The rodeo is gone but Farmfair riding on

Commitment, champion cattle, and commonwealth event hallmarks of post-CFR era

If this year’s Farmfair International had a theme song, a strong candidate would be ‘We are the Champions.’

Not only is champions a theme of the 2018 show — the Champion of the World Week will be a major highlight of this year’s event — but Farmfair itself has had to overcome some adversity to get to its 45th edition.

While the livestock show’s long-running relationship with the Canadian Finals Rodeo is no more, following the closure of Northlands Coliseum, the good news is that the event has a home at the EXPO Centre for the next several years.

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“We have a five-year agreement with the City of Edmonton with a five-year option to renew provided all parties are in agreement,” said Jessie Radies, director of agriculture for Northlands, the presenters of Farmfair, which runs from Nov. 7-11.

“We are guaranteed five years’ access to space for both Farmfair and K-Days. We have the facilities to do a livestock show. We have all the amenities that are required. It’s good for us and it’s good for the people who are exhibitors at Farmfair.”

Spotlight on Alberta

In addition to the Champion of the World Week, Northlands will also host the Commonwealth Agriculture Conference from Nov. 5-8. That event attracts delegates from ag societies around the world, opening Farmfair to possibly its biggest and most internationally diverse audience ever.

The annual Champion of the World online competition consists of champion bulls and females from 72 countries across 16 different breeds. Champion of the World Week — a collaboration between Northlands and TheCattleMarket.net — will highlight the 2017 winners including the best seven bulls and best seven females among British and European breeds.

One of the annual highlights of Farmfair is the Alberta Supreme Show, which features breed champions from the three top cattle shows in the province. But this year, they’ll have some out-of-province rivals, with champion bulls and seven females coming from six countries as well as two other provinces.
photo: Courtesy Northlands

The champions being highlighted include the best in Angus, Charolais, Limousin, Hereford, Galloway, Shorthorn, and Simmental breeds. Canada is strongly represented with six Canadian winners, three of them from Alberta, said PJ Budler, Farmfair ambassador and owner of TheCattleMarket.net.

Canada’s champions include the male and female Angus winners (Ontario and Alberta, respectively), Charolais bull and female (Manitoba and Alberta), Hereford female (Alberta), and Shorthorn bull (Ontario). Other champions hail from Australia, Scotland, Denmark, Brazil, Argentina, and South Africa.

“It’s startling how many of the winners were Canadian,” said Budler.

The event offers a platform for Alberta’s beef industry, said Radies.

“Champion of the World Week gives us the opportunity to get these buyers from different countries from around the world into Alberta and face to face with Alberta genetics, Alberta livestock, and Alberta producers,” she said.

Northlands is taking the delegates on ranch tours and herd visits to increase the number of these interactions.

The trip to Farmfair is actually part of the prize package for each of the champions, with Northlands and TheCattleMarket.net covering travel and lodging expenses. It’s a good investment for Farmfair, said Budler.

“It just adds to the prestige of the event,” he said. “(The champion breeders) will be exposing the best cattle they’ve got to the best possible market. Even if that doesn’t result in sales, it can relate to building goodwill and relationships with breeders across the country that maybe wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

“We’ve done similar things in Houston and the synergy that develops by putting breed leaders and winners together is incredible.”

Champions of the World Week events will occur over the course of Farmfair. For specific dates/times, visit the Farmfair International website.

A conference fit for a princess

While not an official Farmfair event, the timing of the 28th Commonwealth Agriculture Conference is another opportunity to expose Alberta’s beef industry to the world, said Radies.

The conference – held every two years in a Commonwealth country – will attract about 200 delegates including Her Royal Highness Princess Anne. The event is led by the Royal Agricultural Society of the Commonwealth, which represents 50 national and regional agricultural show societies, agricultural associations, and research institutions from 20 countries.

“The delegates at the conference are connected into agricultural societies which support the development of agriculture in their own countries as well as host agricultural events,” said Radies.

“It’s very appropriate that it’s held in conjunction with Farmfair because it allows those delegates to see a large North American livestock show. We have a couple of overlap days (with the conference) so they will have an opportunity to see the show and see the livestock. We are also doing some tours with these delegates so they actually have an opportunity to get out and see our industry.”

Inbound Buyer Program

One of the most popular Farmfair programs for cattle buyers and sellers has long been the Inbound Buyer Program. Farmfair International teams up with Canadian breeders and genetics companies to help support international buyers’ costs of travel to and attendance at the show. It also offers specialized itineraries including a farm and industry tour day, invitations to beef-related events, and pre- and post-show support.

Ambassadors representing Farmfair work year round to attract buyers to the show. As of late September, 70 delegates had signed up, said Radies.

“(Registration is) a bit of a moving target. We have a few countries that always register at the very last minute.”

Spain and Portugal are among the countries being represented in the program for the first time this year.

“It’s always exciting to welcome buyers from new countries. Over the last decade we’ve had inbound buyers from most of the cattle-producing regions that have the European cattle breeds.”

Other countries sending delegates this year include Australia, Brazil, Mexico, Ireland, and Costa Rica.

CFR will be missed

For better or for worse, the absence of the Canadian Finals Rodeo – which runs at Red Deer’s Westerner Park Oct. 30 to Nov. 4 – will be felt.

“It will definitely impact Farmfair,” said Radies. “The CFR and Farmfair were very complementary to each other with a lot of crossover in attendance. People who were going to CFR would also get tickets to Farmfair and walk through the event on the way to the rodeo or maybe pass through after the rodeo if it was a matinee performance.

“We’re worried we’re going to miss some of that walk-through traffic but we are working hard with our marketing team to try and recover some of that attendance. I guess we’ll know how much it impacts Farmfair after we’ve wrapped up the event.”

However, Farmfair International also has its share of loyal attendees.

“There are a lot of farmers and ranchers and

people connected to that industry who come to Farmfair because it’s Farmfair, not because the CFR is there.”

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