3 August 2001

American dream

Travelling to the US for the Denver Stock Show and Rodeo

was the trip of a lifetime for 16-year-old Stuart Callion from

Stirling. The adventure was his prize for winning the British

Limousin Cattle Societys Young Limousin Scholarship award.

Here, Stuart recalls a few highlights from his diary of the trip

SUNDAY

After a rough nights sleep, I got up at 3.45am having been awake for a long time (it was 10.45am at home, after all!) Today was the young breeders show day, an event staged in three huge buildings – the main one being the stadium where all the judging took place, known as "Limousin on the hill".

The exhibitors were between nine and 17 years old and the cattle "on the hill" are situated in the buildings basement, with the stalls set up in huge rows. The stalls are beautifully set up, with each exhibitor having their own colour scheme. Their helpers all wear matching clothes, labelled with the respective farm name on everything, from shirts and caps to the water they drink.

They each employ at least one stockperson per two or three cattle. The sawdust beds on which the cattle lie are amazingly compact and hard, preventing the shavings getting on the cattle and giving an artificial raised front. At one end, a Chevy truck stood with its back converted into a commentary box.

MONDAY

After having pancakes and syrup for breakfast, I went to the show to see the "carloads" being judged. These consist of about 50 animals each. The cattle are outside and in pens of around 20 known as the "yard". They are tied up and halter broken, but for the judging they are loose. The judges are looking for the consistency of the breeder in getting the animals to be as physically similar as possible.

TUESDAY

Today was the main day of the showing, with the judging of the "Limousin on the hill". The show began at 8am with the heifers. The schedule is very long, with many animals and many classes. A lot of cattle, a lot of organisation, and remember, a set of reasons are given for each animals placing in the class!

The Americans prefer a different type of cattle to us, with mobility an important trait because the fields are so large and they have to walk long distances to get water. They also insist that animals must have as great a volume as possible, which leads to a good depth of rib and thigh. They maintain that if an animal has a good depth of body, their conversion rates of feed to muscle are much greater. So the bull that won was not my type of bull but to the Americans it was perfect.

I also went to see a rodeo that night. The riders had nine seconds to ride the bulls and impress the judges. Brilliant entertainment.

WEDNESDAY

Today was the day of the Magnus sale, one of Americas most prominent breeders. The sale is set on the farm, an hours bus ride from Denver. The place was very tidy with iron rails edging all the fields and paddocks. The event had a theme of sailing, which was incorporated into the decoration of the farm and the building.

Huge sails were spread on the ceiling, and the floor was covered in sawdust, mimicking the sand. Where the cattle stood, coconut trees and island foliage were beautifully strewn about them.

When it came to the sale, the first lot sold for the top price of $49,000 for a half share! The lowest price paid for a animal was $2400.