SYRACUSE, N.Y. — For Elizabeth Nichols, 17, placing at the recent New York State Fair represents yet another accomplishment in her agricultural career.
Hailing from Churubusco, Elizabeth won second place in the youth dairy cattle show, sixth place in the open dairy cattle show, fifth place in dairy cattle showmanship, third in individual FFA livestock judging, and second as part of her FFA team. She qualified to enter her livestock in the annual Eastern States Exposition, also known as the “Big E,” held Sept. 13 through 29 in Massachusetts.
The daughter of Gene and Jane Nichols, Elizabeth also shows at the county level at the Clinton and Franklin county fairs, and is a member of FFA and 4-H. Last year, she served as Clinton County dairy princess. Northern Adirondack Central School, where she has returned as a senior, hosts an FFA cattle show. It’s clear agriculture is a big part of Elizabeth’s life.
Elizabeth is also a member of the New York State Junior Guernsey Breeders Association and New York Junior Holstein Association. She was accepted into the New York State Junior Dairy Leaders program, which plans to go to the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisconsin, at the end of September. She is also part of the 4-H Leadership Conference, a year-long program that hosts different dairy events.
Though Nichols Farm raises 200 acres of hay and few animals, Elizabeth has shown animals since age 9. This year, the animals she took to the fair she leased from Poppydale Farm in Chateaugay, where she works.
“We do own a few animals, but they’re not suitable to show this year,” Jane Nichols said.
Elizabeth’s assorted cows seem like a bovine variety pack: a Guernsey, a Jersey, five Holsteins and a Milking Shorthorn. She also raises five chickens and a rabbit, which she has shown at local fairs.
With all of this experience — and drawing on the experience of her mother, who showed since her childhood — Elizabeth has gained a few tips on showing.
“Don’t over feed them in the winter,” Elizabeth said. “Feed them the correct diet. A lot of it won’t come off by the spring. Keep them clean, really clean during the winter. They’ll have less stains and you’ll have an overall cleaner animal. Make sure you have regular vet visits so any small problems you can have taken care of before the fair occurs. They’ll have time to heal. Plan dates to do shots and procedures. Get their hooves trimmed before you put them in for winter. Spend time with them ahead of the show.”
That last tip makes handling animals easier in the show ring. Just before the show, it’s important to carefully prepare cows so they look their best for the judges.
“Always polish their hooves and clean their ears,” Elizabeth advised. “They have to be really clean.
“The cows will always go in the ring looking better than you will,” she quipped.
Each year, she tries to learn something different from each judge she encounters.
“You pick up more things and learn from each judge,” she said. “They give you different comments.”
Though her family isn’t farming full-time, as a fifth generation in agriculture, the tradition is important to Elizabeth and it’s shaping her future, too. She hopes to attend an agricultural school in New York once she has finished her schooling and become a veterinary technician.
The New York State Fair ran Aug. 21 through Sept. 2. The event covers the 375-acre fairgrounds and includes numerous agricultural competitions and exhibits such as the Dairy Cow Live Birthing Center, butter sculpture and more.