“Do you show your milk cows or milk your show cows?”
These are perceptive words from a fellow dairy breeder. Those words come to mind often.
Our guiding principle is simple. We select for trouble-free, practical cattle that perform well in a low-input, grass-based dairy system, with the traits of longevity and fertility that pay the bills year after year.
What is considered desirable in the mainstream dairy show ring, on the other hand, is tall flashy animals that typically aren’t practical for low-input dairying. We don’t breed cattle to win shows, because that’s not what really matters.
That being said, we still attend a handful of local county fairs with a string of cows, but it’s not to win. We love the opportunity to share our cattle with the public, talk with other breeders, and have an excuse to get some cows really clean for pictures. Our animals are not usually the extremely sharp, tall type that win the shows, but they’re good animals we can be proud of. We do get compliments on their sound feet and legs, snug udders to advanced age, and overall good conformation.
We enjoy showing our cattle because we can interact with fairgoers and share our animals with them. Since fewer people than ever have a chance to get up close to a cow, we consider it part of our calling to share our animals with the general public. Hearing someone say, “Wow! This is the first time I’ve touched a cow!” makes it all worthwhile.
For generations, our family has enjoyed showing our milk cows.
I love this shot from the 1950s of my father and uncle as teenagers with a pair of their dual-purpose Milking Shorthorn heifers. We’re blessed to be showing descendants of these cattle today as we continue the family tradition of exhibiting at our local county fairs.