November 27, 2021

Farmers, cows lose out with state fair cancellation

S.N. Briere/ staff reporter

Ken McEvoy, an owner of Mac-Mara Holsteins in Marathon, pets one of his cows, Sissy. Sissy, along with nine other cows were going to be shown at the New York State Fair, but the fair was canceled this year due to the coronairus. It’s a lost marketing avenue for both the cows and the milk produced at the farm.

Ken McEvoy, an owner of Mac Mara Holsteins in Marathon, walked toward the back of the barn and to a stall where a large cow named Sissy lay on the floor. He walked in the stall and began petting Sissy.

She was one of the cows the farm had planned to bring to the New York State Fair to participate in a cow show competition.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced July 6 the fair was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. Besides the lost midway rides, the lost concerts, the lost bit of Americana for a year, it’s lost potential income.

Horse shows, cattle shows, dairy shows. Sheep, flowers, farm products — for hundreds of competitors, the shows aren’t just a bit of fun. They’re an investment that can pay off in extra income.

“The competition is putting our best against the best in the state, but it was marketing,” he said. People would attend the fair to also buy or sell heifers or calfs to other farmers. Depending on the cow, it could sell for anywhere from $2,000 to $50,000.

“Not having it does hurt that way,” he said. “It also hurts marketing milk to the general public who went to the state fair and didn’t know much about where their products come from.”

McEvoy said he had planned to bring nine or 10 cows this year, noting he thought they would do very well in the competition.

“We’ve got one of our best show strengths we’ve had in a couple years — our young cows and heifers are really good,” he said. “It’s like a fashion show or a Miss America pageant — they have to be right there, perfect, and if they’re longer in their lactation where they’re not making much milk or a little bit heavier, it takes away from their show rank appearance.”

It means cows who could have participated this year may not be able to next year.

Matt Sharpe of Footbridge Farm in Truxton faces the same problem.

“It’s just like a sports season kind of being lost,” he said.

But it isn’t just the state fair show they lost.

The World Dairy Expo — the biggest show of the year — was canceled, although he said some shows locally and regionally are in the works.

A show typically planned for the Independence Day weekend in Cortland was postponed.

“We wanted to still try and make something happen,” he said. “We decided to push it back to plan a little better.”

Social distancing guidelines were taken into account, the public was not going to be allowed and the number of participants was decreased. He said that he had to turn down 14 people Tuesday because they had reached their limit on participants.

He said some other groups are also trying to plan for larger shows in September or October.