When the public comes to a county or state fair the first thing on their minds is probably the funnel cakes and carnival rides. If you have never exhibited an animal or supported someone who has chances are you’re not going to venture to the show barn. If you do – it’ll probably be to see the animals resting. Unbeknownst to many the animals aren’t just there for petting by the occasional passerby. They’re here for a grand purpose, for a marvelous display of ingenuity, dedication and compassion. In fact – did you know that there wouldn’t be a fair without them? The rides, unique food combinations and vendors came later – it was the cattle, hogs, pigs, sheep, poultry and rabbits that were the founding members of this tradition each fall.
Here are 8 things that the public probably never see’s when they journey to a fair.
1. The Bond between Child and Animal
The amount of time an exhibitor spends with their animal may seem inordinate to most people, but they honestly enjoy it. When I get to see the special bond between them it warms my heart. It is unlike any other in the world. I’ve had people gasp when I explain to them that cattle can give kisses by wrapping their sand paper textured tongues around your arms or that they show their affection with a rough rub of their poll up and down your side. There is a great deal of trust between them and it has been earned through much hard work beforehand, through sweat and dirt and tears.
2. What Great Care is Taken
Animals typically stay for the duration of the event at the fairgrounds. This means that they need additional care for that length of time. I would like readers to pause and ask themselves how they care for their dog or other pets at home. Exhibitors do all of this here. They are constantly bringing fresh food and water so their animal is healthy and well fed. In addition to this, cattle do make messes. They are bedded down on new sawdust often so they remain comfortable and the kids exhibiting livestock as well as parents spend much time utilizing their shovels to clean the area. Some animals even have additional fans on them to keep them nice and cool for the duration of their stay.
3. Show Preparation
If you attend a livestock show it is important to realize the additional time investment to make this a success that the exhibitor has invested beforehand. Hours are spent pre-show to wash the animals, blow them out (dry them off), do last minute clipping (it’s just like a haircut) and fitting. Which means you need a really good pair of rubber boots for bath time. After the animal’s ready typically the exhibitor tries to salvage their hair, wipe off any dirt and sweat from working outdoors and try to keep their animal from rubbing snot or pink oil on their clean starched show pants and shirt. That’s the real struggle.
4. All the Beauty Products
You thought your bathroom counter was full of beauty products? Not even close. The photos below are some of what is brought to make the animal look in tip top shape. Shampoos, conditioners, rosin, adhesives & removers, a variety of brushes and combs, clippers, guards etc.come together to help accomplish the task. Many of the ladies may have a makeup bag that they carry around. There are so many items needed for livestock shows that most have a “show box”.
5. The Satisfaction of the Perfect Top-line
When cattle are shown one of the most important parts of clipping and fitting is making an outstanding topline. This is the stretch of hair from the shoulders to the tail head. The goal is to make this as straight as possible which is quite interesting to accomplish if your animal sneezes or kicks or is functionally almost bald in this area. Experienced hands are required and so is patience.
6. The Importance of a Place to Rest
Though most people at stock shows spend much time moving around regardless of it they’re showing on that particular day they also do spend some time resting. This is an excellent time to enjoy the company of family and friends. Stock show goers aren’t prejudiced, anything can make a suitable seat. For some that is a bag of shavings, for others rocking chair.
As many are so active at stock shows its very important to refuel. People tend to eat and drink very often because it’s essential to keep your energy up.
Contrary to popular opinion many of the animals spend much time being goofy. They like to roll their tongues out and cock their heads to the side. They sneeze and bellow for attention and always love scratches.
I hope you have enjoyed this article about things the public may never see at stock shows. For more photos of the 2015 Dona Ana County 4-H and FFA EXPO please visit: Lauren Shae Photography.