The All American Dairy Show is not just a show.
Picture this: You’re in your later years of 4-H and your whole life it seems you’ve been showing cow at your local fair. You can remember showing at the All American Dairy Show when you were younger, only your third 4-H year, but that seems like an eternity prior. You’ve watched various cow shows with the big name cows and learned their names at dairy bowl almost like you know the names of your own herd.
When your favorite cow, you realize, has been doing pretty well and as soon as your parents announce that the family is going to participate at All American you know exactly who you’re taking along. In the time before the show, you let out a sigh of relief when the vet announces your cow has no ring worm and is completely healthy, give multiple baths to get that tail and knees as white as you can, and clip so she’s looking nice and clean.
You help pack up the truck and trailer and have your belongings packed for the couple days you’ll be staying. The drive up you create best case scenarios in your head; winning the classes, big name herd owners asking you to show for them next year, crowds gathering around your cow, and so on. When you get there you keep a level head while unpacking and setting up. Once everything is finished and the cows are fed, you sit on the show box and let the excitement take over. You’re walking around while your sibling is back monitoring the cows and feel in awe when your eyes meet various cows and heifers you know have a good chance in winning their class. You also note which sires have been used and are already planning who you’ll breed your cow to when she’s in heat next.
While feeding, washing, and milking, you pretend you’re working for the herd you most admire and stand proudly with your cow. You’d raised her since she was born, taking extra time to make sure she was fed well and kept in the best conditions to help her grow better.
The night before the show you’re up late until your shift is over for watching the cows and you finally get to go to sleep, exhausted from the past couple days. Your cow is in the process of bagging up and you hope for the best. The barn is as quiet as it’ll get—multiple fans running, radios playing a mix of genre, a dull chatter that’s sometimes overcome with laughter, and cows and heifers occasionally mooing.
When you wake up groggy you immediately get to work, full of anticipation and excitement for the day. The sound of clippings is accompanied by the smell of show sheen and clear magic like a cloud in the barn. Everyone is out and about, bringing animals to and from the wash rack or chutes to have top lines done. You’ve been practicing top lines for a few years and now your skills are being put to the ultimate test. The milking cows are a little later in the show, but you’re already in your show whites and helping your siblings with their heifers.
At last the time comes where you’ll be in the next group to be called to ringside. You fluff the tail and spray another coat of show sheen one last time before putting the show halter on and walking your cow to the arena with the others. It’s a bit of a walk, but when you get to the arena you can’t help but to smile.
You walk your cow in line and prepare to show. You scratch her neck until it’s your turn to pull her into the ring, holding both her and your head high. You keep your eyes on the judge and concentrate on making sure your cow is walking evenly and not to stretched out, as you’d practiced. You answer coolly when the judge asks about when she was fresh, having pride in how well her udder is looking. Disappointment rises when one by one it multiple cows are pulled in and it feels as if you’ll never get picked until you do, and, although you’re not first, you’re not last. With seeing the photographers around the ring taking pictures, along with the amazing competition, you feel big.
Leaving the arena, you have the showmanship competition ahead of you and you’re ready to do it again, to show off what you’ve been working on for years.
To those in 4-H and FFA, the All American Dairy show isn’t just a show. It’s where those who are younger get to go and be like the professionals and owners of famous cows they look up to and aspire to be. It gives them a chance to learn more as a cow owner, along with strengthening their pride in being a part of the dairy industry. Members of 4-H and FFA constantly look forward to shows, having something to give motivation to finding the right sire to match with their cow and work with the calf to get it to its full potential. Having show’s like the All American Dairy show is more than just a show to 4-Hers and those in the FFA, but also a way to teach and aid them in growing in their dairy knowledge, providing a way to cultivate future farmers that are passionate in what they do.
Abigail Risser is currently 18 years old, and a senior at Cedar Crest High School. She resides in Lebanon County on her family’s 80 cow dairy farm. Abby enjoys showing cattle and helping on her farm. She is a member of the Lebanon County Livestock 4-h Club and the Lebanon County Junior Holstein Club. Abigail is going to be attending Millersville University in the fall, with a major in English and Secondary Education. Her extracurricular activities include Orchestra, which she is a member of the Chamber Orchestra and Pit Orchestra at Cedar Crest, and soccer.