Today my good friend, Jill, shares with us another side of the dairy industry; the “show” side. That’s right, cow beauty pageants. Dairy farmers are extremely passionate about dairy and many enjoy showing off their quality animals. Farmers travel great lengths with their cows to participate in cow shows and compete with others. Showing cattle is a great way to bond with cows and other folks in the dairy industry. Read below to learn more about the show circuit!
I’d like to thank Modern-Day Farm Chick for giving me the opportunity to share a piece of my story with you! I first met Mod Farm Chick while showing cows at our county fair. I was known as the girl with the Brown Swiss and I knew her as the girl with a lot of cows. Throughout the years not much has changed; she still has a lot of cows and I’m still showing my Brown Swiss. My family milks around 75 cows and over 60 of them are Brown Swiss.
The Holsteins stick out quite a bit next to the Swiss.
One of the main reasons we chose to raise mostly Brown Swiss is because we enjoy showing them at local, state and national shows. And their calves are adorable.
The most common question I hear when I tell people “I show cows” is, “What does a judge look for?”. To put it simply, a judge is looking for a well uddered cow, who walks on a good set of feet and legs, and isn’t carrying excess weight for her stage of lactation. Here is the official “scorecard” that every judge bases his/her decision on when evaluating animals.
Each summer, our farm prepares for the upcoming show season by leading, washing and clipping the animals. Local 4-H kids help out and show our cattle at the county fair. They come to the farm a couple of times a week and work with the animals they choose. Below is a photo of one of the first times they lead their animals this summer. As you can see, the animals were not yet properly trained and a bit uncooperative. We enjoy having kids take our animals to local shows and fairs because it gives them the opportunity to work with farm animals and learn about agriculture.
After the county fair, we continue to work with a few animals and get them ready for the state and national shows that take place in the late summer and fall. We live in Western Wisconsin and show at the Wisconsin State Show and the Minnesota State Fair. These shows help us determine how great, average or poor our animals rank. It also helps decide which cows will make the cut to be shown at the biggest show of the year, World Dairy Expo.
World Dairy Expo, or just known as “Expo”, is the highlight of the year for the dairy industry. Over 2,200 animals from all over the United States and Canada head to Madison, WI to strut their stuff on the colored shavings. It’s not just a cattle show; the trade show has evolved into quite the attraction. With world-class dairy cattle and a trade show with the latest and greatest technology, it is no wonder that over 70,000 people are expected to attend World Dairy Expo this year.
My favorite part of Expo is the cattle show. It takes a lot of passion, hard work, and dedication to get animals ready. The days are long, the nights are short and sleep is very limited. We tie our animals in a “string”. It’s usually a group of farmers and friends from various farms who work together during show week. The cattle get around the clock supervision to make sure there is enough hay in front of them to eat and no manure in their bedding. You might find it surprising that we catch their manure in a bucket and wipe their butts, talk about special treatment!
We share supplies with each other and help out when it comes to chores and show day. Each day the animals are washed and their bedding or “pack” gets fresh straw and saw dust to keep them clean and comfortable. The cows in the string get milked like they would at home, either twice or three times a day. On show day, the cattle are prepped for the show ring. They are fed beet pulp and hay to get their bellies full. Their coat of hair is groomed and the hair on the cow’s top line is blown up to resemble a Mohawk. Immediately before the animal heads into the show ring, her tail is brushed out, hooves are painted black, fly spray is applied and a “final mist” is sprayed for an over all shine.
We prep each animal that way for every show and, depending on the show, our string can range from 5 to 35 animals. It leads to long days and short nights. You learn to nap whenever and wherever you can (this includes metal show boxes).
Later this week, our farm will be making the annual trip to World Dairy Expo to show our animals. This is the 9th year in a row for our show string. It will be an exciting year because there are two, brand new barns on the Expo grounds! Previously,there were ten smaller barns and three tents that housed cattle during Expo week. Although we’re going to miss Barn 1 and all the memories made there, we can’t wait to see what these new barns will be like! They are pretty fancy. You can take a look at them by visiting www.worlddairyexpo.com.
Thanks again to Modern-Day Farm Chick for allowing me to share with you all! If you would like to keep up with the latest happenings at Expo, search #wde14 and #worlddairyexpo on social media. You can also find me on Instagram at jilliancowles. A lot of folks are super excited and have been counting down the days to Expo for quite sometime! Heck, I am already looking forward to Expo 2015 as I have some young calves that will be eligible to show that year!
I was telling my cow, Flirty, Expo is this week and she got all excited!