July 21, 2013

Cattle show is no beauty contest


While it may seem that a cattle show is akin to a beauty contest, with fancied-up cow contestants strutting their stuff around a ring of fluffy white wood shavings, that is not what is going on. While the showman obviously wants his or her cow to look her best, the judge is observing them for the body traits that have been established as the ideal breed standard or type.

Each breed has its own “type.” Since most cattle breeds have been bred for different traits, each breed has its own show. Holsteins have been bred for size and milk production while Jerseys have been bred for the rich butterfat of their milk.

Beef cattle have been bred for a different purpose and therefore have altogether different desirable traits. There are two common sub-categories of beef cattle in the United States, English breeds and Continental breeds. English breeds such as Angus, Herefords and Shorthorns are moderately sized with fast growth and excellent marbling. Continental breeds such as Charolais and Simmental are large in size, lean and muscular. Other exotic breeds such as Brahman cattle have been bred to more common breeds to give their offspring more heat tolerance for hotter climates.

While the local beef-cattle show is small and there are only a few entrants, I am sure that many hours of hard work was done by the farms involved. Training and preparing a beef cow to lead around a ring in public is no easy task.

As opposed to dairy calves that are handled routinely, beef calves are usually left with their mothers on pasture for six to seven months and have little human contact. Just catching one is usually a challenge. What the judge will be looking for in the beef cattle show ring will be appropriate size for their age and breed, correctness of their feet and legs, smooth and moderate thickness of muscling and a good disposition.

That would be just beautiful.

Anyone interested in learning more about raising beef cattle or starting a small farm in Clinton County is encouraged to contact the Clinton County Extension office at 561-7450 or email me at

Peter Hagar, agriculture program educator, Cornell Cooperative Extension Clinton County, 6064 Rt. 22, Plattsburgh, 12901. Call 561-7450.




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