The Oscars Of Livestock In The Mile High City

The single largest cattle show in the United States, the National Western Stock Show, is now under way in Denver. Fans roar overhead, keeping the air cool and the odors at bay, as Jeanette Fuller spiffs up her Black Angus — with product.

“High-strength hairspray, basically, just trying to get the hair to accentuate the good things about her and kind of cover up the bad things about her,” Fuller says.

The barn is like a dressing room backstage at the Oscars, except it is the country’s premier Angus show. Fuller, who raises certified Angus beef near Twin Falls, Idaho, styles the tail meticulously. She then buffs up its coat so it shines.

“We want them to look their best,” she says.

Almost everyone in the audience on the show floor is a prominent cattle breeder or buyer.

“This event … has been going over a hundred years,” John McCurry of Burton, Kan., says as he herds his senior heifer calf out of the arena.

McCurry is modest and matter-of-fact, what you would expect of a cowboy. But beneath the brim of his tan hat, a subtle smile forms as he clutches a big blue ribbon. Winning here at the Super Bowl for the cattle industry is prestigious, and great for business, participants say.

“This is the toughest show in the world, in terms of quality Angus cattle,” McCurry says.

There are also sheep and goats pleading for their dinner here in the small livestock barn, and hogs, chickens, horse shows, rodeos and vendor stalls.

There’s a lot of leather. And you can buy longhorns — your very own longhorn for $224.95.

There’s even bull semen for sale.

“We are a semen sales business from Great Falls, Mont.,” salesman Chase Murray says.

It’s actually a lucrative market, according to Murray. “You don’t have to spend a whole bunch of money to get one of these good bulls,” he says. “You can just breed, buy some semen, to get better replacement heifers.”

The bull semen and cattle business in general is booming right now. So Reece Aglin didn’t think twice about gassing up his truck and trailer to drive the 700 miles from his ranch in Circle, Mont.

Outside, in the sunny stockyards, he’s tending to his prized purebred shorthorn. “He’s probably around 1,800 pounds,” Aglin says. “He’s just a pretty outstanding show bull; he’s got lots of power, lots of hip, good thick muscle — overall a pretty amazing bull.”

Unlike the smaller cows inside, this shorthorn won’t be competing. Aglin is just here to show him off and network through next Sunday, the end of the show.

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