18th annual Bull Day held in different location and on different day

The 18th Annual Bull Day Showcase was unlike any of the previous events in its lifespan. This year, the cattle were displayed in the Dickinson State University Indoor Arena with lunch, booths and a speaker at the Biesiot Activities Center on Monday.

A yearling from the Hendrickx Herefords Ranch in Bowman, was on display during the 18th Annual Bull Day Showcase in Dickinson on Monday. (Press Photo by Kalsey Stults)

The 18th Annual Bull Day Showcase was unlike any of the previous events in its lifespan.

This year, the cattle were displayed in the Dickinson State University Indoor Arena with lunch, booths and a speaker at the Biesiot Activities Center on Monday.

The event historically was held on Saturday at the Stockmen's Livestock Exchange but this year the event moved to a warmer facility and to Martin Luther King Jr. Day at a time between morning and evening chores.

"This was an attempt to revitalize it and to changing it to this venue was helpful," said Cheryl Viola, executive director of the Dickinson Chamber of Commerce.

She said they were trying "to bring in some new interest" and also make it convenient to bring along family members.


The Dickinson Chamber of Commerce hosted the event and Viola said the event is always a great place for new ranchers or cattleman.

"It's exposure, especially if you are a brand new rancher and, yeah, you got some connections, but you want to branch out, this helps you build exposure and get your name out there to people you may not have normally reached out to," she said.

Travis Hande, the ag committee's event chairman, said a lot has changed from when he last chaired the event eight years ago, including the amount of people in attendance and the number of producers.

"Bull Days was still new enough (eight years ago) and the cattle market was still going up and it was in good times," he said. "It still had some shine to it. You know, the market is on a down right now, so the prices are down and everybody's temperament and excitement is down. It's not a real fun time in agriculture right now."

This year around 100 people showed up to Bull Days to see nine producers display their cattle-while a few years ago, the numbers would be about double that.

Unlike a few years ago, an announcer wasn't reading the information on the bulls as they were led around the ring; instead, the ranchers stood beside their cattle and talk to interested buyers directly.

"The ranchers are liking this format better because instead of having someone else read off the genetics, they are able to instigate much more in-depth conversations with potential buyers, which is very helpful for them," Viola said.

Hande agreed and said he got good feedback on the intimate interactions that this venue gave an opportunity for.


"I saw some great interaction, and the producers told me they had wonderful talks with people," he said. "I heard some positive feedback from people that we can build on."

After a small hiccup, in which the educational presenter and the back-up education presenter both had medical emergencies, Larry Schnell of Stockmen's Livestock Exchange, at the very last moment took over the spotlight.

Schnell, who recently became a member of a national group to discuss market volatility with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and other decision makers, discussed with those in attendance about his newfound role and how the complex matter will take a while to come to amends.

"I think this is a very long-term project, and I don't think anything is going to happen overnight," he said.

He discussed high-frequency trading with the crowd -an algorithmic trading system in which Schnell believes spoofing may be occurring in livestock trade.

Spoofing causes a disturbance to the algorithm in the trading system when the traders place fake bids just to withdraw them with the intent to raise demand and prices. He said the group is currently working with the CFTC to eliminate that.

Schnell also highlighted a concern on the tameness of cattle.

"We are seeing more and more and more of these cattle come to the auctions market that are wilder, wilder and wilder," he said. "I think the reality is that we are all really busy and so we don't get the opportunity to walk through those cattle on a regular basis."


Schnell said that it isn't only a liability for the owners but it could cause them to be blacklisted at auctions from buyers not wanting to buy wild cows.

"If they have 5,000 heads of cattle to pick from and there's a group of cattle that are wild and they (the buyers) know it, they are going to pass it up and go to the next one, and you don't want to be the person they pass up," he said. "We always preach in our operations to cosigners that whether you like it or not, you are building a reputation when you sell your cattle."

Schnell encouraged people to attend a series of presentations in the area on the topic and related topics.

On Wednesday, the 43rd annual Medora Beef Day will be held at Buffalo Gap Guest Ranch, during which John Paterson, an emeritus professor at Montana State University and Geneseek territory manager, will present "Tools to Build Your Cow Herd" and Curt Pate, a Montana Stockman, will present "Total Stockmanship." The same discussions will be held in Rhame on Thursday. For more information go to or call 701-456-7665.
Viola said the Bull Day event, like other events in the area, is an education tool.

"A lot of it is really educating this younger generation to say, 'Hey, you need to understand that there is a lot of hard work involved in having those things that you enjoy,'" she said. "So many of the people that are here now weren't here five years ago, and it is important to know where your food comes from and where this comes from and how it affects the livelihood of our whole community."

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