Many farms show at the county and state level as a marketing tool. For Heather Birdsall and Dennis Birdsall, showing also represents one of the ways they help their children, Sam, 12, and Sarah, 10, learn responsibility.
The family farms 650 acres in Homer, NY, raising hay, corn, rye, and about 75 registered Hereford cattle, plus commercial cattle. They recently showed four head at the Junior Hereford Show at the New York State Fair. Sara won Reserve Master Showman and Supreme Champion Heifer. Sam took home the Reserve Master Showman ribbon.
In the open Hereford show, where they showed nine cattle, the farm won two division champions, three first places and Reserve Champion Overall Heifer.
“It was great,” Heather raved. “We were very pleased. The kids did a wonderful job in the show and raising their animals.”
All the animals that Sam and Sara showed are within their care, both daily and when it’s time to prepare for showing. Both children scurried around the show barn before their events to ensure every bovine hair was in place. But it’s the day-to-day chores and animal handling that lay the groundwork for successful showing.
“They do all the feeding chores at night,” Heather said. “They work their heifers and wash their hair. As far as nutrition and getting them ready, the kids to do the majority of the work and I think it pays off.”
She believes that careful preparation at home all year helps show days go better — and result in more ribbons.
Heather acknowledges that showing does help promote their operation, since “some people come to the fair and check out animals if they’re looking to build their herd,” she said.
The Birdsalls raise most of their young stock from within the herd and only occasionally buy cattle. They sell breeding stock, cow/calf pairs and frozen embryos. They feed out their steers and sell fresh and frozen products in several area stores and restaurants in Cortland, Ithaca and Binghamton under the name Birdsall Beef.
Heather said in addition to promoting their farm through showing, they also promote through sales such as the Torrington Livestock Markets in Torrington, WY, held at the end of January.
The family also participates in the Boyd Beef Cattle and Guests Breeders Cup Sale in Mays Lick, KY, where the Birdsalls market to purebred breeders.
Beyond county and state fair, the Birdsalls also participate in the New York Junior Beef Producers Association show in Syracuse, NY; Junior National Hereford Expo in Louisville, KY; National Western Stock Show in Denver and Keystone International Livestock Exposition in Harrisburg, PA.
Heather said that participating in these events also helps generate enthusiasm for the Hereford breed.
While Heather works for Cornell Cooperative Extension as an association team leader, Dennis operates the farm full-time.
Sam starts 7th grade this year. He enjoys football and lacrosse. Sarah, beginning 5th grade, likes lacrosse as well, and competes with the Cortland Comets gymnastics team.