Recently I ran out of space to tell you more about our USA 1600-plus mile trip, with a North-east group of farmers to Montana – so I’ve been allowed an extra page!

Although not on our schedule, we were lucky to be able to attend the County State Fair at Bozeman showground, which is situated right at the edge of the town and runs from Wednesday to Sunday night, when country really does come to town.

It included a 4H Rally (similar to our SAYFC) and I was able to watch the judging on day one, when almost 60 beef calves were shown, with some obvious differences to the Ayrshire YFC Rally calves that I judged just a few weeks ago.

Firstly, they were all slightly older, with an average weight of around 550kg and all were to be slaughtered after they were sold on the Friday evening. Similar to the Ayr YFC, they were all weighed when bought last back-end and weighed again when they arrived on the showfield, plus scanned at the rib-eye, with the results being announced before the sale.

The 47 steers were divided into six classes, based on weight. The main difference here, compared to home, was that the judge lined them up with the worst one first. I can tell you, I was a bit puzzled at his first class until I realised he was doing it in reverse! After we sorted that out, we were mainly agreeing with his placements and his reasons were comprehensive, even a bit long-winded!

Next day was showmanship, but with the majority being girls, it could have been renamed girl-showmanship. Main notable difference was that no humbugs were used, which caused some close shaves to those young people who could have been severely injured by headstrong calves. I did have a chat with one of the organisers about how we used humbugs in Scotland for safety reasons.

Secondly, I was surprised that their clip jobs were nothing like the professionalism we have at home. With the same judge as before, there were a few changes. He only placed the top two and then gave individual reasons to the others in the class to help them to improve their showmanship, to be as good as the winners.

We did not see the sale on the Friday, but there were five large banks in Montana, plus some large machinery and insurance firms who buy cattle at the auction for around three times their commercial worth, slaughter them between the four local abattoirs, who pack the beef before it is distributed to their staff as a ‘thank you’.

And we could not go to this horse-loving state without attending a rodeo, which ran from 7.30-9.30pm, by which time it sure was getting cold.

One had to admire how those horses were put through their paces and the speed they swirled round the barrels and how clever they were at knowing how to keep on the pressure on the ropes when the cowboys lassoed the calves, turned them over and tied their legs – all in a few seconds!

We especially enjoyed about 20 girls in Western attire doing a musical ride, flag in one hand and reins in the other, demonstrating what horses can do at speed.

Then, we visited a Hereford breeder’s ranch of 3600 acres, established in 1940 and run by a husband and wife partnership, two daughters and a son-in- law, with the three young ones also having off farm jobs.

They run 170 Hereford pedigree cows, and 100 commercial, mostly Angus cross Herefords, better known as Black Baldies. Also, eight Hereford cows were on flushing programmes, with the Black Baldies used as recipients. They also have an annual sale where some 80 bulls and 25 in-calf heifers are cashed.

They rely entirely on hay for winter feed, with a seed mix of a quarter red clover, half alfalfa and a quarter of broom grass. They cash cropped about 1500 tonnes of hay each year which averages about $100 per tonne, which is similar to here. The ranch was debt free.

The next door ranch of about 11,000 acres is up for sale, with an asking price of $10m – that is around £750 per acre – and it has no irrigation. Installing pivot irrigation costs more than £1000/acre, plus extraction costs. Needless to say, the neighbour had no intention of putting in an offer.

Finally, they say you keep the best to the last, which was the Doug Stevenson Ranch, and with a name like that we had no bother guessing where his ancestors hailed from, with his mother’s side from Ireland.

Doug was in his middle 50s before purchasing this 3000-acre ranch for $650 per acre, four years ago. His background was a little vague, but we gleaned that it was a family split up where he had the responsibility for 10,000 cows. Now it was Doug, his son-in-law and only daughter – who had a day job as a pharmacist – who were running this new operation.

When he bought it there were no buildings, a small house, virtually no handling facilities or fences.

Today, he has 400 Angus cows that any stockperson would be proud to own, a cattle handling system under cover that cost $55,000, and if you want a ‘Rolls-Royce’ system, you will need a copy of this one!

He still had an interest in 300 cows in Missouri and a further 300 in Texas on what can only be described as a complicated rental system. Last year, he sold 300 bulls to average $7000, which is nearly £6000.

Doug was by far the most knowledgeable on every aspect of the beef industry, not only in the US, but world-wide, even down to the demographics of the farming population.

Like us, he wondered where the next generation of farmers and ranchers were going to come from, due to much smaller farming families, increasing costs, smaller margins, better lifestyle opportunities off farm?

His parting shot was that farmers’ margins, world-wide, need to change. If not, then where was the food going to come from to feed a growing population of the world?