While Waxahachie may be one of the fastest growing cities in one of the state’s fastest growing regions, agriculture still thrives.

And that’s no bull.

Well, actually it is. A world champion bull, that is.

And last week the world flocked to the GKB Cattle Company on the outskirts of Waxahachie to learn how GKB owners Kathy and Gary Buckholz are producing champion Herefords year after year including this year’s Hereford Champion of the World honors awarded by the World Hereford Association.

“This is big news. Really big news,” said Waxahachie Mayor Kevin Strength after jogging from the barn where he had been visiting with a delegation of 10 cattle ranchers from around the world who had traveled to the Buckholz ranch on Thursday. “We have so many great things going on in Waxahachie. We now can add a world champion to the list. I’m telling you, this is big stuff.”

While Kathy gave a lecture to the international delegation in the pen next to the barn organized by The Cattle Market based in Fort Worth, Gary escorted the mayor and the media to a pasture to see Mason, the 2,700-pound Hereford bull just crowned world champion by a panel of five international judges.

In order to compete on the international level, the bull must first win U.S. Champion honors.

“Then you compete at the region level, which in our case, our region is the U.S. and Canada,” Gary said. “Once all the region- al champions have been named, a panel of five judges visits each of the champions and after visit- ing each of the champions, they vote on the World Champion. This week they made the announcement that Mason is the Hereford World Champion.”

Since the announcement, Gary said he had Kathy have visited with ranchers and government officials from China, Uruguay, South Africa, Ireland, Argentina and Australia.

“We also had the President of Mexico here, as well as an official from Cameroon,” Gary said. “That was an interesting visit. He said he wanted to learn how to raise better cattle to feed his people. We had a long talk. I asked him questions about his wean weight and mar- ket weight, both of which were way below what we expect from our herds in the U.S.”

Mason, who had been lying in the pasture, rises to his feet. As the visitors take about 10 steps back, Gary moves toward the bull and strokes him on head.

“For a big boy, he’s very gentle,” Gary, said, launching into a 15-min- ute lecture about breeding traits into the animals he and Kathy raise.

“Gentleness is a factor that a lot of our customers require. There is a way to breed those into the animals,” he explains, delving into a detailed lesson on genetics and animal husbandry.

In addition to producing champion show cattle, GKB is renown through- out the world for ranch’s breeding program, with a portion of the operation shipping bull semen and fertilized cattle embryos to ranchers around the globe.

Affable and outgoing, Gary and Kathy both never pass an opportunity to teach — to share knowledge with others in the industry and those wanting to learn the industry.

An agriculture education major in college, Gary taught spent 12 years teaching agriculture in the Duncanville Independent School District before he and Kathy “took a leap of faith” and purchased 105 acres in Waxahachie 1987 to go into business for themselves.

Kathy, who grew up near Midland, is a fourth generation Hereford breeder and holds a masters degree in land economics. “I’ll tell you, we both absolutely love this,” Gary said. “When we decided to do this together, we were taking a leap of faith. We did our homework. We knew what we were getting into. We knew it was going to be hard.

“But we were both committed. It is a total team effort and Kathy is just as involved in the operation as I am. If the Good Lord called me home tomorrow, GKB will continue because Kathy can run it — maybe even better if I’m out of the way,” Gary quipped, drawing a chuckle from the visitors.

Today they run about 180 cows, including 115 registered Herefords and 60 cows carrying embryos from their elite cows.

For both Kathy and Gary, they feel blessed to earn a living doing what they love.

Both will tell you its not the trophies and awards (which fill an entire room on their ranch) that keep them going. It’s the people.

Both spend a lot of their time working with 4-H and FFA programs, helping students learn about cattle and showing cattle.

Both are also active in the Hereford Association on the state, national and international level.

“It’s the people, though,” Gary said. “It’s about sharing what you know with others. It’s about treating people with dignity and respect and honoring your word. We’re human. We’re all going to make mistakes from time to time. But it’s how you handle yourself

when you make a mis- take that makes all the difference in the world. Our word is our bond. It’s that simple. We do what we say, we deliver what we promise and we back that up. You take care of folks. That’s what life is all about.

“God has blessed us. We’re also caretakers of His land and His creation,” Gary said, extend- ing his arm and pointing his finger in a 360 arc around the ranch. “Look around. This is a well- kept ranch. The cattle are well-kept and well-taken care of. We try and pass off what we’ve learned to others. It’s taken us a long time to get here, but our success is all due to that philosophy. That’s who we are and that’s what we do.”

With several national champion honors and now a world champion title, Gary said he and Kathy appreciate the recognition,

but they are humbled by the accolades.

“My Daddy always told me that if I worked hard, treated others right and kept working hard and kept treating others right, success would find me,” he said. “All I can say is all this year’s of following Daddy’s advice has paid off.”

Grazing about 30 yards away from the visitors in his pasture, Mason turned toward the group and began walking in their direction, passing at a slow gait a few feet from where they were standing.

“Man, that bull is big,” the mayor said, reaching over and patting Gary on the back. “This is huge for Waxahachie. Absolutely huge! A little over a hundred years ago Waxahachie was known as the Queen City of Cotton for producing more cotton than anywhere else in the world. So many good things are happening in our community. We’re growing — adding more houses and more businesses by the day. We just added a new state-of-the- art hospital that’s on the cutting edge of medicine and we’re getting ready to build a state-of-the-art high school that will be on the cutting edge of education. And as fast as we’re growing, we’re still close to our agriculture roots.

Today, our roots in agriculture shine as we celebrate another world champion.” For more information on GKB Cattle, visit the website at www.gkbcattle. com

Contact Neal at nwhite@waxahachietx.com or 469-517-1470. Follow Neal on Facebook at Neal White – Waxahachie Newspapers Inc., or on Twitter at wni_nwhite.