Press-Republican

Columns

July 24, 2011

Cattle judging no beauty contest

I went for a walk early one recent morning … early enough to see the sun trying to break through the humid haze. On a day that is likely to be the hottest of the summer, I admired rows of corn just starting to tassel and my little herd of beef cows moving slowly across their hillside pasture. When they finally noticed my arrival, they barely acknowledged my presence, heads down in methodical grazing.

After doing a quick head count and confirming that none had gone astray, I watched them mingle and then wander off with a couple of the more curious calves still watching me before turning and high tailing it back to their mothers.

Idyllic scenes and beautiful sights are an everyday occurrence on the farm. It is sometimes hard to find the time to slow down and see the beauty of our surroundings. While on my walk I began to think of what the week still had in store.

The Clinton County Fair is in its third day and I have been helping out with both the 4-H and open-class dairy and livestock shows. I started thinking about the reasons for agricultural fairs, cattle judging and why farmers would be interested in bringing their animals to the fair for a week while there is so much to do back on the farm.

Cattle showing has evolved since the 1800s. Originally, cattle breeders would bring their cattle to a fair or market as a way to sell their stock or promote their line of breeding. Other farmers would evaluate and judge for themselves the benefits of adding a new line of breeding into their herds. In essence, the belief that function follows form was the basis for the selective breeding that began in the 1800s. Many of the major breeds of dairy and beef cattle began to rapidly evolve.

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