrier bull, there is a 25% chance of a dead calf.
I work with kids and livestock shows and fairs. Most of the kids learn responsibility, nutrition, solid work ethics, and genuinely care for their animals. But the livestock shows are not the same as the beef industry.

on Nov 5, 2013

I support 4-H for teaching children responsibility, care and breeding of animals, and taking pride in their animals. Showing cattle is fine, but the same standards should be followed for show cattle as for beef cattle. This especially includes the use of additives. If certain additives, such as Zilmax, are used responsibly and within the guidelines of the beef industry, that is fine. But there need to be rules governing the irresponsible misuse of these products. Not only is this unsportsman-like behavior on the part of the children raising these animals, it is detrimental to the animal and its offspring. This is not the message we want to get across to the consumer. It all boils down to ‘if you are going to do it, do it right.’

Don Phillips (not verified)
on Nov 5, 2013

The show cattle ring, has did more damage than good to young people. It taught some how to cheat, it made others feel second class because they did not have the finance,and many how to lose a lot of money,causi ng them to lose interest in the cattle indusity.EVER bad fad the cattleman has had to deal with was started in the show ring!

Anonymous (not verified)
on Nov 5, 2013

The show curcuit should be replaced with a show of the finished carcasess in the cold room!! If the product in the cold room does not meet the consumers expectations not much else matters.

Jim Howard (not verified)
on Nov 5, 2013

My family has been feeding cattle for over 50 years and I believe we would all be better off if zilmax and all of the other performance enhancing drugs had never been invented. Maybe we wouldn't be trying to sell so many pounds of beef at a loss. All feedyards would still be playing on a level field.

teacher (not verified)
on Nov 5, 2013

Does anyone watch the online sales? The prices people are paying for steers is insane. A lot of these people are buying cattle without even going to look at them. Yes, the showring and the club calf industry is out of control.

Trent Loos (not verified)
on Nov 6, 2013

Wow I think you have all missed the point. NO the show ring may not (does not) represent the Beef Industry but have you checked average age of the Cattlemen in this country? 60+ and without question the show ring and junior livestock projects has done more to bring young people into the beef sector than anything else. Bad actors will not and shall not destroy a great opportunity for all young people who do it right. Please remember the most important thing WE DO NOT USE YOUNG PEOPLE TO IMPROVE THE LIVESTOCK WE USE THE LIVESTOCK TO IMPROVE YOUNG PEOPLE.

Darrell D. Anderson (not verified)
on Nov 6, 2013

Very well said Trent - I will never forget the challenge that the Chairman of the National Swine Registry Advisory Board always put before that group as they developed policies and programs for the National Jr. Swine Association. He simply reminded them that "we must always keep the kids bigger than the pigs." As long as the livestock industry focuses on youth development, while utilizing the animal as a vehicle to accomplish that goal, the positive aspects of the show ring experience will always outweigh the isolated negative incidents. In recent years, there seems to be a growing trend in what I call "the worship of mediocrity" in our country. The show ring still can provide an environment for teaching the positive rewards for hard work, integrity and discipline, but there are certainly issues that need to be monitored.

Susan Gebhart (not verified)
on Nov 6, 2013

Amen Brother !

Anonymous (not verified)
on Nov 6, 2013

The show ring never has had anything to do with commercial beef production. It's a joke, but a profitable one if you can play the game.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Nov 6, 2013

These products should be banned from the show ring. Our young people earn premium prices for their market projects. The buyers of their animals deserve a premium product in return.

Keith Evans (not verified)
on Nov 6, 2013

The show cattle business has about as much influence on the commercial cattle business as chicken shows have on the egg and broiler business.

Showing cattle can be a lot of fun for youngsters. It can involve the whole family and expose everyone to people from throughout the United States.

What should be done is to eliminate the huge payouts for grand champion steers, which encourages all kinds of unethical behavior. Registered cattle shows for adults are a joke. I know of no commercial cattle producer who wants to use sons of the National Western Grand Champions. For young people show animals should be solely owned by the exhibitor while bred-and-owned classes should receive the most attention.

Keith Evans

Karen (not verified)
on Nov 6, 2013

Of corse it matters. FFA and 4-H started out being about business lessions and marketing for a profit. Now its a beauty contest. With the overall winners being able to afford refridgerated barns to hide potential flaws with creative groming. What message are you sending. The kids who jackpot need to compete with the open show circuit. Kids arebuying animals that they can't possibly show a profit on. Again what message are we sending. What happened to ethics in the market place? I want someone to know that if they are buying my beef it is exactly what they are counting on and nithing less. Thats what my name means. No Bull...

