My hobby during this season is cow shows. I love to be present at the shows or watch the live streams from the shows when they are available.
I marvel at the glistening, perfectly balanced udders of the cows, the shining hides and fluffed up tails, the exquisitely shaped toplines on heifers and how certain show people glide around the ring with their animals. They make it look effortless, even when it most certainly is not.
Watching the shows takes me back to some fun years of my youth when I went to county and state fair shows with my own cattle, helped others with their registered Ayrshire cattle at the Minnesota State Fair and attended many shows in the Warner Coliseum, handing out ribbons and clerking shows as a summer employee of the livestock entry department.
Through the years, I get nostalgic for those days when I remember probably the most fun parts, and perhaps not all of the hard work and effort that goes into bringing show cattle to the fair for several days, like the early mornings and the late nights of helping.
Watching the Minnesota State Fair 4-H show in person is a priority for Rolf and me. We loved seeing our kids show there through their 4-H careers. In the past few years, we have attended to watch the leased heifers being shown from our farm. We enjoy a day away, seeing friends in the cattle barn, sipping a Gopher Dairy Club shake and visiting with many people who are helping with the show or are there to watch.
This year, it didn’t work out to get away from our farm that day. Two fall calves from our farm were being shown, and we wanted to go and support the 4-H’ers who leased them. Luckily, all three of our children were helping with the 4-H show in some capacity, and they either stopped by to give the girls encouragement, checked them in for their class or assisted in the ring.
Meanwhile in my kitchen, the livestock show live stream from the state fair was on, and I was able to watch the classes while I worked on cooking and garden produce tasks.
It was exciting to see one of our heifers called back into the total net merit class and watch her be named the champion grade total net merit heifer of the show. Since we focus our breeding program on genetics based on cheese yield production, wellness and functional type traits, this award is meaningful for our farm’s goals.
Another fun show item was the thank you notes from 4-H’ers receiving awards that our farm sponsors. One 4-H’er wrote, “I’ve been showing in the dairy project for 11 years and have brought the Milking Shorthorn breed up to the state fair twice. With your donation, other 4-H’ers like me get the opportunity to grow in our passions and continue to learn.”
I also love to soak in the open class dairy shows at the state fair via the live stream. I get to see friends, neighbors and some of our kids’ friends who are now showing in various breed shows. I analyze the classes as they enter the ring, make my placings and cheer out loud in my kitchen when those I know place well. It is so much fun to see.
My favorite class is the 150,000-pound lifetime production class. I love seeing the grand older cows with gorgeous frames and udders, who have achieved this level of production and are still shining their hearts out in the show ring.
I am wired to enjoy stories about great cows and people. As a former writer of breeder stories, I like following along with the herds that have been shown over the years, which cow families and show bulls do well, and I am especially amazed at all of the support staff needed to make showing a success.
Just like the work that happens on a dairy farm every day, there are so many tasks that have to happen for a show string to do well. Someone has to haul the cattle there, get the bedding and display in place, wash the cattle and care for their needs. The fitters clip, trim and blow up toplines. People run the pitchforks and empty the manure wheelbarrows. A crew watches over the string all night long and another crew helps to run the show.
Congratulations to all of the folks who put the work into the shows so people like me can enjoy being a spectator of beautiful bovines. I applaud your efforts.