Prather’s Pick: Showing cows and calves at the fair
August 4, 2017
The Moffat County Fair is in full swing, and I'm remembering the days when our boys, Jody and Jamie, showed livestock at this same fair. They showed both market beef and beef breeding animals, but my most vivid memories are of the Saturday shows when they competed with their cows and calves.
Jody and Jamie had purchased Hereford heifers from their grandpa Kenneth Osborn. They named them Barley and Molasses, and though the boys eventually bought more breeding cattle, these two animals (and later on their calves) were the only breeding animals they showed at the fair.
The fat steers were kept in the corral and barn, and, as heifers, Barley and Molasses were kept close where they could be trained to lead and to stand for show. When they grew to be cows and had calves, Barley and Molasses were put into a nearby pasture area during the summer where they could graze.
When fair time rolled around, the steers had been washed several times, their hooves trimmed, and their faces clipped. Then it was time for Barley and Molasses, and the cows weren't delighted to be tied to the yard fence and washed. The challenge, however, was the calves that weren't used to halters. Jody and Jamie dragged them to the fence. What a shock it must have been for the calves to be soaped up and then rinsed with cold water. More than once a calf decided to lie down in the mud.
When fair time rolled around, the steers had been washed several times, their hooves trimmed, and their faces clipped.
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The calves were used to halters by the time they were loaded up with their moms and driven to the fair where cows and calves were put in closed pens so they could be loose inside.
Molasses was a mild-tempered cow; Barley was high-spirited and easy to annoy. Barley remembered previous fairs and not fondly. The old saying goes," If looks could kill…", and that applied to Barley.
She scowled at the fairgoers, although she enjoyed eating a Popsicle if a kid got too close to her pen. Once when she was tied on the wash rack, she spotted some sheep just across the way. "If looks could kill…"
Finally Saturday, the day for beef breeding judging arrived. Spectators gathered early for the show, filling the bleachers – a much more enthusiastic crowd as for other shows ( as though they were expecting something).
Show time! Jody, Jamie, and other 4-H and FFA exhibitors were ready with their cows and calves — well, sort of. Volunteers had been selected to lead the calves. They entered the show ring in a flurry. The cows were led into the ring as cows should lead, but then came the calves, in random order. Some kids pulled at balking calves; others were pulled into the ring by jumping calves. Kids tried to get control; so did the calves. The beef superintendent, Dads, and helpers tried to help. Kids got stepped on.
When the dust cleared, the judge looked bewildered. Calves weren't paired up with their mothers. Some calves chose to lie down. One calf had pulled loose from the 4-Her leading her and was nursing on her mother. The audience was delighted. The judging went on.
The next day the cows and calves were hauled back home to pasture, and the cows did what they always do after a fair — find a dirt pile and rub their pretty clean heads in it.
It has been — gasp — 35 years since those fair days, but I have not forgotten the cow/calf show.
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