New contest will challenge talent at fair
JANESVILLE With a good eye and a little luck, you might be able to buy an animal that will win at the fair.
But you can’t buy talent.
That’s what draws kids to showmanship classes, where livestock judges take a break from judging animals and judge the kids instead.
In showmanship, judges rate kids on how well they handle their animals and themselves in the ring and how much they know about their animal and the industry.
This year, a new contest will challenge the most experienced showmen at the Rock County 4-H Fair.
The Master Showman Contest, sponsored by Badgerland Financial, will take place at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, July 27, in the stock pavilion at the Rock County 4-H Fairgrounds.
The class will feature 10 contestants—the winners of the two senior showmanship classes from the beef, dairy, dairy goat, sheep and swine shows. Contestants will show animals of all five species in a competition for cash and prizes.
Michelle Austin, director of insurance services at Badgerland Financial, showed dairy, beef and sheep in the late 1980s at the Rock County 4-H Fair.
The new contest really will shine a spotlight on talent, she said.
“To me it really focuses on the kid and all the hard work they put in,” Austin said. “It doesn’t matter the quality of the animal or how much money was spent on it.”
Being a good showman also can make or break champions when judges are looking at cattle during the regular classes, Austin said.
“A good showman can cover up and try to minimize the faults of the animal,” Austin said. “They can give them that pop or they can not.”
The Janesville Gazette caught up with several Rock County 4-H Fair showmen—some on their way to national shows and others at home getting ready for fair week.
The kids shared tips about what judges are looking for in the ring for each of the five species and talked about why showmanship is important.
-- D.J. Waller, age 10, fifth-grader at Clinton Middle School; his sister, Savannah Waller, age 13, eighth-grader at Clinton Middle school; their cousin, Garrett Pass, 11, Clinton fifth-grader. All three show pigs with the La Prairie 4-H.
The three weigh their pigs each week and keep records on weight gain, Garrett said. You should know that pigs should gain about two pounds per week in the last two months before the fair, Savannah said.
Be assertive, but not aggressive, in the ring, Savannah said.
“You want to be in front of the judge but not on top of him,” she said.
Judges watch for how well the pigs walk and how well formed they are, the three kids said.
-- Rylee Ochs, age 9, is a fourth-grader at Northside Intermediate School in Milton. She shows beef with the Harmony 4-H Club.
With four years of showing already under her belt, Rylee thinks showmanship is easier than regular classes.
Just stay calm and focused, she said.
The hard part about showing is getting up early every morning to feed her steer and two heifers. The animals have to be kept cool and washed, brushed and blow-dried regularly. That helps their hair grow long before the fair.
-- Sarah Adamson, 14, freshman at Milton High School. She shows dairy goats and is a member of Milton 4-H and Milton FFA.
If you want to compete in the master showmanship class, you might want to watch a few goat classes ahead of time, Sarah said.
Goat showmen must “twirl” around the goat a certain way to stay out of the judges’ way while lining goats up, Sarah said.
Be confident but not cocky, she said.
“There’s a fine line between drawing attention to yourself and having a presence in the ring,” Sarah said.
-- Kristen Broege, 12, seventh-grader at St. John Vianney Parish School. Kristen is member of La Prairie 4-H Club and is in her fourth year of showing dairy cattle.
A lot of the hard work will be done before showmen even walk in the ring, Kristen said. This time of year she’s washing her four Holstein heifers twice a week and practicing showing them in the driveway.
Right before showtime and with a little help, Kristen will blow dry, spray and clip the hair along her heifers’ spines. These “flat top” haircuts make their backs look straighter.
Know your animal’s birthday, the names of her parents and whether or not she’s pregnant, Kristen said.
-- Jordan Alf, 18, graduate of Milton High School and member of Milton FFA and Consolidated 4-H; his sister, Jessica Alf, 13, eighth-grader at Milton Middle School. The two will take a total of eight Hampshire sheep to the fair.
The best part about showmanship is that you know more when you leave the ring than when you walked in, Jessica said. Judges often give tips.
A judge might ask what the lamb’s best attribute is or what you would change about it, she said.
Keep your sheep’s head up and your eye on the judge, Jordan said.
“The whole point is no matter how much the animal costs, you take an animal and make it look the best you can,” Jordan said.
IF YOU GO
What: The first Rock County Fair Master Showmanship contest.
When: 2:30 p.m. Sunday, July 27.
Where: The stock pavilion at the Rock County 4-H Fairgrounds, Craig Avenue, Janesville.
Details: The winning senior showmanship participants from each of the five large species—dairy, beef, swine, sheep and dairy goats—will compete for cash and prizes.
Other showmanship classes:
Swine: 5 p.m. Tuesday, July 22, in the sale arena.
Sheep: 8 a.m. Wednesday, July 23, in the stock pavilion.
Goats: 5 p.m. Friday, July 25, in the stock pavilion.
Dairy: 12:30 p.m. Saturday, July 26, in the stock pavilion.
Beef: 6 p.m. Saturday, July 26, in the stock pavilion.