Manifolds, Manolos, and Manure
For many families, August and September bring the return of school. Routines. Schedules. Fall sports. And another month closer to Halloween. For our family, the tail end of summer brings the county fair.
Our fair count to date is four. The big red dragon and his space cadet brother raced around the rodeo pen at Illinois Horse Fair in Springfield and again at Lee County Fair in Amboy. In a solo appearance, the space cadet graced the horse arena at the McHenry County Fair in Woodstock. And our herd of fiery red and black-and-white Holstein calves graced the dairy showring at Boone County in Belvidere.
Arguably, it was our flock of fiery red and black-and-white Holsteins that had the most fun at the fair. Our daughter’s favorite spring heifer, Ala Mode, the very same one she bottle-fed from day two of life, made her maiden voyage to fair. With our blue-eyed girl in tow Ala Mode strutted her way to a Champion Showmanship win over older 4H members and older animals.
Our infamous Velociraptor made her return to fair. Last year, her size and her late birthday put her deep in a class of winter calves. This year her lack of height didn’t hold her back, next to Ala Mode she’s arguably our blue-eyed girl’s most eye-catching and feminine looking animal. Velociraptor again excelled at the fair vibe. She delighted at being tied closest to the main aisle, which meant that most hands involuntarily petted her as they walked by. Her namesake only appeared a handful of times during fair, most notably when she nearly took out an older couple with her swinging head.
Our daughter’s winter calf, Apala, is closely related to both Ala Mode and her mom, Apple Crisp. As in Apala and Ala Mode share the same dad and Apala and Apple Crisp share the same mom and grandma. There’s a grandpa that they share too but it’s a little more distant. We affectionately refer to the three of them as our “Apple babies” as a throwback to KHW Regiment Apple-Red who is, depending on the calf, either their grandma or great-grandma. In the dairy industry, Apple is truly a legendary cow in both the showring and in milk production. Her genetics remain some of the most sought-after ones on the market. Apala like our other Apple babies started her show career a tad on the short side. If she follows Apple Crisp’s path, she’ll put her height on this fall and winter and be a hard one to beat as a yearling. Apala returned to the show ring three times this year, most notably with my two-year-old niece for Pee Wee Showmanship.
For the past year, our blue-eyed girl has harbored a desire to show at World Dairy Expo. World Dairy Expo isn’t something you decide you want to show at the month or even 90 days before. You plan years in advance. You breed for it. You monitor the possible animals at every step and then debate if its best to bring a calf, yearling, or cow (and then what stage of cow). Last year, two percent of the Holstein animals that showed at World Dairy Expo were our genetics. While two percent doesn’t sound like a lot, these are the top animals internationally. In a nod to her desire to show at a premier level, Red Carpet Alleyoop Gonzaga entered her first show ring as spring yearling. Yearlings walk a fine line between being a gangly teenager, an early bloomer, or chunky. Gonzaga who by the time she stepped onto the trailer to head to fair, had earned herself the nickname “Godzilla” and leaned a little too heavily towards the gangly teenager but should make a phenomenal looking cow next year. Fortunately, other than breaking a gate and tearing up the bedding pack, “Godzilla” kept her true unpleasant nature in check. Though it took three of us to clip her face. One holding her and two running the clippers.
Rounding out our fair crew was Burrito our big-little-boy’s first calf. Both timid and kind, Burrito graced the show arena not once but twice. In her second appearance, she and the big-little-boy entered the show ring for what should be his last year showing in Pee Wee Showmanship. If I’m right, next year he’ll enter the showring as a 4H member like his sister and father before him. He spent the better part of his summer walking Burrito, usually from the barn to the front of the house so she could chew on the bushes.
As our fair season comes to a close, our blue-eyed girl and our big-little-boy’s love of animals, 4H, and fair continues to grow. As parents, we want nothing more than our two to want to milk the cows. Drive the tractors. Farm. Just like their dad, grandfather, and great grandfather before them.