As I’ve stated in earlier posts, I unfortunately don’t have my own dairy farm, so to stay active within the dairy industry I spend most of my time on the show side of things. However, the show industry is only a small portion of dairy industry. And it’s not the side of the industry you join simply for fame and fortune. So if there is not a quick ROI or a promised blue ribbon then why are so many dairy enthusiasts active on the show side of the industry?
Well in many families it’s a tradition, maybe you joined 4-H and started it as a simple project and got hooked like the rest of us. It could also be that you get to work with your friends everyday or maybe that you were lucky enough to work with an animal who changed your life with only one show season. However, I think it’s because we like the person the show circuit turns us into. No matter how old or young you are you are always learning and developing, not only your animals but yourself.
Having a show animal is all about the small details, and repeating these small efforts day in and day out. It’s hard work. And if anyone doubts that, well then they’ve never had the privilege to walk on the colored shavings at the big dance. It’s waking up earlier, cleaning out stalls, getting rid of old feed they won’t eat, cleaning waterers, re-bedding, constantly growing hair, clipping routinely, finding hay they’re satisfied with, scheduled hoof trimmings; like I said all the small details! But doing all this doesn’t just teach you how to get a heifer or cow ready for the show. It teaches you time management, respect for other breeders and exhibitors and the ability to believe in yourself and your abilities. It teaches you to become open minded, to be determined and to be proud.
Anyone who’s worked with animals before know they definitely don’t read our minds. I mean if they could, they’re doing everything in their power to try and undermine us simple humans. We treat them like princesses, it kind of reminds me of this…(que disney intro music!)
However, unlike Palo, we are doing this to more than one princess, we have a barn full! It’s like having children, taking care of their every beckon call, making sure their happy and healthy. In doing so you become extremely patient with their transformation, from frizzy haired outcasts to prim and perfect princesses. Some days are longer than others, but it teaches us that all good things come with time and a whole lot of elbow grease.
When doing anything in life, things can go wrong, things can plain out fail. It may be your fault, someone else’s fault or a group effort. But you can’t let that get you down. In my experience I’ve had cattle get hurt, sick or simply don’t turn out on show day. Sure it pisses you off, like a lot, after all that effort you’ve been putting into her and she lets you down like that?! But despite the major disappointment you forgive and learn from the situation. Why did it happen? How can you change the outcome at the next show? Forgiveness is essential in any aspect of life though. With family, friends, animals; to continue your success you simply gotta “shake it off” and keep going!
Now prior to this category, I have slipped up quite a bit, however laughing and loving what I do is one thing I am a pure expert at! The dairy industry is known for making life long friends. I am fortunate enough to have a group of amazing people I can call friends and 95% of them I compete with at state and national levels. When you walk through a barn at a show, whether that’s a county fair, a district or state show or even Expo, you will see people working their butts off. You will also see the same people enjoying a cold cocktail, smiling, laughing, conversing about their animals and catching up on old times. When you ask most of us what our favorite season is, 99% of the time the answer is “show season”. Showing dairy cattle teaches you to love what you do, to be immensely involved in it and to put 100% into your work.
We all know there are elite herds and we all know there are beginners. But no matter what end of the spectrum you are on, winning of loosing with grace is a skill you can value in any aspect of life. Those on the winning end, people look up to you to learn from, to admire and to congratulate. Staying humble in your success says more about your character than you ever could. And those who are just beginning, remember that those who are above you were at one point a beginner too. They put in their time and work to get where they are. I think a key concept to remember at shows, or work, or even at home would be “Two things define you: your patience when you have nothing, and your attitude when you have everything.”
Most of us started showing when we were just in little briches. I can still remember who I looked up to when I was at my county fair, who I started to learn from when I went to district shows, who I first tied with at Expo (and pretty much stalked their every step). As we grow in this industry we are reminded that we always have eyes on us, many of which are young and prying. We learn to be the leaders that we admired growing up, and I think that is something to aspire to. If I could help juniors as much as I was helped through my junior career I’d feel accomplished with my involvement in the Holstein industry. Being a leader is more than helping others get their purple ribbon, it’s about helping others aspire to be the best version of themselves they can be.
So although we all really appreciate being pulled first or selling an animal for high profit, what I think has all of us coming back show season after show season is all the non tangible gifts the show industry gives us.