Last year, we had been working with thirteen animals as our show string for the fairs. These thirteen were pampered and fed special diets in preparation to be exhibited. We practiced walking with a lead rope, and being scratched with a show stick (a pleasure for those hard to itch spots), standing with firm legs and straight backs, grooming and hair cuts, getting bathed daily, and blow-drying their coats. We even practiced walking into and out of the stock trailer so they would not get spooked.
Early spring when we had to officially weigh the steer for his special show, we took some of the others from the show string so they got used to riding along. These animals had their hooves trimmed that day also.
I have to say the group looked pretty spiffy.
The first Fair was Washington County. We are members of the Livestock Association in the County and we do volunteer duties along with taking care and showing the show string. It is always a very busy schedule and very rewarding.
Our trailer is mid-sized so it takes two trips to get that many critters to the fair. Two trips to the fair and two trips home. Since we still have chores to do at home, we always drive ourselves home at night after tucking the show animals in for the night. Many times it is well past 11pm before we get home.
Morning comes early to check our main herd and then get to the fair to take care of the show string before 8am. Taking care the animals consists of moving them out of the barn to clean and refill their area of bedding. You would be surprised how much mess thirteen animals can make between midnight and 6am! Then each animal is taken one at a time to the wash rack, where they are bathed. A quick hose down, a good lathering and another hose down before they are moved to an area where they are blow dried and combed. Once they are all fluffed and buffed, they are moved back into the barns and ready for their breakfast. If the procedure runs smoothly, Mike and I are in sync in our movements, and the cows are cooperating, the animals are ready to be seen by the public when the fair opens in the morning. It is a mad dash to complete all the steps and I am ready for a nap by this time.
The animals did well and the Fair. It gave them time to get used to all the hub-bub of people walking around them, the noises and rhythms of something completely different from the farm. It’s like a testing ground, getting ready for the next fair which is much bigger, and noisier.
We got home from Washington County safe with all the animals, it was very late Sunday night after being released from the Fair. The animals were taken off their halters and set free to loaf in the pasture to forage on grass for several days before gearing up for the next Fair.
The whole scenario started over at the Clark County Fair with the exception that we only had twelve animals since the steer was sold at the Auction at Washington County. Moving the equipment and animals in, getting them settled and us rushing home in the late evening to try to get some rest before checking on the main herd and dashing back to the Fair with minimal sleep.
The sights, sounds and smells can be almost overwhelming. It was good that the animals had the smaller Washington County Fair to get acclimated to the atmosphere. There are so many visitors at Clark County. It is a very dynamic experience with lots of competition, and lots of distractions for those showing and especially for the animals. The temperature had climbed higher this week and we set extra fans up in the barns to keep the animals stress free and relaxed.
One of the heifers, #89, was all out of sorts. She was fidgety in the barn, and when we were getting her ready to show. In the ring, she was distracted and antsy. After her round in the show ring, it dawned on us that she was in heat. We had two bulls with us that we were showing, but we wanted to wait another month before we let her be with a bull to get bred. She was still quite young, and we wanted the herd sire that was at home to be the father of her calf.
We kept her as comfortable as possible, and as far away as we could from the bulls that were at the fair grounds while she passed through her heat cycle. Since the animals are tethered in their stalls by their halters and neck ties, we moved her further down the show string so our bulls wouldn’t cause any trouble trying to get closer to her.
By the time our competition was over and it was time to head home, we moved the animals into the stock trailer, #89 was calm and well past her heat. At home, we and turned her out with the main herd and the herd sire. In about a month she would be back in heat and the bull would be ready, or at least that was the plan.
Apparently, the sounds of thousands of people screaming on thrill rides, throngs walking through the barns, laughter of children and action of strollers, walkers and wheelchairs along the smell of fry bread, fresh roasted kettle corn, curly fries, and slurpy sno-cones weren’t the only things in the air the night that #89 was in heat. Love was in the air also.
Somehow, while we were away from the animals, probably during our run home for some rest, a midnight marauder with lust on his mind ran amok and visited her while she was in heat. On occasion, an animal can slip out of a halter and neck tie, and have been known to take romps around the fairgrounds. The Fair has workers that patrol the barns at night looking for issues such as that, the are called the Night Owls. The Night Owls can spot a slipped rope and correct the problem before an animal goes for a stroll, usually. In this case, we had no idea anything had happened, until nine months later when #89 showed signs of being ready to calve. The timing clued us in before we actually saw the calf, but one look confirmed our suspicions. It became obvious that we do not have a calf that can be registered as Black Angus.
And so this is the story of Socks. Kind of looks like she may be a mix of Angus and possibly Hereford, or Holstein or Pinzgauer, but nobody is talking.
Socks is a healthy calf and is growing well, putting on weight and happily playing with all the other calves. She has become buddies with another little heifer calf and the two take naps together and go exploring into dense undergrowth while the herd grazes close by.
Socks will stay with the herd and nurse from her mother until weaning time when she is scheduled to be sold to a commercial yearling herd along with several other heifers. We will still put an ear tag in Socks, even though it is pretty easy to pick her out of the herd without an identifying tag.