Black Hills Stock Show means business. Ranch business.
For western states producers, the Black Hills Stock Show® (BHSS) is a chance to compare chutes, possibly buy a new ranch gelding and price bulls. It’s a social event that typically includes a business transaction or two. However, for those on the other side of the vendor table, saddle horn or show stick, it is an increasingly rare and coveted opportunity to engage with the ranching community as a whole while attending or competing in one of the premier stock shows in the country.
“The ranching customer is the foundation of the BHSS, and it’s the only deal I’m involved in where I can meet that kind of customer,” began renowned horse trainer Jamie Stover. “The customers at BHSS are your rancher, everyday cowboy types who have 10 or so mares they breed each year. If they pick a stud horse to use on those mares, it’s to raise themselves a really nice ranch horse most of the time. That’s a different type of customer than we have in the Midwest, and exactly the type we want to do business with,” he explained.
For Stover, that business has expanded from competing in several disciplines within the Zoetis Winter Classic AQHA (American Quarter Horse Association) Show at BHSS to also showcasing two studs he trained on Stallion Row for the first time 2015.
“Both ‘Hard to Get Playboy’ and ‘Boons Smart AE’ are really nice stallions, and their owners and I decided to showcase them on Stallion Row in an effort to find some quality mares to breed each of them to,” he explained.
Stover also brought seven horses to compete in the AQHA Show for the sixth year in a row, noting it is his favorite component of BHSS, and results in horses coming into his training program each year as a result of their owner’s watching him compete in Rapid City.
“This is the only show I attend all year where I can show my horses in every discipline. It is a big deal for me to have the ability to compete and hopefully gain points in reining cow horse, team roping, calf roping, ranch horse pleasure, cutting and halter, and to have a solid number of people in every class,” said Stover.
He feels the strong local interest in both BHSS and the horse industry in general are major components of the show’s success.
“The Rapid City area has a lot of quality horse breeders nearby. Plus, the locals all come and help make the show happen each year. They bring the numbers that make it worthwhile for those of us farther away to make the trip, and they take good care of us while we’re here. Most shows don’t see local involvement to the degree that the Black Hills Stock Show® does, and in my opinion it’s a big reason for the quality of show that is put on,” he said.
The positive response is much the same for those involved in the many livestock shows and sales that are held during each BHSS.
“The Black Hills Stock Show® bull and heifer show exhibitors are primarily people who have registered operations and either host a bull sale or a private treaty sale back home. BHSS falls at the front end of the spring bull sale season, and it really sets the tone for prices. People attend both to buy bulls, and to see what they can expect to pay at later sales, while exhibitors use it to gauge what they might expect out of the cattle they will market through their later production sale or private treaty offerings,” explained longtime BHSS competitor and volunteer Doyle DeJong, who with his wife Lorie raises Angus, Simmental, Maine-Anjou and Chi-Maine cattle. The couple also serve as the Maine-Anjou breed reps for the 2015 BHSS.
He continued, stating people from across the country, who might exhibit at a number of shows annually, make it a point to bring their livestock to BHSS to market them.
“The sales draw a large number of commercial cattlemen, as well as a healthy amount of registered breeders. People come to look, but people also come to buy. Competitors can get a lot of exposure for their program that will follow them home, and are generally paid well for bringing quality genetics to the BHSS,” said DeJong.
Another business opportunity DeJong’s take advantage of through their involvement in BHSS is to compare their livestock and program to other producers.
“If you’re doing your job and working to be progressive, you probably like what your cattle look like at home. But, as a registered producer, I feel it’s important and valuable to also get your livestock side by side with those raised by other people, then see if you still like them. The Black Hills Stock Show® is our annual opportunity to do that – it provides both a professional judge’s opinion of our cattle through the show component, and the customer’s opinion through what our cattle bring at the sale,” said DeJong.
Throughout the entire BHSS experience, the trade show remains a central hub of activity, providing a uniquely large volume and variety of ag products and services to shoppers.
“Not every trade show do I feel that as the owner I need to be in attendance, but I like to be at BHSS because it gives me a chance to build a relationship with actual ranch owners who use our product. There aren’t many shows where nine out of 10 people in attendance are directly involved in the livestock industry. That’s a big deal to me, and is something that is becoming very unique,” said Ritchey Livestock ID owner Grant Ritchey, whose company has had a booth at BHSS for over a decade.
In addition to being located in the heart of cattle country, Ritchey believes the combination of quality facilities and vendors also combines to keep the ranching community coming back every year.“The staff and facilities are exceptional – you feel like you’re right in the middle of the cattle show without feeling like you’re in a barn. Plus, on the vendor side, there is such a focus on the agriculture industry that you see multiple vendors for the same or similar ag products. Where you might see a single booth for one type of ag product at other shows we attend, in Rapid City there will be three to four options. Maintaining that type of tradeshow environment is tremendous, and we love that it is set up for ranchers to shop and conduct business, and that so many ranchers in the area use it for that purpose,” he noted.
As a whole, Ritchey sees the entire show as a good draw for everyone involved.
“It’s so rare to have kept every aspect of the show about the livestock community coming to town. It’s pretty cool that you can trust the fact that almost every animal being shown and sold, whether they’re a bull or a horse, came off a working operation, and that they’re being bought by people who will take them back to be used on a working operation. We’ve built a lot of relationships with those people over the years, and we see it as a tremendous event,” concluded Ritchey.