Hair spray on a cow and other Field Days grooming tips

AISLYNN FARR OF Richmond cleans and preps her Ayrshire heifer “Cheerio” for the 4-H Showmanship Competition at Field Days on Thursday.

NEW HAVEN — Aislynn Farr shook-up an aerosol can of livestock skin conditioner and sprayed a few strokes on the side of her Ayrshire “Cheerio.”
“This stuff is for the shine,” the 18-year-old explained. “You use it to highlight the cow’s ribs, kind of like contouring a person’s face with makeup.” As part of the 4-H Showmanship Class Competition on the third day of the Addison County Fair and Field Days last week, competitors like Farr were busy cleaning and grooming their heifers before the showcase. In an event judged on the presentation of their animals, 4-H’ers will spend days making sure their heifers look perfect.
“Our primary goal is to just keep (the animals) happy,” Farr said.
“Happy cows are going to do better (in competition). We wash them every morning, and make sure (the cows) have no (feces) on them at all,” Farr said. “(We make sure) their beds stay perfectly clean, and they will always have fresh feed and water in front of them to try to make them as healthy and happy as them can.” Next to the 4-H Dairy Barns, county youth could be seen in their all-white uniforms, cleaning off their animals right before they went into the Dairy Palace Arena where they were judged.
A hygienic and nutritional regimen is necessary to produce a blue-ribbon heifer. Additionally, cows undergo a serious makeup-routine. With Cheerio in a grooming chute, Farr went to work on her tail, switching between brushing it out and spraying hair conditioner on it.
“We like to make the (cows’) hair nice and short so (the judges) can see them better,” she said. Farr can spend two to three hours on a single trimming session. “We have our different ways and techniques, but I kind of do (the trimming) in waves. The day before the fair, I trimmed Cheerio’s whole body, and most of her head and (lower body). A little while ago, I touched up her legs. Before that, she was really fuzzy.”
Farr, a Vermont Technical College sophomore who hopes to become a herds manager, has been competing in showcases for 12 years, at first doing Pee-Wee shows, with children ages three to eight. She then moved to 4-H competitions. She jokes: “It’s crazy. I’m old now.”
Showmanship competition judging is based on the aesthetic qualities of a cow, including how handlers manage their heifers. Farr expects that Cheerio will be on her best behavior during Field Days. “Cheerio has been to quite a few shows, so she knows when I tell her to stop. I’ve had other cows that never quite understood the concept of being well-behaved.”
— Benjamin Glass

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