Summer always meant fairs and shows as a youngster. As an exhibitor, I looked forward to the shows, especially showmanship – where my ability to work with my heifer or cow as one team could be put to the challenge.

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend and watch the showmanship contest at the Oregon Holstein Show. With three age class breakdowns, the class sizes allowed the judge adequate time to evaluate each youth. During his reasons, the judge commented on how well one of his winners worked with her cow and how the time spent working with the animal before the show was evident in the show ring. It was most evident when the cow needed to be backed up, and the cow gracefully moved her feet backwards. The easier way would have been to just use her feet to move the cow's large hooves, but the 13-year old girl knew that using her feet was not acceptable in a showmanship contest, even though the adults do it all the time in the individual classes.

After the showmanship winners were named, the top three seniors and the top intermediate showmanship winners participate in a clipping and fitting contest. A local breeder provides four clean heifers that were comfortable being handled. (An unruly heifer can be frustrating and a disadvantage to a young person trying to fit the heifer). Each junior had one hour to completely fit the heifer. They could have one fellow junior member assist with holding the heifer in place. The four youth clipped the heifers about six feet away from their competitors, so they were able to keep an eye on the others, if they so chose. Attendees were able to watch as well, but no communication with the contestants could be given.

The fitting judge evaluated the youth during the fitting process and evaluated the finished product. He congratulated all the contestants for the great job they did, and they did do a fabulous job. While many fussed over the topline and belly hair, maybe a bit to the excess, the judge reminded the contestants that they are preparing the entire animal, which includes clipping the legs correctly, brushing the entire heifer when complete (and before time expires), and combing and fluffing the tail. While it may seem like the basics of cattle preparation, these often get overlooked, just like cleaning the ears, scrubbing the head, and removing loose straw from the animal's belly in a traditional showmanship contest. A well-carved topline is frosting on the cake when proper attention has been paid to all the other details. He had other comments that determined his winner, but for the purpose of this blog, I did not include all his comments.

Trent Rocha, Tillamook, clips his heifer. He was the eventual fitting winner.

He also praised the winner for his calm and relaxed demeanor during the fitting contest, and that he seemed to be really enjoying himself. Isn't that what is really important?

As youth prepare for county and state fairs, remember the basics of showing and showmanship this summer. It may seem old school, but doing the basic things correctly never goes out of style.

For the dairy cattle Fitting and Showing contest scorecard and the PDCA Show Ring Code of Ethics, click here and then scroll to the bottom of the page.