New and improved: The latest technology and its impact on the Black Hills Stock Show
February 10, 2014
From "the old days" of bookkeeping with a pencil and paper and communication via mail to today's Internet auctions, online entry forms and immediate results, the Black Hills Stock Show and Rodeo (BHSS) is continually striving to match the latest technology with the needs of show contestants and consignors. The economic impact of the original three-breed show has grown phenomenally too, due in part to the variety of bidding, advertising and marketing options. Last year, 331,000 people attended the event. A study done two years ago determined that the show and rodeo and related events have an economic impact of $21.9 million and a direct economic impact of $15.2 million on the community.
While there are some things that cannot be replaced, such as a good staff behind the latest app or smartphone, the various ways technology has been successfully implemented at the BHSS is exciting for all involved.
The sale ring
"In a 1987 Rapid City Journal, one of the biggest stories was the fact that they had two phone lines on the BHSS auction block. Today we might have double or triple the 700 people our ring holds involved in a sale via Internet or cell phone," began BHSS Livestock Coordinator Kadee Hande of a prime example explaining the magnitude in which technology has changed selling at the BHSS.
Many of those unable to attend a livestock sale this year are likely watching it on DVAuction. The Internet -based auctioneering company has been with the BHSS for half a decade, providing real-time Internet- based auction services that have been well received by buyers and consignors alike.
"Weather, calving and location no longer impact a buyer's ability to participate in a sale," noted Hande. "DVAuctions have turned each sale into a nationwide event, and every time someone clicks the mouse, it's another $100 for that consignor. That's real progress and justification for attending our show and bringing quality livestock each year."
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For longtime BHSS Simmental show and sale consignors Jock and Brenda Beeson, of Western Cattle Source near Crawford, Neb., there are additional advantages specific to the DVAuction company they appreciate when participating in one of their sales.
"DV puts that computer right in front of the auctioneer so that he can see the online activity and adjust accordingly. Some companies have another person at a separate desk doing the Internet bidding, but this method eliminates one person in the equation and makes it a more efficient use of the technology," stated Brenda.
The behind-the-scenes perks of improved technology may not be as noticeable, but are equally appreciated by those who clerk the numerous BHSS sales each year.
"Ten years ago it was a situation where the consignor wasn't paid until two weeks after the sale. This was because we would clerk each sale by hand, then send that information to our livestock office, where the accountant would take out all expenses against that consignor, such as advertising. From there it would go over to our finance office, which was responsible for taking out commission charges," she explained of the timely, multi-step process that historically preceded mailing checks.
In contrast, today all livestock sales utilize a computer program developed by Marc Hotchkiss that enables them to immediately calculate all costs, and get a check in the consignors hand within hours. The same program provides the ability to do checks and balances and print a variety detailed reports within seconds.
"Today we use half the staff to calculate everything for each buyer and seller within minutes instead of weeks. We decided to try Marc's program because we always want to treat our consignors and buyers as well as possible, and believed speeding up the process would be a benefit to all," explained Hande.
The show ring
Traveling for hours or even days to attend the AQHA (American Quarter Horse Association) show that kicks off the BHSS is an annual affair for many. But, imagine paying all the entry fees, traveling to the show and preparing to compete, only to realize the necessary AQHA card is sitting back home.
"Before, contestants had to have their AQHA card on them and in current form. Today, because of technology, if they forget their card or papers I can go right on the Internet to the AQHA website and find out if they're a current member, ensure their horse's paperwork is current, and answer a number of other questions that couldn't be answered in the past," explained AQHA Horse Show Secretary Mary Glass of a real advantage to technology for participants in the horse show.
As part of recent changes made to the AQHA, determining which level a rider and horse fall into for certain classes would also be daunting without a solid Internet connect in combination with a computer or smartphone.
"Since it's a points-based system, people will change levels, and consequently classes, frequently in some cases. Being able to quickly and accurately determine which level and class a person is in on any given day helps them and takes a big burden off me," continued Glass.
Missy Weber of Weber Quarter Horses near Valentine, Neb., is showing a stallion in multiple shows at BHSS this year in addition to showcasing him on stallion row. She said the ability to determine her horse's schedule for the week utilizing technology is a big advantage.
"The part of showing at BHSS I like best today is that I can just turn on my computer, pull up the stock show's website, and see exactly when the events my horse is entered in will be ran. You don't have to call the show or your trainer to ask the details," she noted.
Not only are schedules found with ease online today, but results are also posted right from the show, allowing competitors to know where they stand must faster than in the past.
"When I first started secretarying, we used a computer, but had to enter all the information and send it off to the national association on a disc in the mail. Now, I still use the same computer program, but link up to the AQHA site and enter the information directly onto their database. As soon as I enter it, the information becomes available to both the AQHA and the contestants. It's much faster and saves everybody a lot of time," said Glass.
Emailing and websites may seem like the oldest children of technology, but their maintenance and evolution is ongoing. Hande explained that in addition to continually striving to make the BHSS site itself better, she also works to use it as a means to provide additional opportunities for contestants.
"One example is we have set up eblasting newsletters through DVAuction. If a potential customer signs up, they will receive emails with sale and other information specific to the breed(s) they requested. Today we are able to take that one step further and provide our BHSS consignors the opportunity to eblast their own production sale to that same list of people free of charge as a benefit of participating in the show. We can do that because it is simple with the technology we currently have," she explained.
"Other recent changes we've supported include anything in Simmental sale needing 'green status,' which means they're deemed free of genetic defects. That was implemented two years ago due to it being easily checkable online. Another is the addition of the embryo auction. While we don't participate, we feel it is a great marketing tool for people with exceptional donor cows, and something that is made possible by increases in technology." Simmental producer and BHSS competitor Brenda Beeson on additional aspects of technology relevant to the cattle side of the show that she and husband Jock appreciate being available.
Entering the show online by obtaining necessary forms off the website and emailing them to Hande is another advantage the Beesons appreciate.
"I think using the website and email is much handier, and it eliminates the wondering of whether your entry forms were lost in the mail or not," noted Brenda.
"I know of several people who requested horse sale catalogs for this year that never received them in the mail. We utilized Facebook to ask if anyone wanted one in our area, and have found several who are still waiting. We were able to mail them a second catalog, and also explain how they can download and access it off the website," added Weber. She also explained that while she was apprehensive about using Facebook at first, she is now finds that, of the people that call to ask about her horses, most of them found her on the social networking site.
What technology can't replace
For the competitors, the people behind the technology at the BHSS are what continue to make it shine, and a key aspect of the show's continued success and improvement.
"The BHSS staff is extremely accommodating, and do a good job making the show happen. We really like Kadee (Hande), who we work with, but they all do a great job of keeping up with the times. If you see something and bring it up with one of them, they're open to the idea. That's nice as a producer," stated Jock.
Weber echoed the statement, applauding the staff she works with for keeping all the technical aspects of the show she enjoys running and up to date, both in person and online.
"Jill Swanhorst does a phenomenal job in contributing to the event's success. She truly loves her job and manages to keep the everyday tasks, both technical and otherwise, running smoothly all year long," said Weber.
Finding the right horse or bull to use or purchase is another component of the modern BHSS where technology provides assistance, but does not replace the necessity of making a personal decision.
"As a buyer, you still have to go look through the cattle and see what works for your operation and livestock, whether in person or online. It's still a show that becomes political and one judge's opinion, and his opinion may not fit your operation. Technology may change how you determine which cattle fit on your operation, but I don't think it eliminates the need to look at the animal in question," stated Brenda.