Sunday, October 20, 2019

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 The International Brangus Breeders Association (IBBA), which is the body governing Brangus in the United States, held their 2010 Annual Meeting in Houston to coincide with the Livestock Show. They also organised a special event separate to the show purely to showcase Brangus, the "Global Brangus Roundup".

The Houston Show attracts many cattle breeders from Central and South America, and as such is considered to be one of the most important meeting places for cattle breeders in The Americas. The IBBA asked if Australia could become involved in this event to promote the World Brangus Congress in Rockhampton in 2012. There was also the opportunity to attend the meeting of FIBRA (Federation of International Brangus Breeders Association), also held at Houston. Representing Australian Brangus Breeders were Ian Galloway, Chairman of the 2012 Congress Committee, and his wife Anne, and member of the ABCA Committee Luke Keogh and his wife Chloe.

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is a simply massive event that goes for nearly three weeks with cattle, horses, sheep, goats, rabbits and all things livestock. There is a trade display similar to a field day and also side shows and rides etc like any Royal Show in Australia only on a bigger scale. The professional rodeo is held each night in a huge indoor stadium which normally hosts matches of American football. There is always a concert after the rodeo featuring well known international acts. This Livestock Show and Rodeo is run by over 25,000 volunteers, the only people who get paid are the cleaners! Everything else from gatekeepers, to security to guides is done by Volunteers who were very hospitable and helpful.

We arrived in Houston late on Thursday afternoon and from our motel room we could see the Showgrounds. We walked straight over there and got our accreditation as guests to the 2010 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Being international guests we were given free entry to the Livestock Show each day that we were there, and full access to the International Lounge. The International Lounge is a wonderful facility where international guests can go and rest their weary legs and enjoy some complimentary refreshments. They can meet people from all over the world who are in Houston for the Livestock show. The Houston organising committee provide volunteers in the international room to help guests including translators. It was a great meeting place.

After getting our various badges and lanyards we headed down to the cattle shed. This is one of the biggest sheds we had ever seen holding a giant judging ring, hundreds of trade stalls, sheep, goats, and auctioneers ring, and what looked like thousands of cattle patiently tied up and waiting to be shown. In amongst the cattle individual stud breeders had small hospitality suites often featuring huge flat screen TV's, leather couches, food and drink, literature, posters, photos, stubby holders, etc. Many were very very fancy. We went to the IBBA stand which was in the middle of the Brangus cattle, and started meeting Brangus breeders and members of the IBBA staff from San Antonio, Texas. There was a lot of interest in Rockhampton 2012 and in Australian Brangus and Cattle breeding in general. This set the tone for the entire trip where we found the people we met both from the United States, Central and South America were very interested in discussing issues common to all Brangus Breeders and of course the 2012 world congress.

That evening we attended the rodeo which was a very slick production and as we were only five rows behind the chutes we had a great view and the chuck wagon racing was especially exciting. Indoor fireworks were a new experience for us, as was being asked for proof of age when buying a beer! One highlight of the week was seeing people eating huge Turkey drumsticks, which were sold everywhere. A good example of making a by-product into a saleable item. They really are enormous, and no, I didn't try one.

On the Friday morning we went back to the Show and after viewing plenty more cattle we settled in to watch Brangus bulls being judged. The judging arena was triangular shaped roughly 75 metres long and about 50metres at its widest point. The flooring was wood chips painted green and each side had raised platforms and grandstand seating. The judging ring was divided in half with the cattle entering from the narrow end. One half was Brangus bulls and in the other half of the ring Beefmasters were being judged. There was a big screen at the end of the arena showing the cattle being judged and each breed had an announcer on a raised platform calling out the classes and place getters etc. The judges had to share a microphone so as one breed was being judged the judge on the other side of the ring was making his announcements over the loudspeaker for the benefit of everybody. This often led to one judge having to wait for the other one to finish.

That evening we attended a special cattle auction this was billed as The Global Collection and was promoted as being exclusive cattle from some of the best Brangus studs in the United States. Held in a large marquee in the car park of the Holiday Inn, this was a very upmarket event with an open bar, fondues and a band, chocolate fountain and leather bound sale catalogue including a calculator! Very useful for exchange rate conversions and working out what we couldn't afford. Besides some semen and embryo packages and shares in a Csonka of Brinks syndication most lots were females but a couple of prominent breeders offered the pick of their calf drops as well as picks from a group of bulls. Having the pick of Southern Cattle Company's 2010 Heifer calf drop was especially popular making $27,000 US. A couple of the Lots were sold as fundraisers for the International Junior Brangus Breeders Association. Considering the elite nature of this sale prices were pretty solid.

Following the FIBRA meeting the next day where we discussed ways to better communicate between Brangus breeders around the world we went to watch the female judging. Same format as the day before with Blacks and Reds judged separately and this time we were sharing the ring with Brafords. The bulls were very definitely in show condition. In the evening there was another auction including some of the ribbon winners from the previous two days judging. This was held in the cattle shed in a smaller ring, the free bar was shut off earlier and prices were a bit more realistic than the night before. We were also entertained by a fantastic Mexican mariachi band. This was another great opportunity to meet Brangus enthusiasts.

On Sunday March 7th we jumped on a bus and went to the Fort Bend County Fairgrounds in Rosenburg Texas. Here we presented a short film promoting the Brangus Congress at Rockhampton 2012, and Ian and Luke both addressed the gathering. Luke spoke about Australian Brangus in general and Ian specifically outlined some of the plans for the 2012 Congress. This was very well received and our Spanish translator coped very well with our Australian accents. We had a traditional Texan lunch with sausage, beef, beans, chilli and iced tea, and then inspected cattle which had been brought from many of the leading United States ranches, some had come from as far as California and Florida. Cow Creek Ranch, Cox's Excalibur, Southern Cattle Company and Indian Hills Ranch were just some of the exhibitors. Bulls, cows and heifers were displayed and paraded before the audience of over 200 Brangus people. Brinks Bright Side was one of the Bulls we got to see. There was a running commentary in both Spanish and English.

After the roundup we went out to the Texas Hill Country to experience the great hospitality of Buck Thomason and his family at Indian Hills Ranch. We saw some good cattle that were doing well despite the fact they were standing in snow only two weeks before. Buck organised for us to visit Elgin Breeding services and Brushy Creek AI collection centres and we were given a tour of the State of the Art Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Texas A and M University, in College Station Texas. One highlight was lunch in the local feed store, as the Horney Toad Bar and Grill was shut (they opened up especially for us later).

Our trip to Houston was a great chance to see American Brangus Show cattle, but more importantly we got to meet with many Brangus breeders from the United States, Central and South America as well as members of the IBBA Staff. We also caught up with some of the people we met at the 2007 Brangus World Congress in Uruguay. Everyone we met was very interested in Australia Brangus, and many expressed interest in travelling to the World Congress in Rockhampton. We came away feeling very positive about our trip, and realised we have much in common with our fellow cattle breeders in the Americas. Luke & Chloe Keogh.



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