Showing cattle involves a lot of work before competition and attention to detail that can make a big difference with the judges.
Last weekend, nearly 30 youngsters from elementary to college age received intensive training at the Heritage High School livestock facility on how to prepare and show cattle from a nationally recognized expert.
Kirk Stierwalt of Leedey, Okla., is well-known for cattle clinics he has been offering for nearly 30 years. He has been a winner at national and international livestock shows and serves as a judge.
Stierwalt shared his expertise at a two-day, hands-on clinic for which many participants brought their own animals.
“His expertise is remarkable,” said Jon Waters, agriculture teacher at Heritage High School who organized the event with Sevier County teacher Wayne Loveday. Participants came from as far away as Virginia and South Carolina.
The clinic covered everything from how to feed cattle to how to wash, blow dry, groom and clip the animals for show, as well as how to care for their equipment and talk with judges.
About 20 Blount County students participate in cattle shows, and Waters noted that doesn’t take just 10 minutes a day but an hour or more working with the cattle.
Wash, blow dry and cut
Stierwalt provided detailed advice to the participants. For example, Waters said, “You don’t just wash a calf. There’s a specific way to wash a calf and blow dry a calf.”
Waters explained, if you gab a hose and start brushing in circles, that won’t fully clean the animal. “If you don’t go up and down, it will create ridges and won’t rinse all the debris.” Vertical brushing creates funnels for the water and dirt to run off the calf.
Abby Tipton, a 10th-grader at Greenback School who has been showing cattle for five years, picked up a tip from Stierwalt to use Dawn dish soap in the winter months to help remove grease from the cattle.
Kaitlyn Beavers, a fifth-grader at Rockford Elementary is in her first year showing cattle and said the clinic was the first time she clipped cattle.
“I learned that it takes a lot of steps,” said Laurel Snow, a seventh-grader at Heritage Middle School who has been showing cattle for two years.
Her brother, Wyatt, a 10th-grader at Heritage High School, said he learned to hold the clippers without gripping them and to use different guards for a better overall look on the animal.
Tipton refined her clipping technique too. “I learned how to blend the shoulders and neck in,” she said.
“I never thought that you could take clippers and blend in,” said Taylor Davis, an eighth-grader at Heritage Middle School who has been showing sheep for three years.
The clinic gave Davis more to think about as she decides whether to start showing cattle, which her family raises on their sixth-generation farm in Walland. Even if she just shows sheep, she picked up advice she can use, such as what to add to their feed to help fill them out.
Snow, who has shown pigs for three years, was surprised by how much more there is to showing cattle. Stierwalt explained that when you walk cattle and stop them with their feet properly placed, that will become a habit that they will keep when they are being shown.
Being Best in Show
Beavers learned from Stierwalt how to improve her showmanship, such as how to walk in front of the animal and hold her hand closer to its face for better control.
Stierwalt also explained how to select the proper length of show stick, and Tipton realized that by using a different size she will be able to stand straight, as the judges expect, rather than bending slightly.
He taught them how to talk to judges, too, such as when they are asked what they would change about their animals. Davis learned to answer that question but also say what she likes about her animal, pointing out its positive characteristics.
“Showing cattle is a family experience,” Tipton said, and takes a lot of support. “You have to work hard for it.”
But she and the others agreed that those hours of hard work are worth in when they are in the arena.
“It’s really fun, and the work you put in is great after it pays off,” Davis said.
“You get to bond with an animal, and you learn stuff that will help you in life,” such as people skills, said Laurel Snow, who plans to be a veterinarian.
“It teaches you responsibility and big life lessons,” her brother agreed. “It’s good for kids to be responsible for something.”
Sponsors for the clinic included the Blount County Livestock Association, Tennessee Cattlemen’s Association, ShowBloom and Farm Bureau Insurance, and the Ladies of Loudon County Livestock provided concessions.