Action in the cattle barn just below the surface

Action in the cattle barn just below the

By Hilary Hake
The 4-H Beef Show held June 27 at the Macoupin County Fair was a much anticipated event for many in our area. Competition can be fierce.

But to a novice watching the show, it can be a bit confusing. The cattle aren’t necessarily judged on how they look in a 4-H show, although it is a factor.

More importantly, the participants must show a knowledge of cattle, know how to handle their animal and all pertinent information, such as when it was born, what it eats, and any medical information on the animal they are showing.

The participants walk their animal around the show pen, holding a long poker that is used to scratch the belly or back of the animal to calm it, occasionally tapping a hoof to make a foot move this way or that, all while a judge watches.

The judge will ask the participant questions, give the animal a thorough look, and feel the animal’s body looking for any sort of defects. He will then call all the participants and their animals into the show pen where he will stare and scratch his chin, eventually walking to one and tapping it.

Then the participant is handed a ribbon and off they go.

To to casual observer, you might not even realize that a grand champion was just named.

The process of getting a cow or steer ready for next year’s 4-H Beef Show starts as soon as the fair ends.

Participants will choose an animal to show and begin documenting every part of the animal’s life.

They then begin working with the animal so it will be easy to handle, feeding it a special diet, and grooming it regularly.

The day of the contest, they will give  their cattle baths at the fair, brush them to a sheen, and give them accommodations most cattle are unaccustomed to: large fans blowing to keep them cool and keep the bugs away, special treats, soft hay beds. Some  even use gentle music to keep their animal calm.

To read more of this story and coverage of the 2013 Macoupin County Fair, see our e-edition.