I’ve grown up attached to a halter, as soon as I could walk I was leading calves. A lot of people think I’m crazy and that I have a very strange pastime. In the last two years my pastime has become my lifestyle. After spending two years at Mark and Jenny McDonalds I moved to Canada. There I was based at Crestomere Holsteins, yes I went to the dark side! Whilst at Crestomere I traveled and worked with Stanhope/Wedgwood, Morsan farms and Charlyn Jerseys & Holsteins to various dairy shows in Canada and America. I trucked to shows with up to 25 milking cows, stopping every 12 hours to milk, feed and freshen the bedding for the cows. When we could we stopped at farms other times at petrol stations where we would plug into power to milk the cows on the truck as there was a vacuum line set up. I was lucky to have this experience and work with great cows but it’s not as glamorous as some people think. The longest trip I did was four and a half days from Ponoka, Alberta to Toronto, Ontario for the Royal show, roughly 3500 kms.
Why bother showing, it’s too much extra work.
Upon returning to Ireland in January 2012 I began working on a 200 cow Holstein farm. I had the usual tasks of stockmanship along with being responsible for selecting, training and showing the stock. An Irish fitter, Steve McLoughlin, added the final touches at the show in the clipping and top lining of the animals. A fitters job entails the clipping of an animal in advance of a show, the washing, re-clipping and shaping of the hair along the spine into a topline to even out any humps or hollows an animal may have.
It takes weeks to properly train most animals. Typically they need to be on a slightly different diet than herd animals eg. The animal may be housed and fed hay to encourage rib development. They need to be washed and clipped in advance of a show then again at the show. They need to be brought to the show, kept clean, fed, prepared and shown and brought home. I’ll bet some of you are tired just reading about it! After all the hard work I’ll tell you the rewards.
Atmosphere number one, the gathering of like-minded people with a passion for breeding cows. The opportunity to compare your animals with others and to see which bulls are worth using. Advertising for the breed and for yourself. By showing cows it provides an ideal shop window for farmers to see our animals and hopefully lead to sales of bulls heifers and embryos. As with any competition the thrill of winning is a definite reward. At Monasteroris we began showing Ayrshires in 1990, in 1998 and 2000 we won Champion Ayrshire with two different cows. The show classes died out for Ayrshires in Ireland so we began supporting the Shorthorn show scene. Quite often we were in the middle or towards the end but we kept trying. In 2012 at the National Spring fair we won our first Champion Shorthorn title and with a homebred cow to boot, Monasteroris Jennie Deans 8th Ex 92, that was an amazing feeling. Maybe showing cows isn’t that crazy after all!!!
By Ann-Maree Manley, Monasteroris Dairy Shorthorns.