Why the Show Cattle Came to the County Fair

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This article is a brief overview of the benefit of showing and judging cattle.

Fall is a popular season for county fairs with midway rides and greasy fried food. They advertize car shows, exhibits, performances by bands and drill teams, and are highlighted by football games. If you attend one and find yourself surrounded by people leading large domestic animals you might think you took a wrong turn, but county and state fairs are very popular places for livestock shows. As a matter of fact, displaying farm harvest and stock is a major reason for holding fairs.

So what is there to look at on a cow?

There are many breeds of cattle, and each breed has specific traits and attributes that are considered and judged. Dairy cattle and beef cattle are the first major division. They look different, and they are judged on different criteria. Beef cattle are designed to produce meat, and dairy cattle, milk. Beef cattle are exhibited on a lead with a show stick, while dairy cattle are shown on a lead without a stick. The stick is used to encourage the cow to move her foot for better placement and to present the best stance, and it is also a tool with which to scratch her back or belly to calm her in the stressful arena.

Both beef and dairy cattle are divided into classes by age and sex. Beef cattle shows may also have a steer class for students who are involved in FFA or 4H to exhibit a project. Steers may be any breed or cross.

In all divisions the health and soundness of the animal is the first thing the judge considers. Can the animal walk and carry her weight? Does she have a sound udder and teats capable of feeding a calf? Some breeds have more hair than others and the hair may be “worked.” Working the hair may conceal flaws on the lower legs or tail head or even give a fuller appearance to muscle development on the shoulder or hip. Judges may feel the animal to prevent misjudgment.

Color is a significant issue in breed shows. All breeds have criteria for color and require registrants to adhere to it. Animals that vary from the standard will not be allowed to enter the breed registry.

The ultimate goal of all cattle judging is improvement in the quality of cattle being offered for sale. The owners want to improve their reputation for breeding superior quality animals. The FFA and 4H members want to learn how to raise and show livestock. If you find yourself at an arena watching this event, you are witnessing the development of an industry.

 

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Gayle Haynes
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