Taking Texas by Storm

Polk County Teen Wins Grand Champion Bull at Houston Show 

by TERESA SCHIFFER

 

Amid a sea of well-established competitors, a Polk County teen stole the spotlight when she and her bull won Grand Champion Bull at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo in Texas recently.  

 

In the hectic world of livestock showing, Houston is where the biggest and brightest come to make their mark. Exhibitors came from across the U.S. to show animals they’ve raised at the competition, billed as the world’s largest event of its kind.

 

This year, Payge Dupre and her mother, Melissa Nichols, took a chance on showing an elegantly aging bull in the Houston show. It was a move that paid off with a shocking win that Nichols says is “pretty much like winning the Super Bowl.”

 

Dupre, a junior at Lake Gibson High School in Lakeland, has spent her life surrounded by livestock and people who raise animals to show and sell. This has instilled in Dupre a deep appreciation for agriculture and an affinity for working with livestock. At age 5, she started showing cattle herself.

 

At school, 17-year-old Dupre is a member of the Agriculture Biotechnology program. She also serves as the 2022-23 FFA Chapter President. She says agriculture has been a part of her life for as long as she can remember. Her interest in livestock was piqued when as a young child she accompanied her mother to a ranch as she worked. Then her older brothers began showing market hogs and breeding heifers, further heightening her interest in working with animals.

 

“I have learned many valuable life skills by raising and showing cattle,” Dupre says. “I have learned to be responsible, manage my time wisely, and I have grown out of my shell within this industry. Getting to go out and meet new people at different shows gives me many connections that will be useful to me at some point in my life, if they haven’t already.”

 

Dupre’s family has been involved in raising Brangus cattle for years. The breed is a cross between Brahman and Angus cattle that was developed about 1932. It is a highly desirable breed because the Brangus exhibits many superior traits of each parent breed, such as the general hardiness of the Brahman and the exceptional meat quality derived from the Angus. 

 

In 2013, a new derivative of the Brangus breed was officially recognized by the International Brangus Breeders Association, the Ultrablack®. The Ultrablack® is further breeding of Angus and Brangus cattle that results in an animal that must have between 50 and 87.5 Brangus genetics while the rest consist of registered Angus lineage. 

 

Nichols explains how her family responded to this development in the evolution of Brangus cattle, “You can breed an Angus bull to a Brangus cow, or a Brangus bull to an Angus cow, and you get a thing called Ultrablack®. We felt like the future of the industry was the Ultrablack®. So we decided to go out and start playing with the Angus side of stuff. After you get that calf and breed it back to Angus, and then you get that calf and breed it back to Brangus, and then you get first-generation Brangus, which is otherwise not obtainable anymore.”

 

Dupre was eager to start breeding Ultrablacks®, and as luck would have it, she and her mother were able to acquire a phenomenal bull for Payge to work with through a partnership with another local rancher who was initially looking to sell the animal at a steep price. The bull was a bit older though, with just one year left to qualify for show.

 

Nichols and her daughter made the most of that year, showing the 2,400-pound beast, which competes under the name Seldom Rest Splash 9054 but is affectionately known by Dupre as “Big Poppa,” at a number of local shows. March 25, 2022, was the Ultrablack® bull’s date of aging out of the show world for good, so Nichols and Payge headed to Houston to see how he’d do at the biggest livestock show in the U.S.

 

They were hopeful but kept their expectations low as they traveled to Houston with Big Poppa. Simply winning in his class would improve the odds of marketing the bull’s semen after he aged out of showing. The size of the barn at the Houston fair alone was breathtakingly impressive, and the two never expected to bring home a major victory, especially with Dupre being a mere high school student from Florida and not a member of a long-established ranching family from Texas or Oklahoma. 

 

“He went in and won his class, he won his division, and then he didn’t even come back out because he was the oldest one. Keep in mind, he only had three more weeks of showing until he aged out,” Nichols explains. “Then she’s in there, in the final drive, and the judge walked from the back to the front, then he walked back and got the mic, and as soon as he started talking he slapped her right then. It was an amazing moment.”

 

Dupre was flabbergasted by her win, while her mother was overwhelmed with pride.

 

Dupre and her mother would like to thank Justin Grace and J.D. Porter, their partners in this venture. Without them, this high school girl would have missed the experience of a lifetime. But that’s what Florida agriculturalists do best – support and encourage younger generations to achieve their goals.

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