First Blisters of the Show Season

Life in the Farm Lane

4/18/2014 8:13 AM

As much as it saddens me, my show season is just getting started for the year. If it were up to me, I would’ve already attended three shows this year.

But before I can set foot in a show ring, I have a bunch of animals to halter break. If the weather would cooperate, I’d be out every day after dinner attempting to walk a new heifer.

At my son’s request, the first calf we got out this year was Ferrari, a March Holstein whom I am very much in love with. She has great potential, and luckily I didn’t get any rope-burn-induced blisters on my hands after walking her. After she gets her kicks of excitement out of the way, she’s surprisingly cooperative and calm – calm enough for my son to walk.

Next up was a Rice Krispie, a February Jersey calf. Talk about stubborn! I may have dragged her five feet from her hutch, all the while her feet were firmly planted in resistance – and my blisters got started. So instead of making both of us angry, I just sat in the yard for a few minutes and tried to get her more used to me and the halter on her head. She wasn’t so interested.

Then I got out my adorable December Holstein calf, Dun Made Right. Much to my excitement, she loves being on the halter and walked like an old pro. My son even took her for a stroll, though she walked much too slow for his liking. Just picture a toddler (despite the fact that he’s the size of a 5-year-old) holding on to the very end of the rope halter pulling the calf with all this might to make her move faster. The calf just had this look in her eye like, “Forget it kid. I’m moving my way or no way.”

Jersey spring yearling Mowgli got out next. Having just been born at the tail end of the season last year, she lucked out and never touched a halter till this year. Lucky for her, but my hands weren’t so pleased when I couldn’t get her to refrain from dragging me down the driveway. That was a short “walk.”

Next out was McGraw, an unfresh junior 2-year-old Jersey. She may have been shown last year, but she seems to have forgotten the fine art of it. And the blisters started growing.

I wanted to get a Holstein unfresh junior 2-year-old, Metallica, out next, but she wasn’t so willing. I couldn’t even get a halter on her. Without help, I wasn’t even going to attempt to catch fall yearling Meredith who’s always enjoyed a game of catch me if you can – and I can’t.

Now with my husband as a helper, we ventured to the milking barn to see his beloved Red and White Holsteins. Luckily, catching junior 2-year-old Cher wasn’t a problem like it used to be. And thank the Lord she remembered all her training and my hard work, and walked like a dream.

My husband wanted to catch his or my parent’s 5-year-old cows, but they disagreed. It’s rather difficult to catch one cow in a pen of 100. Plus, I’m sure they’ll walk just as well as they have for the past four years, I hope.

I saved the best for last, a senior 3-year-old Holstein, Apple, who’s never been halter-broke. The best description for her is ugly duckling – a barely average calf and heifer that’s turned out to be one of my best animals ever. Seeing as how her mom is amazing on the halter, I was mistakenly hoping that she would have the same temperament.

I knew I was headed for trouble when it took us 5 minutes to corner Apple and get the halter on. After she ran me into a few gates, I wasn’t brave enough to take her outside the barn. So we went into a spare, animal-less pen where I wasn’t even trying to make her walk show-speed, just trying to make her not want to kill me.

After 10 minutes or so, she calmed down enough to walk beside me. But when I tried to pick her head up, she threw me into the fence. It’s going to be a long summer with this beauty – and many more blisters than the four she helped create last weekend.

It’s always amazed me how cows from the same family can have such differing temperaments.

~ Jessica Rose Spangler, market editor

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