Beef Empire Days’ Live Show Judge Blake Bloomberg sized up a steer that entered a small paddock on the northwest edge of the Finney County Fairgrounds Arena, tilting his head and twisting his hand.
“Put him in the two, for now,” Bloomberg said.
“Two!” The words echoed back to him as a gatekeeper and crewmen and women on horseback herded the steer into one of four pins that ranked the competing cattle, roughly, from best to worst likely meat quality.
More than 100 heifers and steers wound in and out of corrals before BloombergTuesday at the Beef Empire Days Rely on the Revalor Live Show, a local contest gauging the best beef that has sat at the heart of Garden City’s biggest event for over half a century.
Several dozen feedlot representatives and other onlookers sat of stood on the edge, as cows ran between pins, drool dripping from muzzles, muscles jumping and flexing under fat. The docile trotted, the anxious ran. At the end of the day, all of them would be loaded on trucks to be slaughtered at Tyson Fresh Meats for the festival’s meat carcass show.
Thanks to an exceptionally damp weekend, the show was held for the first time in the sun-stricken corner of the arena. Regardless, the attendees to the event were almost exclusively in industry uniform — boots, jeans, cowboy hats and button-ups.
Bloomberg has judged shows across the country, as well as in Canada, Mexico and China. Shows like this give cattle owners insight into their breeding practices and what changes they may want to make
“It’s a little more real world, a little more practical. You have cattle that actually come from a yard and so you’re looking at them for not only conformation, as far a their carcass quality, but also visual confirmation as well...” Bloomberg said. “I thought it was a tremendous group of cattle.”
The top 50 cattle — 25 heifers and 25 steers — came from 14 southwest Kansas feedlots, including, with Sunbelt Feedyard in Hugoton earning the most titles, which saw six of its steers and eight of its heifers place in each category’s top 25, including champion steer and heifer, owned by Dale and Carol Voran and Wesley Woods, respectively. The reserve heifer was from Kinsley Feeders and the reserve steer from HRC in Scott City.
The wins were an honor for the feedyard, which helps produce quality cattle with good feedlot practices, and for the owners, said Jason Rios of Sunbelt.
“It’s just a team effort. We have some customers that have some cattle specifically for Beef Empire Days,” Rios said.
Live shows like Beef Empire Days’ was a friendly competition among producers, a chance to network and socialize and learn more about their own industry, Bloomberg said. And, should the public come, it was a valuable chance for education.
“I think it serves a good purpose to come and see where your food actually comes from … We need to do a good job of reconnecting with the public, which is our consumer...” Bloomberg said. “If they know where their food’s coming from, typically I think they’re more comfortable with it.”
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