Fort Worth Stock Show

Skinny Herefords take championship awards

P.J. Butler and Gary Buchholz, President of the Texas Hereford Association unveil the cardboard cutout of the winner of the Hereford Miss World at the Fort Worth Stock Show Sunday.
P.J. Butler and Gary Buchholz, President of the Texas Hereford Association unveil the cardboard cutout of the winner of the Hereford Miss World at the Fort Worth Stock Show Sunday. Star-Telegram

They were easily the skinniest cows ever shown at the Stock Show. But they left the show ring with two of the most grandiose awards the event has ever seen.

Countless breed and show champions have been named at the Stock Show over its 119-year history. But for the first time, a pair of “world champions” was crowned Sunday.

A Hereford World Champion bull and a Hereford Miss World female for 2014 were named by HerefordBreeder.net, in conjunction with the Stock Show and other sponsors, in ceremonies in the West Arena at the Stock Show on Sunday. The award is dated 2014 because the cattle were judged in December.

The winning bull, shown by Fernando Bordaberry of Uruguay, and the winning female, a cow shown by Cayley Brown of Perry, Saskatchewan, Canada, each received $5,000. The other six finalists received $3,000 each.

“This is the richest Hereford show in the world. There isn’t a Hereford show that pays out as much in premiums [prize money],” said PJ Budler, founder of HerefordBreeder.net and the creator of the event, which is in its third year.

But the big difference in this awards ceremony, compared to others at the Stock Show, is that the cattle did not have to be present to win. Because it is not practical to move cattle across borders, the stock was instead represented by a pair of life-sized, cardboard cutouts created from photos. So these exceptionally thick animals were reduced to avatars less than a half-inch thick, making for a unique sight in the Stock Show’s West Arena sale and show ring on Sunday.

Budler got the idea to develop a global Hereford competition from a surprising source.

“I was watching the [soccer] World Cup about four years ago, and I thought this is one time when the whole world cares about soccer. So I thought we could have a similar concept and start growing it with Hereford cattle, where you involve every country around the world,” said Budler, a native of South Africa who now lives in Fort Worth. He said he wanted it to be as much like FIFA, the governing body of World Cup soccer, as possible.

Many would say Budler has done just that.

“The idea is to lift the profile of what you can do with the breed and create some excitement around the breed,” said Budler, adding that 45 countries sent in entries for this competition. “People are so passionate about Herefords. We wanted them to be able to go farther than just winning their local show in Germany.”

The regional winners (four bulls and four females) eligible to compete in Sunday’s finals were from Argentina, Australia, Canada, Denmark, New Zealand, Scotland, Uruguay and the U.S.

“We had entries from Uganda, where there are probably two [Hereford] breeders,” said Budler, who judges Hereford shows all over the world.

To qualify, Herefords must win a “premiere” show in their homeland. In the U.S., that means the show in Denver.

Because the potential world champions are scattered all over the globe, contestants submit photos online of their stock that are evaluated by a panel of four judges.

“It’s all done online. Whoever is behind the lens needs to do a good job,” said Budler.

The experienced, international judges also get some help from the peanut gallery. A fifth judging position comes from the general public, so the HerefordBreeder.net Facebook group, made up of some 6,500 members, collectively selects its favorites for that vote.

“We had judging coming in from 31 different countries,” Budler said. “So whoever ends up winning this deal, it’s really what the world thinks of them, not just one person.”

Judges apparently liked the way Brown fits out her cattle. The 18-year-old Canadian collected her second Hereford Miss World award, after winning in 2012 with the mother of the cow that took the 2014 award Sunday.

“I think she is just a really functional cow. She’s made right. She has extra power that I think everyone can appreciate no matter where they are from. And I think it also helped having that calf in front of her, because that is a calf I am pretty proud of,” said Brown, referring to her entry photo, which showed her winning cow with one of her calves, and unknowingly reinforcing what Budler had said about the importance of photography in the competition.

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