Potential business, as much  as sentiment, drawing ranchers | TSLN.com

Potential business, as much  as sentiment, drawing ranchers

Eric Brown
For Tri-State Livestock News
JIM RYDBOM/jrydbom@greeleytribune.com
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National Western Stock ShowThe National Western Stock Show in Denver kicks off this week, with events starting Thursday.

For schedules or other information about the event, go to http://www.nationalwestern.com.

Almost immediately after the words “national western” leave the lips of Harold Sidwell, a smile follows.

His father and grandfather began showing Herefords at the world-renowned National Western Stock Show in Denver in 1951, and even before that, a pre-teen Harold attended the annual event as a bright-eyed, future rancher, taken by the prize-winning cattle on “The Hill” and in “The Yard,” and all of the
activity going in between.

In the decades since, Harold and his family have come away from the stock show with honors, including overall reserve champion hardware in 2000, and more friends than they could ever count.

But as much as he anticipates the two-week spectacle each year, Harold, now 73, and his family are as eager as ever – maybe more so than ever, they said – for the 2013 version of the Stock Show, which kicks off Thursday.

In addition to sentiment and reunions with familiar faces, the National Western Stock Show means business, which is highly needed now by ranching families.

Sidwell – whose family raises Herefords on a ranch among the rolling hills north of Nunn, and sells to breeders on the Western Slope and in Wyoming and Nebraska – said nearly every year he’s met a new buyer at the stock show.

And following 2012 – what Sidwell describes as “quite possibly the toughest year” he can remember – any new connection would be a big boost.

Last year’s drought depleted grazing pastures and limited supplies of corn, soybeans, hay and other feed sources and has made feeding livestock more expensive than ever.

Some ranchers and dairymen couldn’t afford feed and are selling some of their cattle to slaughter early. up nearly 13 percent compared to November 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s most recent numbers.

Others – like the Sidwells, who at certain times of the year have about 350 mouths to feed – are hanging on to their cows.

They’re hoping the shrinkage of the U.S. cattle herd continues pushing cattle prices upward, so producers can eventually recoup the expenses of how much it’s costing now to feed the animals.

But they’ll need someone to buy their cattle in the future, when, or if, cattle prices reach those needed levels.

And hopefully, future buyers aplenty will be lined up for the Sidwells and others following this year’s National Western Stock Show.

“There’s really a lot of opportunity there,” said Marlene Sidwell,
Harold’s wife. The couple’s son, Bryan, and his wife, Linda, will be showing a Hereford heifer and a bull and a pen of three for the family, while their 15-year-old daughter will be showing a Hereford of her own.

Like the Sidwells, a number of ranching families are apparently in search of opportunity.

National Western Stock Show president and CEO Paul Andrews said entry numbers this year are up across the board for the event that brings in about 10,000 head of livestock. Early attendance numbers look strong, too.

“It looks to be a promising year,” Andrews said.

Ty Walter, a 20-year-old from Hudson who ranches with his family and took home hardware at last year’s stock show, hopes 2013 in general will be promising.

“You never know who’s eye you’re going to catch down there, or what kind of opportunity you’ll come across,” Walter said of the stock show.

Harold Sidwell agrees.

“Even if you don’t win, there’s so many buyers there, and one of them may think you have something they want,” said Harold, who was inducted into the American Hereford Association’s Hall of Fame last year. Marlene, was named American Hereford Woman of the Year in 2007.

“Oh course, winning only helps get their attention,” Harold said with a laugh. F