Monday, July 22, 2013

A Farm-Style Vacation

Here in Minnesota we are deep into county fair time. Whether you are farm folks, or not, this is the time of year when many of us attend a fair to see the exhibits, enjoy the carnival, and indulge in the ooey, gooey, fair food. For generations my family has been very involved in exhibiting at county fairs. Today I am sharing the first of a three-part series about why farmers take their cattle to a fair, and the preparations it takes. I enjoyed exhibiting and showing my animals at the fair, but I was not an authority. It's time to call in the experts! I recruited my cousins from Brown's Apple Acres. Terri Dallas, Kristi Ruen, Staci Brown, and Heidi Anderson will let you in on a behind-the-scenes look at their "Farm-Style" Vacation.

The Apple Acres Cattle on vacation at the Washington County Fair.

Many childhood memories revolve around family vacations.  The family would pile into a car and head for the beach, the cabin, the campgrounds or even the resort.  Whatever the destination, a good time was had by all.
Growing up on a farm, our family vacations were a little bit different.  We piled into a pick up and headed to the Washington County Fairgrounds for five days of family fun in the dairy barn! Preparing for a vacation takes a lot of planning, organizing and packing.  This was true of our family vacation too. However, instead of packing a suitcase, we were packing supplies we needed to make our heifers and cows look their best at the fair.  Hoses, brushes, soap and hair spray were carefully placed in a show box along with clippers, halters and combs.  Next, we had to gather feed tubs and pails and grain and hay to feed the cows and heifers, and straw for bedding.  Rule number one on the family vacation – cows and heifers come first.

Now that the cows/heifers are packed, we could pack for the rest of the family.  First and foremost was finding the bag of white show clothes.  Yes, you read that correctly, white show clothes.  A long time ago someone decided that dairy cattle exhibitors should wear white clothes when showing their cattle.  The idea was to have a neat appearance so as not to detract from the general appearance of the animal.  And, did I mention the county fair was always the first week of August? It never failed that it was about 90 degrees in the shade; and there was no shade.  That “neat appearance” lasted about 2 minutes!

Kristi proudly presenting her heifer and a Reserve Champion ribbon.

You are probably thinking, “Now that sounds like a FUN vacation.  Where do I sign up?”  The truth is, farmers show their dairy animals for more than the fun and vacation. Like any other exhibit at the fair, dairy farmers bring their heifers and cows to see how they compare to other cows in their county/state and to the ideal cow.  Yes, there is an ideal cow with particular characteristics for each breed to which all cows are compared.  Each animal is shown in a class against other heifers or cows of the same breed and age.  An overall champion and reserve champion is awarded at the end of the show.  There is much pride for the farmers and exhibitors to showcase their animals at the fair, no matter how the heifers or cows placed at the show.   

Stay tuned for Part 2- A Vacation For The Cows Too!

To learn more about dairy farming and dairy foods visit Dairy Makes Sense

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