Erica Boyer (not verified)
on Nov 7, 2013

“Mediocre people don’t like high achievers and high achievers don’t like mediocre people” Nick Saban, Head Football Coach, Univ of Alabama

I get the feeling that some of what’s been said here is the product of misunderstanding. It’s a sad day when people INSIDE our industry endorse the idea that “Fluffy Cows” and the show steer circuit is an accurate reflection of production within the beef industry at large. Show steers are an entirely different conversation. Yes, it involves beef animals, but the model that steer shows follow is a hobby activity that offers kids the chance to become familiar with cattle and to learn about hard work, competition, ethics, winning and losing. Just like any competitive endeavor there is the good, the bad and the ugly. Yep, there are “steer jocks” who make a living on this segment of the industry, however buying from or employing a “steer jock” is a parent’s choice. Don’t like them – don’t deal with them. Same for feed additives. I don’t and haven’t used Zilmax. Even though I don’t use it, I don’t think feeding an FDA approved feed additive that was readily available on the market qualifies as a “secret weapon”. The show barn is full of choices. We teach kids to make good choices not to whine about the show circuit being unfair. Life isn’t fair. The real truth is that the only “secret weapon” in the show barn is understanding the difference between being a champion and winning a championship. Being a champion is doing your best at WHATEVER you are doing every day. Kids that learn this in the barn will be winners for the rest of their lives. The side benefit is that they will also be familiar with cattle and might even pursue a career in agriculture, but wherever they end up, they’ll know what a hard day’s work is and how to set goals and achieve them.

thoughts from the barn aisle (not verified)
on Nov 7, 2013

I read the article that was on MSN News. I don’t really have too many issues with the article – it was pretty fair and balanced IMO. A couple of comments I would’ve liked to see worded differently. You can tell it was written by someone who doesn’t really know all the nuances, but on the whole it didn’t set my hair on fire.
One point that got missed in many of the comments to Amanda’s article is that waaaaay more Zilmax gets fed by cattle feeders than the show folks. It’s primarily in the feedlots where it has been used and where any problems have occurred. So if there is an ethical challenge presented by feeding Zilmax why focus on the show circuit? Are feedlots using beta agonists unethically using a secret weapon? If you think so, fine. Then apply the same standard to both segments of the industry.
Separate from the Zilmax topic Amanda’s blog post opened the gate to the complaints from inside the cattle community that we’ve heard before from the “it’s not fair” crowd and from the folks who have always hated the show industry no matter what the topic of the day happens to be. Do some things need to change on the show road ? Yeah, but some things need to change in lots of places …… they who are without sin may cast the first stone. That includes feeders, breeders, commercial guys, everybody. All that said, squabbling within the cattle community doesn’t pay much dividend. The “it’s not fair crowd” will always be around and will always complain unless somebody sets up a system where those folks can win without having to do their homework. When you boil it down, what they really want is the “everybody’s a winner” situation. Anytime they get beat you can be assured something wasn’t fair or somebody cheated – it’s as predictable as sunshine. That’s not always true, but it happens just often enough to validate their claims and fuel their complaints. Meanwhile the “it’s not fair” crowd continues to waste their time complaining instead of sitting back and saying, “Hmmm what do we need to change or improve? Do we need to show a little better animal? Do we need to modify how we feed, how we prep, how we fit? Do we need to practice showmanship a little more? Do we need to get advice from somebody we trust that has more experience than we do?" Everybody who spends much time around the show barn knows a member of the “it’s not fair” crowd when they see one…..lack of attention to detail shows. Saying “it’s not fair” or “they cheated” will not cover up the steer who can’t walk well, the heifer who has a sloppy neck, poorly managed body condition, dirty hair, a messy bed, sloppy showmanship etc. etc. Study what it takes to be ethically successful, commit to hard work and practice, teach your jr. exhibitors principled decision-making and good sportsmanship. No matter what rules are put into place people who cheat will do so. Use them as an example to teach your jr. exhibitors that those people exist everywhere in life – don’t be like that. Teach your kids to work hard and put their best effort in the show ring - purple banner or not you will have trained a winner. Or you could just go play ball, or swim, or do gymnastics or cycling ….. nobody cheats in those activities.

A showman and producer (not verified)
on Nov 7, 2013

First of all, giving harmful drugs to an animal to win in the show ring is unexceptable. Giving drugs that keep them healthy and in turn they grow better because they are healthy is perfectly exceptable in my point of veiw. Its important that we not group "drugs" into a general catagory because there are "drugs" that can be fed and keep the animal from getting sick. Next, the show ring is a way for a person to learn to win and lose. Its is a way small producers can supplement their income by selling breeding stock to other producers to improve their herd, flock, etc. Same for all species hogs, cattle sheep, or horses. I personally raise sheep that are for show and for production. My thought process is I can present to a judge that day two of both worlds. If they like the flashy show type they can go after that type if they like the broody production type they can go after that one. Its about choice. As for the hair conversation its really no different that wool. You can make them look larger with hair or wool. Its up to the judge to decide at that point who is better. If not either we have poor judges or really good people that can fit and make them look nice. Maybe both. There is a balance of both and I do both myself. They both are good places to build responsibility for kids but the PARENTS must be able to teach their kids how to react to winning and losing. For example: I lost today next time I`m going to work extra hard to be in the middle or win next time. Today I won so how do I keep on the top ethically and still produce the best commodity. Things to think about from both angles. Thanks

Anonymous (not verified)
on Nov 11, 2013

It is a definite that the show and the real world are at opposite ends of the spectrum. You can't eat hair or bone but yet when judges place these animals in classes that is what they comment about more than what is underneath all the fluff. What about the Phenotype, possible carcass quality, the loin, ribeye, rump, how the animal is finishing etc.

