The Yak Pen Show, held in the Stockyards, took place today at the National Western Stock Show. Husband and wife duo, Scott and Michelle Steiner, evaluated the show. Former yak breeders, the Steiners evaluated each animal based on confirmation, quality and size while Wini Labrecque judged the animals' fiber.
The yak show has been a part of the NWSS since 1994. Though everyone looks forward to the show, yak exhibitors find a unique opportunity to create awareness around their breed.
As you walk through the Stockyards, a faint aroma of grilled meat surrounds you. When you arrive at rows 1700 and 1800, you discover why. Yak producers grill samples of yak meat as well as provide samples of jerky and summer sausage.
"When you tell someone about yak meat, you have to get them past the word yak," said Stephanie David, IYAK President.
The producers have found the best way to do this is to simply show consumers what they've been missing.
David said yak meat tends to be sweeter and leaner than traditional beef. However, the hardest part of selling the product is getting people past the unfamiliarity surrounding it. To do so, producers invite all visitors of the NWSS to try it out for themselves. In fact, they gain many repeat customers from the experience.
"We welcome everyone to taste the yak meat and see the products actually made from yak," David said.
No part of the yak is wasted and this holds true with the products on display at the NWSS. In addition to yak meat, producers also have fiber products available for sale. However, the greatest attraction of this section of the yards is Diego.
Diego is a family friendly yak who has been attending the NWSS for six years. Visitors of the stock show are able to pet Diego and take pictures with him.
Attendees may be drawn in by the smell of grilled meat and the ability to see and pet a live yak, but they stay because of the quality product and the fun, inviting environment the yak producers have created here at the NWSS.
Exhibiting market hogs at the National Western Stock Show has been a tradition for Alli Stromberger for the past six years. What makes this year different? She won.
Alli Stromberger, a 15-year-old sophomore in high school, hails from Iliff, Colorado. Alli began showing pigs eight years ago and has been exhibiting at the NWSS for six years.
"My family has a strong tradition of 4H and showing animals," Alli said. "I am honored to continue the tradition."
Though she always enjoys competing at the NWSS, this year was different. Not only was this Alli's first time winning the show, but it was also her first year making the sale.
Alli competed in the heavyweight crossbred division. After winning her division, she was named champion crossbred. This meant she would be competing for champion overall honors on the green carpet. Before the grand drive, Alli was filled with nerves and anticipation.
After all of the breed champions and reserves were paraded, the judge, Will Winter, took the microphone. Even after judging many major shows over the years, Winter said this was the best set of hogs he has judged to date.
Alli certainly didn't let those nerves get the best of her. Her hog was named Grand Champion at the 2020 NWSS.
"I'm at a loss for words," Alli said. "My early mornings and late nights have paid off."
After such an accomplishment, Alli was overcome with emotion. Surrounded by family and friends, she celebrated her victory.
The 2020 National Western Stock Show served as the 44th National Salers Open Show. Though somewhat new to the show ring relative to other breeds, Salers cattle have been around for some time.
Originating in the Auvergne region of South Central France, Salers are made to thrive in rough, variable climates. The topography of the region allows for little grain production which led Salers cattle breeders to focus on raising cattle which thrive on forage.
Salers cattle have a unique background and are considered to be one of the oldest and most genetically pure of all European breeds. Until recent years, Salers were not only known for beef production but milk production as well. From the 19th century through the late 20th century, Salers were improved and developed as a triple purpose animal – milk, meat and draught.
Some unique traits Salers possess are brown skin and pigmented membranes leading to fewer eye and udder problems. Additionally, their hair coat becomes thick and curly in the winter which allows them to adapt to the cold. They are also known for strong legs and good feet as, historically, cattle had to travel over rough ground for long periods of time. One especially distinctive trait is the breed’s large pelvic area. Comprehensive studies have shown Salers cattle have the largest pelvic area of all the major beef breeds.
Though Salers do not register the most numbers, there is still a lot of quality to be found in this historic and unique breed of cattle.
This year at the National Western Stock Show, the American Junior Simmental Association Junior Board has decided to honor one of their own members. Looking around the ring of the Simmental heifer show, you may notice a turquoise ribbon pinned to the collar of each board member’s’ jacket. Sammi Long was a senior AJSA member from Creston, Iowa, who passed away in a car accident in December.
Sammi and her family have been long-time supporters of the association. Through participation in the Simmental association, the Long family has been embraced by several other families over the years. The Long family chose to attend the NWSS this year to feel the support from their show family to help them through this challenging time and to support their fellow families in the Simmental breed.
Showing Simmental steers has offered a new definition for family. AJSA Director of Youth Activities, Darla Aegerter, said the association has started a memorial fund in honor of Sammi that has already raised more than $30,000 that will be used to support awards in her honor.
“Members of the breed have come together to support and wrap their arms around the family,” Aegerter said. “It has been amazing.”
This year the National Western Stock Show kept it in the family when it came to the livestock judges. There have been numerous siblings stand side by side both on the Hill and in the Yards to evaluate the best the industry has to offer. The Chianina show had a special energy as a new set of co-judges entered the ring today: husband and wife Wayne and Barb Olrichs.
This couple has been raising, exhibiting and evaluating livestock together for many years. Aside from the excitement of judging one of the largest shows in the country, the Olrichs had the privilege of being selected Reserve Champion Pen of Three Simmental and Maintainer Bulls in the Yards this year.
Co-judging together is special for anyone who enters a ring with the stature of the National Western Stock Show, but doing it with a spouse is an experience to be cherished forever.