July 21, 2013

Cattle show is no beauty contest

I went for a walk early this morning, early enough to see the sun rising and the haze clearing. While it had cooled down from the previous day’s heat, the cows were still lounging under some trees recovering.

When they finally noticed my arrival, they gradually got up, stretched and met me at the fence line, ready to move into the next paddock and some fresh feed. After doing a quick head count and confirming that none had gone astray, I watched them mingle and then head off into the tall grass 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 my week still had in store. The Clinton County Fair is in its third day and there are still many agriculture-related activities under way.

Much of my time this week has been spent at the fair helping with livestock shows. I started thinking about the reasons for cattle judging and why farmers would be interested in bringing their cows to the fair for a week while there is so much to do back on the farm.

Cattle shows have 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. While cows have been domesticated for thousands of years, it wasn’t until breeders in England and Europe began to selectively breed for certain desirable traits that the dairy and beef cattle of today came into being.

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