Fitting and showmanship clinic for beef cattle

CEW-MR-2-Beef fitting361by Katie Navarra

Youth ages 5 to 17 had the opportunity to learn fitting and showmanship tips to help them succeed in showing beef cattle at the county fair or at sanctioned beef shows.

A clinic sponsored by the Washington County Junior Beef Club provided youth ages 5 to 17 with fitting and showmanship tips for a successful trip into the show pen at the county fair or other sanctioned shows.

The clinic, held at the Washington County Fairgrounds took place on Saturday, May 31. Multiple 4-H clubs encouraged their members to attend. “We’re ecstatic with the turnout,” said Robert Bentley a co-organizer, “we’ve got 20 kids here today.”

In the first of what organizers hope to be many to come, this clinic was about “getting kids exposed to what’s out there and what the next step is to working with the hair on animals and what they’re trying to accomplish,” Shawn Murphy, co-organizer of the event, concluded.

Designed to teach youth how to properly “fit” and then show their cow for this summer’s county fair and other area beef shows. Clinicians Andy Hoelscher of Hoelscher Show Cattle and Brenda Bippert of WBB Farm traveled from Western New York to share their knowledge and experience in showing beef cattle.

Fitting

Preparing a beef cow for showing begins at home. “The most important thing is spending time at home getting the hair worked and trained,” Hoelscher said, “it takes a couple hours every day.” Hoelscher and his family breed raise and show female and steers for the competitive show circuit.

Work with clipping and training the cattle’s hair. The key is going slow and avoiding clipping skin tight. “You might have to go over an area four or five times, but go slow, don’t clip it all at once,” he suggested. When it’s time to begin clipping, be sure the cow is standing square as it would in the show pen. A cow standing in an awkward position can lead to an unbalanced clip that interferes with the animal’s conformation.

Ideally, clipping should be done at home rather than at a show. “You don’t want to clip everything at the show, you’ll never get it all accomplished,” he explained. Clipping prior to arriving at the show alleviates stress the day of the show and provides exhibitors time to properly prep for the class and/or watch other exhibitors in classes throughout the day.

Even exhibitors who have been showing a long time have an opportunity to learn from others. Andy, who shows around the country, makes time to learn from other showmen/women. “I still wander around the barns and watch the guys I think are really, really good,” he said, “there is always something to learn.”
Showmanship

Fitting a female or steer for the show ring is only the first step in preparing for competition. Showmanship classes are judged on an exhibitors’ ability to make their cow look good. A competitor is evaluated based on the cleanliness of themselves and their cow and their ability to “show off” their animal.

As with fitting a cow for the show ring, showmanship skills start at home. “An exhibitor is also judged on the calmness of their animal,” Brenda explained, “a judge can tell if the exhibitor worked with the animal at home based on how calm the animal is.”

Regardless of what happens in the show arena, it’s important to be courteous and professional towards the judge and other exhibitors. Above all else, “it should be fun, they (the exhibitor) should have fun and enjoy what they’re doing,” she added.

Like Andy, Brenda encouraged the participants to sit in the bleachers and watch other competitors when they have the chance to do so. “See what the other competitors are doing, watch how their handling a specific situation and listen to what the judge is looking for,” she said.

At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that it is just about one judge’s opinion. “Every judge is different and it’s more about sportsmanship and helping each other out,” she concluded.

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