As you are reading this, I will be in Madison, Wis., attending the Junior National Hereford Expo (JNHE). This is an important time for me because my family’s farm began by raising Hereford cattle, and it has become a tradition for us to attend this show. My parents started attending JNHE before I was even old enough to show by taking my uncle. At 8 years old I finally aged in, and I have only missed three shows since. This means I have been to JNHE 15 times. I am now 21 years old, and this is the very last JNHE I can compete in. It’s a very bittersweet time for me.
My point of telling you all this is because I want everyone to understand how fundamental showing cattle has been to my life. I cannot think of anything else I would rather do. I have gained so much from showing cattle and I am sure I cannot fit it all into one blog, but I’ll do my best to provide some highlights.
Building a bond with an animal sticks with a person. You have committed to caring for that animal daily. Animals cannot talk, so you learn to tell what they need just by looking at them. This has allowed me to communicate better with the people around me because I have learned to read body language and talk to people better.
Showing livestock also forces you to admit when you have failed. When it comes time to show, it is just you and that animal in that ring. You cannot come out of showmanship and make excuses or blame anyone else for why you didn’t do well because it was just the two of you. I have been frustrated during my moments of failure, but the best thing we can do is try again and improve in hopes that our failures teach us how to be successful.
During my years of showing, I met many people. Not every person’s story is the same. There were times I was angry at someone because I felt like they won the show because they had an unfair advantage. While I can’t tell you whether they did or didn’t, I do know it caused lots of unnecessary anger. I have learned that each showman’s path is different, and we should be appreciative of what we have and thankful for what we have accomplished.
Showing cattle has shaped me into the person I am today. While there might be some tears shed this week, they will be happy tears. Tears that are thankful for the journey showing cattle has taken me on.
Madison Sifford is the 2023 Hoard’s Dairyman Editorial Intern. She is a student at Virginia Tech majoring in dairy science and communications. Madison grew up in North Carolina before moving with her parents and sisters to Goldvein, Va. Her family raises Holsteins on their Plessed-Rose Dairy, and they also have a small Hereford cow-calf operation.