Stock show kids promote “fluffy cows”
It’s been almost a month since a photo of a club calf bull, Texas Tornado, owned by Matt Lautner Cattle, was posted on a popular online chat room, Reddit. Since then, the media has been in a frenzy surrounding the hype of these “fluffy cows” – a term coined by consumers. A “Fluffy Cow” Facebook page, run by Lautner, now has more than 36,000 fans, so the trend isn’t likely to go away anytime soon.
In an effort to remind consumers that these fluffy cows aren’t teddy bears – they are food animals – kids like Ashtyn Danker, a 14-year old from Avoca, Iowa, are talking about their passion for showing cattle and how it relates to the beef industry.
“I’ve been traveling every weekend to cattle shows all summer,” said Danker. “I’m showing a commercial heifer named Sadie and a Maine Anjou steer named Reggie. Reggie has been in the top five at a couple of the shows, and Saydee just won her seventh show today.”
Danker explained her love of showing cattle and how much work she puts into her projects.
“It’s definitely a fun hobby of mine,” she said. “I’m also involved in basketball and track, but when I’m not busy at school or in sports, I spend most of my time in the barn working on Saydee and Reggie. I work hard on the calves to grow and train their hair, and it’s fun going to shows and winning, too.”
She got her start in the show cattle business with a bottle calf. From there, she has improved her showmanship and fitting abilitiies.
“Each year, I learn a little bit more about the good characteristics in calves, and my parents and I go out and look for a good one to show each year. My family and I travel to shows, and I’ve learned showmanship, herdsmanship and how to fit and present my calves to the best of my ability. It’s a lot of fun. I have met a lot of people by going to shows. Shows give me a chance to network with other people. At home, I’ve learned responsibility. Calves have to be your top priority. They need to be fed and washed twice each day. I work on these animals all year and work hard to train the hair and get them ready for the shows.”
Danker hopes to one day go to college to become a veterinarian or a livestock chiropractor. One thing is for sure, she definitely wants to stay involved in the beef industry and keep active in cattle shows.
Danker is one of the thousands of kids who spend their summers washing their calves twice each day, traveling to cattle events and making great friendships along the way. It’s the people, not necessarily the “fluffy cows” that are a great part of this industry, and she said she hopes to promote that to folks who attend state and county fairs this summer.
Danker’s success in the showring is what keeps her hooked, but it’s the intangible benefits that make showing cattle a great thing for kids to be involved in. There are three things that show kids need to keep in mind when traveling to events this summer.
1. Fluffy cows are beef animals. They sure may be cute, but these are livestock animals not pets. One of the first lessons a kid learns on the farm is the circle in life. These beef cattle are nourishing our everyday lives with steak and burgers. A beef animal feeds families and offers nutrients like zinc, iron and protein. Animal welfare is a top priority for ranchers, and great tasting beef is a result of that tender loving care.
2. Fluffy cows enrich everyone’s daily lives. Beef by-products such as insulin, makeup, deodorant, perfume, crayons, tires, leather boots, belts and furniture, nail polish, marshmallows, baseballs, etc. all come from a beef animal.
3. Fluffy cows are the results of hard-working families. According to USDA, 98 percent of farms and ranches are owned and operated by families. Families not only work hard on their ranches to care for their cattlee, but they work together to get “fluffy cows” ready for 4-H and FFA shows. It’s a family effort, and youth showmen develop important life skills like responsibility, dedication, hard work, networking and friendship building. They learn to mix a feed ration, call the vet if needed, understand the behaviors and needs of a beef animal and the value of that beef carcass at the end of their summer shows.
These three items will be critical for show families to remember when traveling to county and state fairs this summer. As the “fluffy cow” trend continues to grow, so will the opportunity to promote the beef industry. F
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Jill Rigler is not your average 17 year old.