MITCHELL — Cattle and their 4-H and FFA caretakers were out for judgment at the beef showmanship contest at the Scotts Bluff County Fair on Friday.
The contest judges both human and cow on appearance and displaying skills.
Judge Matt Ellicott has been judging beef and hogs for about 20 years, and likes to see a complete animal.
“One that combines carcass merit, balance and structural correctness.”
While it’s his job to figure out which animals are the best, Ellicott said it’s just as important to support the other contestants and help them improve.
“Obviously, when you do well that means you’ve done things right,” he said. “But I think it’s important when young people leave and they didn’t make the cut, so to speak, that you give them an idea of what to work on. You just try to give them some pointers and try to make sure it’s as positive an experience as you can make it.”
Baliegh Lane, show for the first time this year, following her brothers. “I just decided I wanted to try it,” she said. “I really love it.”
That said, there’s nothing easy about it.
“A lot of hard work goes into this that a lot of people don’t realize,” she said. “There’s people that will spend over five hours fitting their cattle for show today.”
Since her show heifer doesn’t have much hair, it only took Lane two hours to prepare it for the contest.
Addison Lashley, 13, showed beef for the first time this year. The difference between market and showmanship, she said, is that contestants have to demonstrate that they know their animals.
“The judge will ask you questions based on what you know about your animal,” she said. “In market, you’re just showing your animal.”
Luke Hessler, 16, showed a heifer for 4-H and a steer for FFA. One of the important parts of showmanship is clipping your animal and shaping the hair to make the cow more presentable to the judge. He spent part of Friday morning trimming his heifer’s face, to make her “look more respectable and nicer.” Training an animal to not overreact to clipping takes time, he said.
“You start off pouring water on her head and blowing on her,” he said. “She still doesn’t like us blowing on her head with the blower, she freaks out. It’s easier when they’re babies, because they don’t know what to do.”