The Cow Show and the Fitter
When you attend a cow show, be it a little county fair or a large international show, most people only see the lovely primped and polished cows.
Most visitors have no idea of the time and dedication that has been put into show cows to prepare them for that moment. Or, who got them there.
The cattle fitter is a behind-the-scenes stylist, makeup artist, sportsman and, above all, a cattle enthusiast. They often don’t see the glory that the showman does or get the praise of the breeder, but without them, the show wouldn’t go on.
As young kids in 4-H, your first 4-H project is often a fitters’ 1st fitting job—many of the top fitters have 4-H to thank for giving them their start.
A cow show starts long before the cattle enter the ring—it starts days prior. Cattle are moved into the barns and made comfortable. They are fed just the right ration, to both maintain and optimize their look for the show. They need to have the right fill, the milking needs to be timed right, they have to be kept spotless, washed daily.
Being a “townie” when I started dating my husband I knew nothing about dairy farming. I remember going to my first cow show with him. His family had a small “string” a term I did not know, going to the Port Perry Fair for the Ontario County Holstein Show.
“Do you want to help out?” he asked.
“Sure,” I replied; not having any idea what I was doing.
So after being informed that we would be sleeping in the truck that night̶—because the cows cannot be left alone—I grabbed a blanket and climbed into the cab to try and get some sleep. We were up at 3:00 am show morning!
Well, the cows needed to be milked earlier so that they will be full and ready to milk out after the midday show, rather than the usually 4:00. What was I thinking?
That day I helped when I could, but for the most part, I watched. I had no idea what went into getting cows ready for a show. It was a whirlwind! Hairdryers, hair clippers, hair spray, makeup, baby powder, etc.
Yes! Really and that was at a small town fair. That was 21 years ago, and I have been to a lot of cow shows since then.
To watch at the international level is amazing. Countless hours spent planning and prepping. It is a skill learned from years of working the shows and passed down from those that came before them.
At show time the cattle fitter hands off the result of their labors to the showman and the rest is out of their hands. If they are lucky, they might have time to watch for a moment as the cow makes her way around the ring, but most fitters don’t even leave the barn, they move on to the next cow that needs to get ready.
If you have a love for cows and want to see the world, it’s an amazing opportunity. But it’s a hard life. Constant travelling, periods away from family, missed meals, long hours and little sleep.
All the guts and not much glory.
About the Author
Shannon McFadden • Quality Milk Specialist
Who better to have as customer support than a dairy farmer? Shannon has been in the dairy business for 18 years. She holds a certificate in Dairy Production and Management from the PennState College of Agricultural Sciences. Together with her husband and children, she operates a dairy farm in Eastern Ontario along with her work at Dairy Quality Inc. She’s an avid advocate of the RT10 and has made the device part of their routine for over 3 years.
Image Credit: Best in Show
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