By Charlotte Williams
There are as many different reasons to show cattle – especially Miniature Herefords – as there are people who own them. Some choose not to bother with the time and expense, but for those who do the work, there are rewards both to the individual breeder and to others as well. Here are just a few…
1) To have fun!
The main reason I show cattle is because I enjoy it. There is something special about the cross between periods of high-energy, frantic hard work alternating with lazing around in a lawn chair and watching your cattle eat or watching the people walk by and watch your cattle eat. Quite a few families use trips to the cattle shows and fairs as their annual family vacation. It is a wonderful way to spend quality time and bond with your kids, especially if they are also interested in showing. Of course, each show has its own personality, whether it is the world-class, frigid intensity of the National Western Stock Show in Denver in January or the mellow, laid-back warmth and friendliness
of the Gillespie County Fair in south Texas in August. You get to choose which shows to attend. One, or all! Although, with the growing number of shows across the country, it is getting harder and harder to attend every single one!
2) To validate my stock.
I probably couldn’t tell the Hope Diamond from a pretty piece of glass, but people I trust have told me it’s the real deal. Similarly for our cattle, we need to have people we can trust to verify that when we have great breeding stock they are more than just a pretty bunch of cows. Everyone thinks their Miniature Herefords are the best, so a third party judge at a show is the only way to tell who is right. Although a single judge at a single show may occasionally make a mistake, a breeder who has repeated wins at multiple shows certainly has bragging rights and is in a better position to ask more money for their stock, because they are tried and proven. It also helps the buyer know
that they are getting quality for their dollar, instead of just expensive hamburger.
3) To show off my cattle.
I work hard daily and have bred carefully for over a decade to get my herd where it is today. I want folks to see the results of my efforts! Whether you leave for home with a box full of ribbons, trophies, and prizes or not, there is something especially gratifying about having a fellow breeder come up during a show and say, “You have some nice cattle there.” Your chest swells, tears come to your eyes, and you reply, “Thanks.” It’s worth it.
4) To learn about my cattle.
I always listen as carefully as I can to what the judge says about all the cattle, but especially my own. These people are expert professionals and can teach you more about the strengths and weaknesses in your breeding program in a few minutes than you can sometimes learn in hours of research. Especially if more than one judge makes the same comment about your cattle, you need to pay particular attention! You also spend so much time closely associated with your cattle that you may no longer see them objectively, and a judge can give you a fresh perspective. It might give you an idea of what bull you want to buy next, or how to change your feeding program. If none of them say anything bad…you have arrived at the end of the rainbow!
5) To learn about my competitors’ cattle.
Let’s face it – there are some darn fine cattle out there. At the shows you can personally see the best results of some of the best breeders in the country. It can be eye-opening to think you have the finest Miniature Herefords in creation and then have them stand next to the finest Miniature Herefords in creation. There are also a variety of breeding goals on display at a show. You can see the results of the breeder who is aiming for the smallest cattle next to the breeder who ultimately wants a beef market animal. See where your cattle fit into this picture and adjust your goals accordingly. You can also scope out the potential source for your next big cattle purchase, whether it is at one of the show auctions or private treaty. You may find your future herd bull munching in the next stall over!
6) To learn about all things cattle.
There is no better way to learn about cattle than to be around cattle people, and at a show there is a heavy concentration of folks who have been there and done that. You can take advantage of any downtime to visit with other breeders and find out what works – and doesn’t work! – for them. Are you trying to decide about de-horning methods? At a show there are a bunch of people who have tried a variety of ways to get horns off a cow, and they will be happy to discuss the pros and cons with you. Some of the stories can be down-right entertaining as well as informative!
7) To learn showmanship.
To show Miniature Herefords all you have to do is walk out in the ring and lead your animal around. But if you want to WIN!! all you have to do is walk out in the ring, always watch the judge, hold your calf’s head up, don’t walk too fast, don’t walk too slow, keep control, look natural, switch transitions smoothly, always watch the judge, position the calf’s feet just so, show the animal’s best points, watch the judge, hold the show stick lightly but securely, move exactly as directed, watch the judge, ad infinitum. I’m an old dog and still learning…
8) To market my cattle.
