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Champions by design

Club-calf fever spreads 
across the West

Tyson Rasmuson

Money-strip blaze, chrome, super hairy, freaky hairy, oh so stout, stylish, high in volume, show-ring swagger, long-spined, deep-sided, sweet-fronted…

If you couldn’t be there, the catalogue descriptions of genetics on offer at Canadian Western Agribition’s first-ever Champions by Design club-calf genetics sale gives a glimpse of the excitement surrounding the emerging club-calf industry on the Prairies following suit with Ontario, where club-calf sales have been a going thing for the past decade or so.

Chris Poley of the sale management team at T Bar C Cattle Co., says the club-calf industry is huge in the U.S. and picking up speed here because there is getting to be a lot more shows for juniors. In addition to 4-H shows, Regina, Swift Current, Lloydminster, and the Calgary Stampede are some of the places that readily come to mind for offering steer or summer shows geared toward youth. Most are jackpot shows and some have scholarship money attached.

Club calves — called clubbies and more formally, show calves — are calves from matings designed to produce showy, top-quality calves bred to excel in the show ring.

Tyson Rasmuson, Agribition’s director of the Prospect Show and Sale and the Champions by Design sale, says most but not all club calves are purchased by 4-H club members and youths who show in junior show circles. Some do go to adults who travel the jackpot circuit.

Club-calf breeders aim to produce calves with great eye appeal that comes from having a natural balance in their structure. Adding a little or a lot of colour and markings is growing in popularity because it can give a calf a touch of flair that’s sure to catch the judge’s attention the moment it walks into the ring.

Hair is big and the more the better, Rasmuson says. A thick undercoat that can be clipped and combed to perfectly enhance a calf’s structure is a groomer’s delight.

Steers should have great muscling with depth of rib, width of hip, stoutness of bone and large feet.

Heifers should be smooth-shouldered with lots of neck extension, soft-ribbed (deep look), have sound feet and legs, and fluid movement.

Popular breeding to get those traits wrapped up in a package with some hybrid vigour has traditionally been crosses of Chianina, Maine-Anjou and Angus, he says. Simmental, Charolais and Hereford genetics are starting to gain some use as well. Dams and sires can be straight-breds, but for the most part, one or both are first-cross or mixed-breed cattle.

The Prospect Show and Sale features calendar-year calves of club-calf quality, while the Champions by Design sale showcases seedstock with potential to produce top show calves.

“It (Champions by Design) is another opportunity for show-calf producers to market some bred females and herdsire prospects as well as embryos and semen and it gives people a chance to buy club-calf genetics to try to raise some for themselves or to sell,” Rasmuson explains.

He and his wife, Chantal, raise clubbies on the farm near Midale, Sask. Last fall they participated in the Southeast Show Calf Pursuit, an open-ended open-house-style event. Starting September 10, eight breeders along the line southeast of Regina to Estevan opened their barns for viewing club-calf prospects. Along with the Rasmusons were Jackson Cattle Co. of Sedley, Blue Moon Ranch of Weyburn, Ryley Gutzke Show Cattle of Weyburn, Piwarski Show Cattle of Weyburn,Vandy Cattle of Benson, Tableland Cattle of Estevan, and Wheatland Cattle Co. of Bienfait.

The pursuit was very well received. Members in the group had visitors from all over western Canada, Rasmuson says, adding that it’s a go again for 2016.

Rasmuson, Poley and others we spoke with felt this first Champions by Design was quite a success in its first year.

Seven bred heifers averaged $7,342.86. The high-seller was MLC403B sired by Man Among Boys, consigned by Nexera Land & Cattle and purchased by Townsend Show Cattle of Sylvan Lake, Alta., for $9,750.

Two bulls and a half interest in another averaged $9,300. The high-selling bull was Dubstep, a 2012 bull sired by Walks Alone out of an Angus dam. He was consigned by Piller-Elden-Blue Moon and purchased by Ryley Gutzke for $10,500.

Maple Leaf Stock Farms of Hartney, Man., sold one flush of Angus-sired embryos out of their Simmental x Shorthorn Blue Diamond cow to Spears Farms of Alexander, Man., for $4,500.

Thirty-four embryos averaged $647.79. A package of three Monopoly-sired embryos consigned by Fairland Cattle Co. of Penhold, Alta., hit the high at $5,550 going to Lee Jensen of Taber, Alta.

Three semen lots grossed $10,125. The high-selling lot of five units out of the clubby sire Man Among Boys (recently deceased) consigned by Vandy Cattle, was purchased by John Hankins of Tisdale, Sask., for $2,125.

Poley, who has been the push behind introducing the Champions by Design sale at Agribition, knows there are a lot of people who discount the club-calf industry, saying this type of calf has no place in the real world.

T Bar C has always been an advocate for youth in the beef industry and clearly sees a place for this emerging industry. “It’s important to the purebred industry because it keeps youth involved and excited and enhances their skills as far as showing and fitting,” he says. “The goal is to raise the bar for youth by making calves that are better than any calf in the pen at home. The more competitive they are, the more excited they will be about it and the more likely they will stay involved.”

The Champions by Design sale catalogue at will give you a feel for the intriguing club-calf world. Visit for details on the 2016 Champions by Design sale.

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