When Cameron Olson was nine years-old his family moved southeast of Calgary to Rockyview County to his grandparent’s farm. While his mom had grown up around cows and had attended 4-H, her son had no idea what was in store in the country for them.
“Even though we didn’t have any cattle, mom thought I would like 4-H so she encouraged me to get involved,” remembers Cameron Olson.
“The first year I built a model train set. The second year we bought an Angus cross steer from the neighbour to show. I knew nothing about cattle and barely managed to clip the head of my steer for 4-H on parade.” While Cameron was on a steep learning curve with the cattle, it wasn’t until his third year of 4-H when he got a commercial heifer to take to the summer shows that he began to take a keen interest.
He says: “I wasn’t too excited about showing steers but my first female really opened my eyes to the cow/calf industry and what impact my decisions could make in building a good group of cattle. My mom had been raised with Limousin cattle so together we selected a purebred Limousin female to show the next year. I credit neighbouring Limousin breeders for helping us select good foundation females for our small herd.”
Over the past five years, the Olson’s have grown their Limousin cow base to twenty and Cameron now owns seven females. They have not just participated in the many 4-H events but have shown their Limos at the Limousin national shows at both Farmfair and Agribition.
“While we only have 20 cows, we’ve had great breeding success,” says Olson. “Two years ago we had 22 calves and only one open female.”
When asked if he ever questioned the breed of cattle he was raising Olson replied: “I don’t think I’m in the wrong breed. But I do believe that we can grow the image of Limousin’s superior carcass traits directly to the consumer. I think that we need to do more branding at the meat counter.”
Olson is currently going through another steep learning curve since moving down to Texas to begin the Production Animal Science course at Texas A & M University this fall.
“Down here,” he says, “you see branded beef programs everywhere in the grocery stores. It’s not like at home where you see the Co-op brand or the Safeway brand. Here there’s the Certified Angus Beef labeling and the Nolan Ryan Tender Aged Beef Program to just name a few.”
Even with a herd liquidation underway in Texas, due to the severe drought, Olson is optimistic about the future of the North American cattle industry.
He says: “I’ve heard that the American national herd numbers are close to what they were in 1958. The numbers will rebound and I want to be a part of the cattle industry to help to feed the more than seven billion people in the world.
“While I don’t have to actually decide which direction to go with my degree, at present, I’m looking at minors in meat science or agriculture economics.”
Olson is already penciling out the cost of both buying ranch land and the cost of building up a purebred cattle herd. “I want to try my hand at making cattle production more profitable,” says this 18-year old.
While attending Texas A & M was a dream come true, Olson still marvels at how his life direction changed when he moved to the farm.
“You know,” he confides, “I sometimes wonder where I would be if I hadn’t walked into the Alberta 4-H program. I was in several clubs, the Bow Valley Beef and Multi, The Balzac Beef Club and the South Country Judging Club.”
“Now, I’m working on a profession that will eventually take me back to the farm with hopefully enough capital to buy land and a big enough purebred Limousin herd to make a decent living.”