One advantage we have as Miniature Hereford breeders is that they are novel. All you have to do is set up at a show with your cattle, stand in front of them, and someone is bound to ask, “Why do you have Miniature Herefords?” This is your big opportunity to tell them! If you also have a few brochures or business cards, hand them one, and tell them to give you a call or visit sometime. As the word gets around that there are Miniature Herefords in the world, many people are coming to shows specifically to see them, to see what they are, and maybe even to buy one. If not today, they may go home, mull it over a bit, pull out that crumpled brochure and give you a call. “Remember that little heifer with the spot over one eye…?”
9) To get my ranch name “out there.”
By bringing your cattle to the show and putting your ranch or farm name on a sign over them, you are letting the world know that you are a serious breeder with a serious program. Whether you have a branding iron or not, your brand name is who you are and how your cattle will be remembered.
10) To network.
Whether it is business or just living life, it is important to connect with others. At the shows you have a chance to meet many of the people whose names you may have read on the website, but don’t know, and there is no better way to get to know someone than to meet them face to face and discuss your cattle. In the process you may develop plans and prospects that would not exist otherwise. Match up a couple of your heifers with the bull from the guy across the aisle and maybe now you have a package that will interest the lady who just walked up and asked, “How do I get started…?
11) To make friends.
I am proud to say that I have some wonderful friends that I never would have met without attending shows. Maybe we only see each other once or twice a year, but when
we get together after a show over pizza and a cold beverage at the winner’s stall, let the good times roll!
12) To move forward in my breeding program.
Studying pedigrees and looking at cattle online is important to developing a plan for where you want to go with your breeding program, but there is nothing like seeing live animals to help you understand your goals. Going to shows allows you to see as many animals as possible in the shortest amount of time and also gives a good cross-section of the Miniature Hereford industry. And taking your own animals is important for comparison. If you don’t know where you are or you don’t know where you are going, you
sure won’t get there anytime soon! Of course, the bigger shows are best for this purpose, but even local shows can help you establish what the possibilities are.
13) To spend money.
Love to do this! The shopping is great!
14) To grow personally and expand my horizons.
If you need to find yourself, this is a great way to do it. The process of raising cattle, feeding, halter breaking, training for the show, loading the trailer, finding a fitter, getting
the right equipment – all the stuff you gotta do at some level – gives a person focus, responsibility, confidence. Some people learn it as kids; some of us find it a little later.
15) To decorate my barn in purple.
Need I say more? And if that isn’t enough, the altruistic person might need some reasons to show.
1) To promote the breed.
We all benefit by spreading the word about our terrific little minis. The internet has been an effective way to communicate the outstanding qualities and benefits of Miniature Herefords, but the shows that are springing up across the country are an important marketing partner. There is nothing like actually seeing to believe. Thousands of people
travel to shows for education and entertainment and many come just to see the minis because they know they will be there. I often hear people say, “I wanted to see one before I committed to buying one.”
2) To promote MHBA.
The Miniature Hereford Breeders Association is the sanctioning body for all the shows. It also serves as a binding force to support the effort to improve and expand the breed. The larger and stronger our membership, the more help we can give each breeder, whether it is an opportunity to have a show in the area, to develop a beef marketing program, or to locate other reputable breeders. The possibilities will grow as our membership grows.
3) To expose my friends and family to another world.
I love to bring “greenhorns” to the shows. Often I invite them just to help keep me awake on the drive to the show, but they always end up merrily scooping manure and picking hay out of their hair. Every single person I have brought to a show with me has had a blast and wants to come back. I currently have a waiting list of people who want to help me show my minis!
4) To teach kids about cattle.
Miniature Herefords in particular. I often go to local shows just to let kids see a live cow. Whether it is Baby Animal Day for the area elementary schools or the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, it is heartwarming to see how eager children are to see and touch and hear and – yes! – smell a live cow. And there is something special about the connection between the Miniature Herefords and children. Small people especially love small cows.
5) To expand the show circuit.
A pot roast in every pot and a show in every town! The more chances there are to show off our cattle, the easier it will be for folks to participate. And with all these wonderful reasons to show your cattle, I know YOU will want a show in your town, too!