Catching the show bug

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Labor Day weekend marked our first foray into the cattle showing world.

After the girls watched the cattle shows at the Elroy Fair and walked the barn, drooling over the red carpet worthy cattle tied within, they were certain they wanted to show calves.

Stella declared she wanted to show a dry cow, so I walked the pen and dried up Strawberry a few weeks early. Brynn, Kailyn and Kendyll were fine with spring calves. We picked over the group of calves in the old barn and moved Lovely, Sedona and Mrs. Robinson outside. Cora and Tassia had their two calves in hutches by the hospital barn. Scarlet and Flutterby were still on milk and perfect for two little girls to wrangle.

Four of the girls spent the day learning the ins and outs of showing at the Vernon County Day of Dairy. On the farm, our coach was Kendyll and Kailyn’s dad, John. I swear you could see his eyes light up when he was on the end of a halter. The only time they shined brighter was when he was watching his daughters walk their calves. I peppered our newest calf barn team member, Mackenzie, with questions, as well as called upon my cousins, Aaron and Amy.

The girls spent the month of August coming to the farm often: washing calves, walking calves, getting walked by calves, chasing calves and, in Cora’s case, crying over calves.

As the calendar days were checked off, all of our excitement was building. Aaron came one Monday and helped Stella work with Strawberry. John had walked her around within the confines of the barn, but no one had ventured outside with her. She did fabulous. Aaron showed Stella behavior control tricks, and Strawberry made a few laps outside with Scarlet and Flutterby as her walking pals. As Thursday morning of show week rolled around, Aaron, Amy, Kathy (their mom) and Aaron’s pint-size farm wanderers, Aubrey and Tanner, came over to start clipping the show fleet. This may have been the moment Cora had been waiting for. I turned back over my shoulder to see her crouching down next to Flutterby’s foot, one hand on her hock, the other maneuvering a tiny pair of clippers under her dewclaws. She was in her glory.

Sunday was show day. Once their calves were primped and ready, we gave the go ahead to put on their show clothes. The four big girls tied their hair back with bandanas, and the two little ones wore their cowboy hats. They huddled together in a circle as Brynn initiated a group pep talk before they slipped the show halters on their cattle and ventured toward the ring. Ribbons were awarded and smiles were as bright as the late summer sun — and not just from the girls on the halters.

Watching these girls work together was phenomenal. They ran with a shovel whenever any one of their animals lifted a tail (even the moms took turns with this chore). They took turns hauling the wheelbarrow to the field. If someone was headed toward the ring for a practice walk, they rushed to open the gate. From age 6 to 13, walking animals from 2 months old to 3 years old, they proved to themselves that they could do it. 

The looks of pride and accomplishment that spread across their faces were worth more than the premiums earned. They did what they set out to do early this summer, and they want to do it again next summer.

Jacqui and her family milk 800 cows and farm 1,200 acres of crops in the northeastern corner of Vernon County, Wisconsin. Her children, Ira, Dane, Henry and Cora, help her on the farm while her husband, Keith, works on a grain farm. If she’s not in the barn, she’s probably in the kitchen, trailing after little ones or sharing her passion of reading with someone. Her life is best described as organized chaos, and if it wasn’t, she’d be bored.

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