Two weeks ago David and I attended our local county fair. We didn’t have any livestock at the fair this year, but each year fair-week serves as a reunion with friends and family that we don’t see often enough. It seems like everyone in the county loves the fair, and each year David is practically bursting with excitement as we drive the 25 minutes south to the fairgrounds. The fair opens up on Tuesday evening with a parade. It features some grandstand events like a rodeo and a demolition derby as well as carnival rides, but at our county fair the livestock are the main focus.
Members of various 4H clubs bring chickens, rabbits, goats, hogs, and for the first time this year – alpacas. Naturally, we prefer the cattle, which are the main feature on Thursday with the beef show during the day and the dairy show at night. For beef, the judge first places the livestock based on the quality of the animals. Then, later in the day, the kids show their animal again, this time being judged on their showmanship. The dairy show does these in the opposite order. David was able to get away Thursday morning to attend the beef show. Our niece finished with the reserve champion Simmental heifer, and our nephew showed a nice Simmental steer which placed third. Both of their animals were less cooperative during showmanship, however.
The highlight of the dairy show was seeing Holstein cows for the first time in at least three years. Last year there was only one cow in the show, a Jersey. Transporting a lactating animal in the August heat is risky, so most years our neighbors who bring several Holstein heifers have left the cows at home. With unusually cool weather, though, they decided to bring some cows that had been halter-broken as heifers. The Jersey cow took Grand Champion, but the Holsteins gave her some competition, and it was great to see some black and white (and red) in the ring.
On Friday night, after all of the livestock shows have been completed, there is an auction where individuals and businesses bid on the market livestock (steers, hogs, goats and sheep). The dairy animals and breeding stock are not sold, for obvious reasons. The auction is a great reminder that the kids are learning how to raise production animals that will enter the food system. They learn so much from raising, showing and selling their livestock. Our niece committed to showing a dairy heifer next time around. If we can hold her to it, next year we’ll have a little more involvement on Thursday night.