At the recent New York Hereford Breeders Classic Show at the Ontario County Fair, Judge Andy Hoelscher, an officer with the New York Beef Producer’s Association, took his time circling the ring throughout the classes and expressed difficulty in choosing winners. Competition was close among the well-groomed, well-mannered cattle and their competent handlers. Ashley Thompson took home Division Champion Heifer, Reserve Steer and Grand Champion Showman.
At home in Greenville, NJ, Thompson’s fiancé, AJ Stahoski, manages a Hereford farm, Grass Pond Farm, where they also keep their 10 head of Herefords known as Double D South Farm.
Stahoski only began managing at Grass Pond in January; however, he has long-term experience in caring for animals. Thompson had taken care of smaller animals such as goats and pigs while growing up.
“Raising beef cattle is different,” Thompson said.
She learned about their care and showing them from Stahoski. Thompson said the breed’s docile nature has made it easier in the ring compared with other cattle breeds that can tend to be more high strung.
Thompson also had to keep in mind the reasons for growing beef cattle, which are unlike pets.
“My mom always said that it would be heartbreaking to raise them commercially, but I love it,” Thompson said.
Thompson said she enjoys the “family atmosphere” at smaller county fairs such as Ontario County.
“We agree it’s a great way to raise our son,” she commented. “He has friends all over the country because of this.”
The couple plans to exhibit at 13 shows this summer. Stahoski brings along a few Grass Pond cattle to shows as well.
“It’s definitely good exposure and getting our name out there to people who would want to purchase our cattle,” Thompson said. “When people see we’re winning, they want to breed to our bulls and buy our calves.”
She said although they’re happy with their life and work at Grass Pond Farm, they hope to work their own acres someday.
Thompson advises other exhibitors to select animals based upon their personality. An easy-going animal is easier to handle than a temperamental or high-strung animal.
While leading an animal in the show ring, “have a sense of calmness and confidence. Your cattle feel it,” Thompson added.
Day-to-day handling makes a big difference in an animal’s performance in the show ring as well.
“We spend a lot of time working with ours,” Thompson said. “At our farm, it’s a show barn atmosphere. They get tied up every day and washed every day.”
“It’s a lot of commitment when you decide you want to show an animal.”
She also gratefully realizes the importance of help when help is needed.
“You have to appreciate the people around you,” Thompson said. “You can’t get to a show by yourself. There’s always some way that someone is helping you. It’s not all about you.”
When not working with her Herefords, Thompson enjoys horseback riding and working in her garden.