Monday, April 20, 2009

Cattle Showing: 101

A while back I blogged about 4-H. I gave a pretty basic explanation about 4-H and what it means to me, but I feel there is much more that I want to share. In my other blog about 4-H I didn't really go into much detail about the projects I took, and now looking back I realized it is something worth blogging about.

As I mentioned before, I showed dairy cattle in 4-H. All cattle aren’t shown the same way. Beef cattle are actually shown quite different than dairy cattle. I can't tell you the real reason for this, but I can tell you how these two show practices are different. When showing dairy cattle, the showman leads the animal while walking backwards; however, the showman walks forward while showing beef cattle. Beef showmen also use a long stick when they show. I've never shown beef cattle so I'm not really sure why the stick is used, but I think it may be used to try to keep the animals calm. The showman stroke the animal’s stomach with the stick, and the stick can also be used to correct the animals feet if they aren't lined up just right. I always thought it would be hard to try to show a cow while holding a large stick, but beef people think it would be hard to show a cow while walking backwards. I guess it all depends on what you're used to.

Dairy cattle are also groomed different than beef cattle. Beef showman spend hours washing, blow drying, painting, and sprayin g their cows hair. On the other hand, all that needs to be done with dairy steers is a good wash and let them air dry. Sometimes showman apply a little show sheen to a cloth and wipe their animals down. This makes the animal look sleek and shiny and it helps cover some flaws the animal might have. Showing dairy heifers or milk cows is a little more complicated than showing dairy steers, but it's still less work than grooming beef cattle. Judges for dairy heifers and cows are very strict on the way the animals hair is "styled". The basic guidelines of clipping diary heifers and cows can be found here.

One of the best parts of showing cattle was getting money from selling them. I know this probably seems like it would be a little sad, but it got easier over time. The first time I had to sell my cow I wasn't really sure how I was going to handle the whole situation. I've grown up knowing that animals don't live forever, and I knew where my dad was taking cows once they got old. I even went with my dad to stalk yard to sell cows sometime. This time it was different because I had grown attached to my cow.

When the time came to finally take my cow through the sale, I was extremely nervous. I surprised myself because I wasn't too sad. The only time I actually got upset was when I had to hand my cow off too the guys loading the stock trailer. When I saw my cow being led up the ramp I had to fight back the tears. My dad must have read my mind because he gave me a big hug and said lets go get your check.

Once I got my check, I felt a little better. I don't want you to think I'm heartless or anything, but getting that money seemed to be my reward for all the work I had put in to the project.
People always told me that selling the first cow was always the hardest, but I found that every year I was always a little sad. I still loved showing dairy cattle, and I loved 4-H. I learned a lot about hard work and letting go, and I will always cherish the memories I made.

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