Bob and Judy Tibbs, who own Shadow Springs Farm near Havre de Grace, have been showing animals at the fair for 26 years, and their animals have won numerous awards.
The couple had never captured six blue ribbons at a single fair, but that was before they became the proud owners of one of the top Charolais bulls in the country, if not the world.
In 2009, the Tibbs' Charolais white bull, SSF Corks 5J White Squall ET, was named Supreme Champion Bull at the state fair, then won National Reserve Grand Champion at the Keystone Livestock Show in Pennsylvania. White Squall also placed as the reserve grand champion at the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo in Texas.
This year, six Charolais beef cattle — all sired by White Squall — won blue ribbons at Timonium. The Tibbs also won Grand Champion Female, Reserve Grand Champion Female, Reserve Grand Champion Bull, Premier Exhibitor and Premier Breeder in their divisions. The family had won the premier exhibitor and premier breeder awards in previous years but never at the same time.
"I was really elated, you know?" Bob Tibbs, 71, said. "It was nice that someone else [acknowledged] we were breeding the [quality of] cattle we think we're breeding."
The bloodstock cattle shown at the fair are sold to other farmers who want to breed and start or add to their herds, Tibbs explained. Any cattle not up to their standards for showing or breeding is used for its beef. The meat, he added, is still excellent quality.
Whether the cattle are used for breeding or used for beef, it "all adds up to part of the marketing," Tibbs said.
He believes the main reason their freezer beef sales have picked up is the public has grown more aware of where their food comes from and wants to buy locally.
"We've been very fortunate. We sold some cattle all the way up and down the East Coast, we sold some cattle to the West Coast and exported some out to China," Tibbs said.
When it comes to his success, Tibbs, who is on the Maryland State Fair Board of Directors, is quite humble, saying he's been "very, very lucky."
But it's not just luck that has contributed to his award-winning cattle — it's years of animal breeding experience and learning from his mistakes.
"I think the fact that we've been breeding better genetics helps us a lot, and people see the quality of animal we have, so they purchase some of the genetics," Tibbs said.
That quality is evident in White Squall, now 5 years old. The Tibbs' bull is still producing offspring and is the 25th most used Charolais bull in the United States for artificial insemination, he said.
"I just think that we have a better line of genetics than what we've had before. I think that's contributed to the fact that we've won awards," Tibbs explained.
While the fair brought the awards, it didn't bring the out crowds because of Hurricane Irene.
"It was a nice fair. Unfortunately, we didn't have the clientele or the people coming to the barns that we normally have," Tibbs said. But there's always next year.
Tibbs wants to keep improving his animals and doesn't have plans for stopping any time soon.
"I think it's like anything else — you get it in your blood [and] you keep trying to improve to get to the top," he said.