All-girl competition – among dairy cows – at the fair

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Cheryl Schweizer/Columbia Basin Herald Pixie chose the dairy fitting and showing competition to refuse to cooperate, no matter how much her owner Llandon Ahmann tugged on her halter.

MOSES LAKE — Pixie just would not cooperate.

She entered the show ring – and refused to move. Her owner Llandon Ahmann tugged. And tugged, and clicked his tongue to encourage her and tugged some more. And Pixie wouldn’t move, or wouldn’t move very far, which caused a problem because Llandon was competing in the dairy cattle fitting and showing competition at the Grant County Fair.

Dairy cattle are a niche competition at the fair; to begin with, it’s all girls. All girl cows, that is. Judge Brooke Moe, Pasco, was looking for a certain quality in the animals. It could almost be called a bovine femininity. “Look at the dairyness of her,” Moe said of one of the cows in competition.

“So stylish. So dairy,” she said of another.

There was one actual milk cow in the competition in 2017. The rest were breeding stock.

Dairy fitting and showing is pretty much like fitting and showing for any animal – the handler is trying to show the animal to its best advantage. “The judge is looking at how well you control the animal,” explained R.J. Rupard of Ephrata.

Competitors spend a lot of time working with their animals, training them to accept and work with the halter. “Like, if they’re not doing what you want them to do, you can pull it (the halter),” explained Annjolenn Ahmann.

A competitor can improve their chances when they pick out an animal to train for competition. “If they walk nice, that’s a good sign,” said Maya Armcost-Felton. She competed in two separate classes.

Like all show animals dairy cattle should be nice and clean when they enter the arena. Annjolenn gasped in horror when her cow lay down in the dusty arena prior to competition – but her mom saved the day with hand wipes.

There are certain characteristics that matter in dairy cow competition. “You want a heifer that can carry a cow. Well, a calf,” Maya said. “I’m not sure what depth is, but they look for that.” The judges reward a cow with a straight back, they don’t want stocky legs, and the cow can’t be pigeon-toed, she said. And the judges reward “dairyness in the face. Which is one reason we shave their faces.”

Dairy competition comes with a long history, and it’s acknowledged in the show ring. Dairy competitors wear white shirts and pants. R.J. said it dates back to the early years of the 20th century, when the workers in the dairy wore white.

And “I guess milk is white,” R.J. said.

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at education@columbiabasinherald.com.

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