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“Appreciate the atmosphere:” Parkbeg cattle breeders excited to be back at Agribition

Parkbeg cattle breeders Joe Barnett and Aaron Birch from Twin View Livestock are pleased to be back at Agribition this week.
Twin View Livestock
Joe Barnett (left) and Aaron Birch (right) of Twin View Livestock are looking to take home a fourth consecutive premier title at Canadian Western Agribition this year.

REGINA — Canadian Western Agribition is in full swing this week, and cattle breeders Joe Barnett and Aaron Birch from Twin View Livestock are equal parts excited and grateful to be back in the barns once again.

Barnett and Birch, owners of the purebred Gelbvieh and Simmental cattle operation located between Parkbeg and Chaplin, spent the morning of Nov. 24 in the stalls, waiting in anticipation for the afternoon shows to get underway.

“It’s just great to be back, to see people and see cattle and just get back into it,” said Birch.

The last time Agribition took over the Queen City in 2019, Twin View took home numerous champion placings, including five of six grand and reserve banners for the Gelbvieh breed and Premier Breeder and Premier Exhibitor awards for the third year in a row.

This year, Barnett and Birch are hoping to see the same kind of excitement — both to celebrate the return to their “home show” as well as Agribition’s 50th anniversary.

“There has been so much uncertainty about this show and [organizers] have worked their tails off to make it happen," said Barnett, prior to the national Gelbvieh show on Wednesday afternoon. “As exhibitors, we are so grateful for that work.”

Twin View entered about a dozen animals in the national Gelbvieh competition this year, including several bull and heifer calves, yearlings and a cow-calf pair. 

“All of them have some unique genetics coming from our programs, some new stuff and proven stuff, but its all stuff we want to get out and let people see,” said Birch.

Barnett said hopes are high for 2021 titles, especially after a successful prior showing at the Farmfair International in Edmonton last weekend, where Twin View cattle claimed Champion and Reserve Champion Female, as well as Premier Breeder and Exhibitor titles.

"Those awards, they just mean the world to us, so that's really gratifying," said Birch.

Last weekend’s show was one of the first in-person competitions Birch and Barnett have travelled to in two years, but both are choosing to see the positives from the pandemic-forced break from the show circuit in 2020.

“I think it really made us appreciate the atmosphere that you get at these cattle shows, especially Agribition,” said Birch.

Barnett said that while the extended break was not ideal, it really made breeders take a fresh look at their industry. He said the unusual circumstances pushed many — including Twin View — to expand their marketing methods to totally new avenues.

“It was a good opportunity to sort of step out of the norm and really consider some other [marketing] options,” added Barnett. “I think a lot of people in the industry did a really great job of that, moving into more technological marketing, more social media, more online auctions.”

Twin View Livestock made the move into international digital marketing, said Barnett, which resulted in a new set of titles, presented at the Farmfair show.

“We were incredibly humbled and blessed to have one of our cows and one of our bulls selected as Miss World and Champion of the World, respectively,” said Birch.

Barnett said that despite the huge change, the industry has actually come out the other side in good shape to move forward, "because of people being willing to try new things."

But ultimately, Birch and Barnett are pleased just to be back in the swing of the show circuit, as they say it really does remain the backbone of business for breeders like themselves.

“Any time we go to these shows, our main goal is to market our cattle,” said Birch. “It's great when we have a good day, like in 2019, but what’s really important is that we represent our program and our breed to the best of ability.”

"We believe the show industry is critical to the success of the purebred industry," said Barnett.

In addition to the publicity that comes from parading in front of audiences in stands and accepting prestigious titles, the barns at any cattle show are an unparalleled networking and deal-sealing opportunity. Barnett said behind the scenes at shows like Agribition are the prime place for purebreed operators like he and Birch to connect with commercial contacts.

“The best of the best in Canadian cattle are here and while some may not have cattle here, but you can bet they’re walking the barns in person and doing business that way,” said Barnett. “Commercial breeders are our bread and butter, and [so] the opportunity to be here at Agribition to talk to them is critical for our business.”

Plus, as a cherry on top, taking part in a storied exhibition like Agribition offers something of a personal connection for Birch and Barnett, who have been working with cattle their whole lives.

“Both of our families have been showing here for a long time,” said Birch. “So it's just humbling to be able to be involved in something that has been so grounded in the industry for so long.”

Final results from the Canadian National Gelbvieh Show had not been posted at the time of publishing.