If steer shows especially, are to teach our youth about beef production, it doesn't. Look at what has happened to the breeds, look how many of them are so messed up now with all of the club calf breeding. So many calves I have seen can be registered with about 3 or 4 of these associations. With all of this Club Calf hype etc. with some of these breeds the commercial producers can hardly find bulls that will produce BEEF, it gets harder and harder.

In all honesty the show ring should be closer in alignment with the real world, someplace where breeders can exhibit animals and those animals evaluated to an industry standard for phenotipical traits. If you look at the dairy industry, while their show cows do produce milk (maybe not as much as if they were at home) they are still judged to phenotype standards. And one other thing that the diary breeds have is where they classify their cows for traits.

As for judging shows I judged a 4-H horse show once. As I judged the classes for each 4-H'er I kept notes as to things they did very well and things that they didn't during the class. I made my placing accordingly. After the show I had one parent that came up very irate wanting to know why her daughter didn't win. While her daughter was standing right there I went back through my notes and told her what mistakes her daughter had made and why I made the decision that I did. While this parent was still very angry, her daughter turned to her mother and told her mom "I told you why, I told you so". I was told before the show that some of these parents had spent thousands of dollars with trainers. I didn't base my decisions on who I thought paid a trainer so they must be good and need to place them at the top of the class. To me this is fine, trainers are trying to tech these kids proper techniques etc. It doesn't mean they will win.

Where do we start? Do we need to start with the judges first? It is for sure something needs to be done.

The Club Calf industry need to change, it seems that some of them seem to think that they have to have some genetic defect in the breeding for animals to have better hair. These thing are wrong. Crossbred animals can be great animals, but they must be able to be profitable and be able to produce in the real world.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Nov 13, 2013

Why not have it both ways? Select cattle in the show ring that will make a profit in the feed lot and on the rail. Hair has nothing to do with red meat or the quality thereof. Hair is an economic liability in warmer environments. Why do the people who judge these shows want to pick small, inefficient, structurally incorrect, overfat, and drugged up cattle? And, aren't a lot of these judges animal science professors with advanced degrees? Have they ever managed a cow/calf operation, fed their cattle in a feed lot, or looked at the carcass data their genetics produce? Why are breed associations so slow in making public the many deadly genetic defects perpetuated in show cattle? Why do heifers have to look like steers to win a show? Replace all current judges with people who make a living with their own genetics and get rid of these jokesters that call themselves cattle judges. The kids will learn a whole lot more about the cattle industry and the genetics required to produce efficient cattle with quality carcasses.

W.E. (not verified)
on Dec 3, 2013

In response to "the model that steer shows follow is a hobby activity that offers kids the chance to become familiar with cattle and to learn about hard work, competition, ethics, winning and losing." Tell me what this has to do with the production of good healthy food. That's what beef production is about. If we were judging shows for southeastern cattle in the summertime, we would choose animal with a naturally slick hair coat that sheds well, because those are the ones that will thrive best in the southeast. In the northern tier, we would choose differently. Cattle should first of all fit their environment. Steers should not be judged on the hoof but on the rail. Bred-and-owned cow-calf classes where good-tempered animals could be shown with their natural hair would be the best venue for encouraging young people to learn about the cattle industry literally from the ground up. I haven't seen such a thing in other breeds, but the right kind of Hereford heifers are capable of teaching children a great deal about the realities of beef production.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Feb 5, 2014

While I sit in my barn after washing and blowing my show steer I sit down to read an article. Just my luck it's about the sport I LOVE being hit with harsh words. I am a SHOW livestock exhibitor I am proud of the fact that I put my whole heart into this AMAZING sport I am saddened to see people from MY OWN industry talk poorly of me. No I do not use these products. But just because one star athlete miss used an enhancer, does that mean every athlete does.....NO! My question is to you JUST BECAUSE THERE IS ONE BAD EGG IN THE BUNCH, DOES THAT STOP YOU FROM MAKING BREAKFAST? We must not tear eachother down but hold eachother up.

Anonymous (not verified)
on May 12, 2014

This is an ironic article about the ills of the showring when the people who are having problems with Zilmax are commercial feeders. Why? Because the commercial cattle industry also breeds straight shouldered cattle that can't structurally handle the added muscle mass. These show ring exhibitors who are using a FDA approved product that helps our entire industry achieve more efficiency are having success because their cattle are sound enough to handle the product. You can point a finger at the show ring but you have three pointing right back at you. Let's stick to facts and sound science.

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BEEF Daily Blog is produced by rancher Amanda Radke, one of the U.S. beef industry’s top social media “agvocates.”

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Amanda Radke

A fifth-generation rancher from Mitchell, SD, Amanda grew up on a purebred Limousin cattle operation in which she and husband Tyler are active. She graduated with a degree in agriculture journalism...

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