A weekly blog for all things conservation
By: Miranda Neville, Agricultural Resource Specialist, BCCD
As temperatures are getting warmer and summer is rapidly approaching, farmers are gearing up for hay season and farm kids are preparing for cow shows. Like a kid going off to summer camp with butterflies of excitement to meet up with friends, have new experiences and make hundreds of memories, so many farm kids (and adults) are getting those butterflies thinking about packing up the cattle trailers and heading out to the county fairs. In the farming world, the cow show circuit is not only a place for cattle breeders to show off their top genetic cows- it’s also a place where they can connect with each other and have an opportunity to educate the public, but most importantly to have fun!
At fairs, there are always countless onlookers watching while we are milking cows or feeding calves. Chances are, they will come up with a question or two. It is our job, as farmers, to educate and teach those who are not aware, that these cows are more than a livelihood – they are our passion. Connecting with the public creates an opportunity to showcase our pride and care of our animals. These conversations are usually teaching moments, however there are always those few entertaining comments that arise. I’ve had many fellow cattle exhibitors and friends share stories from their encounters with people wanting to learn more about why we do what we do. “No, chocolate milk does not come from brown cows…Just because a cow is ‘fat’ (or as cattle judges call ‘over conditioned’) doesn’t necessarily mean she is pregnant, she might just spend a little too much time at the feed bunk…Yes, you may pet our cows. No, please do not attempt to ride them…”
For the kids: Showing cattle, or any livestock or market animal, in FFA and 4H are character building experiences for youth. Like farm living, many life lessons are learned in the show ring. Before even making it to the sawdust ring, kids learn about defeat, like when a stubborn yearling heifer won’t budge or worse, takes off and leaves you behind dragging in the dust. They learn about triumph and small victories like when they finally achieve their first decent topline (haircuts for cows). Competition between friends provides an opportunity for youth to learn how to be a humble winner and a gracious loser. Though there is still typically a fair dose of pouting, those same kids that place at the bottom of the class with their calves don’t think twice about grabbing a halter and lending a helping hand to those who they just competed against. Though they are competitors, at the end of the day they are first and foremost, friends.
Cow shows are more than just walking in a circle with a pretty animal. They are filled with the anticipation and excitement to see friends that you may only see at these shows. Things we will never forget, like staying up all night with friends the night before show day to watch and care for the cows or racing to the wash racks with our rambunctious calves at 3am to be sure we got the ‘good water pressure’. (Let me tell you, there is nothing like a cold blast of a hose or a swat in the face by a wet cow tail to wake you up that early in the day.) There is always that ‘show mom’ who “bought the best shampoo and hairspray for the cows, and the kids weren’t allowed to use it”. Simple joys like getting new halters or maybe a bedazzled cow brush (or two!) to packing your show whites, tack trunks and clipper boxes are all a part of the beautiful world of showing dairy cattle. We love what we do, we take pride in it, and are always grateful at the end of every show season for the memories made with family and friends.
The Bradford County Conservation District is committed to helping people manage resources wisely. You can visit the Bradford County Conservation District at 200 Lake Rd in Wysox across from the Wysox Fire Hall. Contact us at (570) 485-3144 or visit our web page at www.bccdpa.com.
Various staff at the Bradford County Conservation District