Updated: Jul 12, 2022
Pedigree breeding; Farming families breeding families of cows
There follows a brief guide on how to dip your toe in to showing animals. It's great fun, utterly social and you might even win a rosette & a few bob prize money! It helps, but is not mandatory, to have pedigree animals to start with. If family trees are your thing, showing the animals locally is a good way to get your name out there as a breeder and build yourself a reputation and customer base. It is advisable to agree as a family group that showing livestock is something you want to do together. This agreement must be explicit and obtained openly and honestly. Agreement can only be considered final when the show itself is identified. Pick something local and achievable; no point in thinking you can do a week traveling to the Highland Show in Scotland with animals and support crew if the thought of you all going to the local mart for an afternoon brings you out in a cold sweat.
What animals are you going to show?
This takes weeks of tea and visits before a selection is made. You must seek the advice of friends and experienced breeders and show people. This is no time for shyness. Invite people over to help you select your animals. They must be encouraged to bring their family, because otherwise it can’t be considered a hobby.
Walk through the cows in the half light of late evening to make sure you have to meet and talk about them a second time during an afternoon with better light.
Repay the visits to provide your selection advice. All decisions of the herdowner are final…
Health & Safety
Best to train your animals well in advance (hence no holidays in run up to the show). Successful training results from developing a relationship with your animals. They must be comfortable that the halter is an opportunity for them to shine and swagger, not stamp all over you and an unsuspecting public. Time and patience. An hour a day for three weeks works wonders.
On the day of the show, make sure you have a support crew with a 1:1 human-animal ratio. Roles for the support crew include head of catering, poop-bucket/wiping manager, and most importantly pitch guardian. This last part is very stressful. Arrive early, walk directly to the area assigned to your classes and stake a claim to some space at the preparation area. It is important not to be intimated by the seasoned professionals with their generators, hairdryers and hair spray, preening and perfecting their animals, protected under branded pop-up gazebos. They are Broadway. It’s OK that you’re a local musical society. Learn from them. But maybe hold back on the hair spray!
Picking a local show adds a social side. Be prepared to be visited by friends, relations and neighbours, all of whom think you are mildly insane but are genuine in their delight when you get a rosette and are sure you were robbed if you happen to come away empty handed.
By mid afternoon you will be exhausted, and your animals would like to be at home to reflect on their experience. Sleep well, lodge your prize money, and have a little treat! Vow to buy a bigger bottle of coat shine next year.