The cows that Mid-Missouri youth work with in market shows such as at this year's Jefferson City Jaycees Cole County Fair have some personality as contestant co-stars, according to their handlers, and connecting with their animal is part of the appeal of showing and key to being good at it.
"It's just a pet, pretty much, to me," Macey Stockman, of Osage Bend, said of the animals she works with in market beef shows, such as the one Monday at the Cole County Fair.
In the morning, before the afternoon show, many of the cows grazed on hay or were being cleaned and groomed as youth and family waited for their animals' turn to be weighed.
Stockman and her cousin, Kaidyn Bisges, are members of the Blair Oaks chapter of the National FFA Organization.
Stockman and Bisges said connecting with the animal they're showing is important.
"Mine doesn't like having water sprayed on its head," Bisges said as an example of the animal's likes and dislikes she's familiar with.
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Her cow was named Frosty. Stockman had a heifer named Lola, and a steer with no name.
Seventh-grader Annie Stewart, of St. Thomas and St. Thomas 4-H — who had a Charolais cow named Maura — said the showmanship aspect of a show involves skill with handling the animal, as well as one's appearance, including dressing well and having a comb in the back pocket.
In terms of the animal, Stewart said cleanliness, a nice belly and a nice coat of hair are important — and it takes washing, blow-drying, spraying with a sheen and brushing to prep the animal's hair for a show.
Stockman said muscle mass and the shape of a cow are also indicators for what makes a good animal for showing.
When she's judged cows before, she's imagined them as if on a meat rack.
"That's what we're trying to do," make good meat, she said.
The cows can weigh upwards of 1,200 pounds, and when it came time to be weighed-in Monday morning on a small trailer fitted with a scale, it was clear some of them don't always like to be led around — but with a little pushing and pulling, each animal eventually stepped onto the trailer for weigh-in.
Bisges and Stockman said the more connection with an animal there is, the easier it is to show it.
Stockman said the show cows are kept separate from the others on the farm, and have a regimen of bathing, being walked and having free access to food.
"They live a pretty good life," she said.
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Meanwhile, while Stewart said the prep is a favorite part of showing for her, she also enjoys spending the time involved with friends and family, and she gets to travel for shows — most recently this month to South Dakota, where she placed fourth in showmanship of the junior division of the American-International Charolais Association Junior National Show and Leadership Conference.
She said she's been showing cows for three years, as did Bisges.
Stockman has been showing cows since she was 10, and even though she used to be terrified of large animals, she said she loves the experience now.
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