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Show cattle prove relevant in commercial herds

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

The cattle industry is home to two worlds appearing separatedat first glance – the show world and the “real world” of commercial ranch operations. 

Justin Mills welcomes Wyoming Ranchers Ty and Briley Miller, along with American Angus Association CEO Mark McCully, to discuss the importance of the show world on the Working Ranch Radio Show during the Cattlemen’s Conference in Oklahoma City, Jan. 1-16.

Competition is commonly known for playing a large role in the show world. It is the driving force which motivates contestants to participate.

“Competition is driven in the show world, but it’s a driving force for commercial producers as well,” says Briley.

Commercial producers exist in a world driven by competing with other producers. There is a constant push to improve and produce at the highest standards. Briley acknowledges the need for producing the best cattle is the same in the show world as in the commercial world. 

“Whether they’re walking across the show ring or walking across the pasture, the good cattle are going to float to the top,” she says. 

Evaluating cattle is crucial in both worlds. Ty says evaluation is taken to an extreme in the show world, “nit-picking” for specific differentiations, but it is just as important to evaluate cattle in the commercial world.

Briley adds, commercial ranchers evaluating large groups of cattle every day is similar to evaluating cattle in the show ring. Commercial producers are always evaluating cattle in order to produce the best calves and be better than their competitors, just like in the show world.

“We’re all trying to make a living. We’re all trying to make a buck and make it work, and those cattle have to be better because we want to drive somebody else to come buy our stock,” Briley says.

Next generation of agriculture

Introducing children to the show world promotes youth development in agriculture.

“I think there’s a whole bunch of life skills we teach our young people through the show ring,” says McCully.

Ty and Briley enjoy watching their children participate in shows and believe it is a way for families to bond over agriculture.

Ty, like many other producers, worries today’s kids are losing interest in agriculture. 

“We are losing our younger generation,” says Ty. “Kids are going off to college and not coming back to the farm and ranch.”

He credits the show world for keeping kids interested in agriculture. He says engaging kids in livestock shows helps develop an identity which is agriculture-based.  

“Kids are going to find an identity one way or another. Let’s do everything we can do to make that a positive identity,” says Ty.

Lessons learned in the show world can be applied to commercial operations. Involving kids in livestock shows gives them a head-start in the real world.

“I’m a product of these youth show programs,” says McCully. “It was my on-ramp, as I would say, to the bigger beef industry.”

Ty looks at the show world as a crucial aspect in the future of agriculture. 

“We have to have the next generation to keep this thing moving forward,” he says.

For the love of cattle

A common interest is shared by both worlds: a passion for cattle. McCully says one reason livestock shows are loved is because of the social aspect.

He views livestock shows as being “an excuse for us to get together and socialize and come together over a love of cattle.” He says the show world and commercial world are both in the “people business.”

Both worlds are constantly advocating for agriculture and working hard to produce the best cattle. Instilling a love for cattle in people through the show world has the potential to spill over into the “real world.”

“Let’s use those show cattle to get kids engaged, to get families engaged and back in agriculture,” says Ty. 

Merging worlds

The show world and commercial world have noticeable differences, but McCully says he’s noticed the two worlds relating more as time goes by. 

“I’d say the gap between the type of cattle we’re selecting in the show ring and the type of cattle which can actually be functional in the real world has narrowed,” says McCully. “Cattle with all the good genetic predictions can be good-looking cattle, too.” 

McCully says continuing to incorporate data and genetic evaluation, including expected progeny differences (EPDs) will narrow the gap between the two worlds. Incorporating the evaluation of cattle and EPDs gives producers the upper hand.

Briley agrees, saying the commercial producers utilizing genetic information are the ones which are very productive and competitive.

Ty believes engaging with people and marketing are two aspects that are crucial to being successful in both worlds. He says the marketing experience a person gets from participating in the show world will be a useful skill to have in the commercial world.

Ty acknowledges the two worlds share common interests and goals.

“It’s still about functionality. It’s about practicality. It’s about good livestock, good stewardship of the livestock and getting cattle where they need to be,” Ty concludes.

Kaitlyn Root is an editor for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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