When Elsa Hull’s Jersey calf lay down on her in the middle of the show ring during Thursday’s dairy cattle showmanship awards, Elsa quickly pushed her knees into her side trying to get her to stand, then looked to her mother for help.
Her mom, former dairy farmer Erin Hull, and other spectators offered some tips like “pinch the back” and finally the reluctant calf stood and walked.
Then Elsa Hull had trouble getting her to stop walking and get into position. Again she looked to her mom for advice.
“Circle her around,” came the helpful tip.
So circle her she did. And so it went for much of the show.
But afterward, 10-year-old Elsa was all smiles, proud of her placement in the “good” category.
And of that moment that her recalcitrant calf sank to her knees, Elsa, of Fabius, said she looked more flustered than she was.
“I wasn’t really thinking anything. I probably knew she was going to do that,” she said.
And in preparation for next year’s show, which would be her fourth year showing at the Cortland County Junior Fair, Elsa said she will practice holding the harness with both hands, as judge Kelly Reynolds, of Corfu, instructed the young showmen moments earlier. The tip was intended to help the small two-legged bodies better control the large four-legged ones and to cut down on the number of cows defiantly shaking their heads at their small guides.
But Elsa had her own theory on why her calf didn’t respond well.
“Part of the reason was she didn’t know a lot of the other calves,” said Elsa, who had to borrow a relative’s dairy cow to use for the show since her family only owns beef cattle.
The dairy cattle showmanship category drew 104 participants this year, about even with past years and David Rutherford, executive director of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cortland County, said each year the 4-H participants amaze him.
From their knowledge of the different breeds to herd rotation and the business aspect of running a farm, Rutherford said it is “absolutely amazing what they learn.”
He said for a county of Cortland’s size, there is a good showing at the state fair.
And Cortland resident Jo Schaeffer found herself among cows in the barn during the showmanship awards, admiring how one was being cared for by her young charge.
Schaeffer, born and raised in Brooklyn, said she is amazed by the fair and thinks more people should go to see the children showcase their talent.
“It’s just extraordinary, the care and interest and the fact their families support them,” said Schaeffer, as she watched a cow get her hooves polished.
And the polisher of the hooves, 7-year-old Lexie Myrto, wearing pink cowboy boots, led the calf away from her grooming station to get ready to show her.
She said her young Jersey calf, Coconut, likes to be brushed. And the hoof polishing, a black spraypaint for hooves, just makes her look pretty.