There is no question that, for many dairy breeders, there is nothing more exciting than winning at the Royal or Madison. Along with the fame comes the fortune. But what happens for the other 99% of people who don’t win? Do they make any money? Does their need for inner self-gratification get satisfied?
There are many reasons that breeders show their cattle at the local fair, such as supporting their local community, or helping teach their children the joys of the dairy cattle community. However, when it comes to competing at the championship, state and national level, is there really justification for the time, effort and expense?
Over the years, I have seen a few things happen when it comes to making money in the show cattle business:
- A breeder either “gets lucky” or “by design” breeds a great one, and, if they are fortunate enough to know what they have, they sell it for a significant profit to one of the many cattle dealers that run the roads.
- When it comes to buying the top animals, it really comes down to a small group of buyers. These buyers seem to trade cattle like they are playing cards, and it’s hard to tell if money is actually being made, or is it the same money going around in circles.
- Unknowing breeders purchase progeny from these cattle hoping that they can breed the next great one. (For more on this read Great Show Cows: Can They Pass It On?)
Should Dairy Cattle be more like Race Horses?
The dairy cattle industry is not like the horse racing industry that has gambling revenue to support their cause. I can still remember in Ontario when they wanted to add slot machines to the horse racing tracks and the breeders fought it tooth and nail. In the end it more than quadrupled there prize money and made many breeders very very rich. Is there any way we could add betting on show results? (Oh wait that is a can of worms we may not want to touch. Watch for it in a future Bullvine article).
In reality, the only ones that really make money at this are the small few that have a class winner at Madison or the Royal, or those that are fortunate enough to get lucky with a homebred animal that can compete at the National level. All the rest are spending a great deal of money to support their ego.
Athletes vs. Doctors
I equate it to the same amount of money that big time sports players make. Yes, you see these million dollar contracts for the big name athletes. However, for every one of those there are twenty that you never heard of that spent a great deal of time and energy chasing a dream. The scary part is that, much like in real life, the big name athletes seem to make more money than say a doctor. They’re good at a game. Doctor’s save lives. The same is true at the top sales. You see the major show cattle selling for millions of dollars and yet the top LPI or TPI cattle don’t sell for as much. Don’t the top TPI or LPI cows drive the most profit for dairy breeders? Shouldn’t they command the highest prices?
The Bullvine Bottom Line
When investing in show cattle the big question you need to answer is why you are doing it. Are you investing to make a huge profit? If so I wish you luck. However, if you are investing because you love preparing great cattle to parade in top showcase events or love the thrill of competing against the best in the business then more power to you. The big thing is know your own reasons and stay within what works for your operation. Profit. Ego. Passion. Where do you pull into the line?
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