Cattle Showing – The Secret to a Prize-Winning Cow by Mike Clear

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASince we have been at Pierrepont Farm, we have been showing our cows at local and national shows and have had great success, bringing home an array of prizes.

Most recently at the South of England Show Discovery Excitation’s Syria came 1st in the Jersey Championship and Young cow category. Pierrepont Iatola’s Calypso came 1st in the Maiden heifer (18 months and under) category. Pierrepont Perfecter’s Money Penny came 1st in the Senior Cow category and Discovery Fantom’s Jenny came 2nd in the Heifer in Milk category.

While at the National Dairy Show Discovery Excitation’s Syria came third in the 2nd calver class (ie.for cows with two calves), with Pierrepont Perfecter’s Money Penny awarded second in the 3rd/4th calver class and Discovery Iatola’s Hannah one place behind. Syria and Money Penny were also in the Interbreed Group of Four that was beaten into second place by just one point. While Zoë Clear came a very respectable sixth in a strong field of young handlers.

So what makes a prize-winning cow?

Before we can take a cow to a show we spend many hours training her to walk on a halter and to stand correctly to be looked at. In the week before the show we will clip her coat to make the most of her refined looks. Her feet will also receive a trim if necessary.

When we arrive at a show we put a thick straw bed down for the cows to lie on. We wash them all over and scrub their feet before feeding them and settling them down for the night. Each cow will be milked at an appropriate time so that she has sufficient time to make enough milk so that her udder is full when she goes in the ring the next morning.

It is an early start the following day. Cows have to be washed again to remove any muck they may have laid in. They are fed and groomed until they shine. They have their ears cleaned out, their bottoms wiped clean and the hooves polished before we put on the leather show halters ready for the ring.

The judge will be looking for a cow that displays the characteristics of an animal that will have a long and productive life in a commercial dairy herd.

She will have a good udder that is well attached to the body and have a teat placement that is not too far apart or too close together so she is easily milked.

She needs to have a large capacious body for her 4 stomachs that allows her to eat lots of fresh forage to help her produce plenty of milk. She should not be too fat or too thin and have the right quality bone and skin texture. A fat cow with thick bones tends to produce less milk but more body weight, typical of a beef cow. A thin cow with thin bones may produce lots of milk but is more frail and prone to injury. A dairy cow should always have nice thin, smooth skin.

She should have good feet and legs so she can walk in an easy flowing way. Cows with good feet and legs are less prone to becoming lame. The way she walks and behaves in the ring can make all the difference. She should walk slowly with her head held high. She should be alert and responsive and always in the control of the handler.

If we get all this right we may stand a chance of bringing home the silver or even the gold!

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