STORMONT COUNTY — When the president of the Canadian Highland Cattle Society saw a beautiful picture of the historic breed on the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair website, she thought it was so ironic it is being excluded from the competition this fall.
Although the picture may have been pulled since, it was still posted on the website during this interview with Donna Lampron on May 28.
"You’d think they were the highlight," she told The AgriNews. "I asked them why they were advertising a breed that was not being allowed in the show."
"It saddens me a lot that we are being expelled. It’s the prestigious show in Canada. It means I’’ll have to go to the U.S. and other little local fairs. It’s the one show that is looked at all over the world," Lampron continued.
Lampron has about 80 head of Highland cattle at a farm in North Stormont Township and has been showing the animals at the Royal Winter Fair every year since 2008, except in 2010 when many Canadian breeders were attending a Highland breeders gathering in Scotland.
Every year at the Royal, Lampron walked away with numerous ribbons for her cattle, and in 2011, she won best exhibitor, premium breeder while her bulls won grand champion and reserve grand champion and get of sire.
But on March 15 this year, Canadian Highland Cattle Society president Donna Lampron received a letter from Caitlin O’Neill, manager of the RAWF’s agricultural programs, citing "scheduling and stalling challenges" as a reason not to offer the society a show in Nov. 2012.
Lampron denies there was a lack of space in the 2011 show, because "the whole section beside us was empty all the time we were there."
Instead Lampron believes that the big Hereford, Angus and Limousin breeders have been lobbying officials not to include the rare breeds. Not only Highland cattle, but the Maine Anjou and Galloway breeds have been told not to return to the show.
She also disputes O’Neill’s statement that "the Highland show at the Royal over the past five years has had declining support from the Highland breeders of Canada and struggles to meet the minimum number of 40 head required for a show."
"Every year we have come up with the minimum number of animals to show, although it is difficult because of the expense of fees, lack of prize money and expensive living arrangements which are part of the event," Lampron differs.
On March 27, Lampron responded to O’Neill, protesting the decision and outlining the Scottish Highland breed’s history as the oldest registered breed of cattle, that has been shown for years.
She says the cattle are popular with visitors to the Fair, because of their appearance, docility and their meat which is high in protein, iron and lower in cholesterol than most other breeds of beef making it a premium meat choice.
The Highlands are easy to look after, being largely grass fed, except for finishing with grain and are very hardy, requiring no built shelter except for a windbreak that can be supplied by a stand of bush.
Lampron suggests there should be a maximum as well as a minimum number of entries to give everyone a chance to participate and equal opportunity to all breeders.
Setting a maximum number per breed would solve issues of stalling and scheduling, she says.
Although the issue of "danger" by having Highlands or so many cattle at the Fair was apparently raised, Lampron suggests "what is very dangerous are these big breeds and all the public and people walking around, especially on weekends! Is stopping the public from having access to the barns next on the big breeds’ list of demands?"
She acknowledges that some exhibitors might worry about walking beside Highlands because of their long horns, but insists these cattle are docile and use their horns mainly for scratching. The Galloways which don’t have horns were also excluded from the show, she adds.
Lampron says the RAWF’s priority is to educate the public about modern agriculture and not to make the large breeds happy, adding "The RAWF is there for the community, the visitors and participants and should, if not already, have a mandate of exposing all breeds of animals that are part of Canadian agriculture."
Although O’Neill suggested the Highland cattle have a continuing presence at the Royal through a commercial display space, Lampron doubts there will now be an opportunity.
Lampron says excluding the Highlands from the Royal will hurt their market, because so many people at the Fair didn’t know they were available here in Canada. "They’re the oldest registered breed in cattle," she adds.
After the Canadian Highland Cattle Society offered to pay part of the entry expense, the members believed more breeders would be interested in showing at the Royal. Lampron has already been approached by two breeders interested in this fall’s competition who will be disappointed by the Fair board’s decision.
She says her letter of March 27 has not been answered, but she has written the Minister of Agriculture and will raise the issue with Stormont, Dundas and South Glengarry MP Guy Lauzon.
On May 30, Caitlin O’Neill explained in an e-mail to the AgriNews, that the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair livestock show has had an increased number of entries and limited space over the last few years and something needed to be done about the situation. As a result, "it was determined our prime goal should be to allocate sufficient space to our Junior shows (beef and dairy) as well as host cattle shows that have sufficient numbers to ensure a successful show. In reviewing show numbers for the past five years, it became clear that the Highland, Maine Anjou and Galloway breeds were struggling to attract enough entries for a truly national show."
O’Neill added each of these breeds has been offered an animal display space so as to continue to have a presence at the fair and each breed association is being contacted with the offer. In addition, the Guernsey show was cancelled several years ago under similar circumstances.