Grace Jordan, arts & living editor
There are many different animals on Berry’s campus and all give students unique opportunities for education. Berry houses cows, horses, sheep and hens and allows students to oversee them. These animals not only provide food products, but students are also allowed to show them in the Coosa Valley Fair.
There is more than just one reason to be involved with showing animals, according to professor of animal science, Jay Daniel. It allows for farmers to sell more offspring if their livestock is judged well, but for Berry students the main purpose is education.
“There’s two big reasons to show livestock,” Daniel said. “One is kind of a marketing competition to find out which animal is the best and if you have the best one you can sell more offspring and brag about having the best one and what not. The second reason to show is for the educational experience.”
There are two types of shows for animals. Animal science major Addison Bridges lives on her own farm and has shown animals since she was in middle school. According to Bridges, there is Showmanship and Weight Class. Both involve different guidelines and purposes.
“In shows, there are two different classes,” Bridges said. “There is Showmanship and Weight class. Showmanship is all about how you show your animal and how much you know about your animal. Weight class is about how the animal will produce in whatever area they are going in. For dairy cattle, how they’ll produce in a milking parlor and for beef cattle, how well they’ll do as a mother or slaughterhouse. Chickens are different. If you’re doing them for laying, they will see how wide they are and a lot of different factors play into that, basically how well they hold an egg. For market, it’s how they would do if they were to be sold and processed.”
Showing animals entails spending time with the animal, grooming and taking care of them. For some students, this is crucial information that will help them succeed in their future endeavors.
“So FFA students will show livestock to learn more about how to care for them and also about the showing process as well,” Daniel said. “And obviously showing them involves caring for the animal so you have to make sure they’re fed and well taken care of and then you also try to present it so it looks the best it can.”
To show an animal, like a sheep, one has to teach them how to walk on a lead, which is a form of a leash. When showing the animal, the objective is to make them as presentable as possible.
“So what that would involve, they used to call it fitting,” Daniel said. “It’s basically washing the animal and giving it a haircut, making it look as appealing as possible and then you also train the animal to walk on some sort of lead. With sheep, quite often, they walk as you hold it. Sometimes people use a halter, but usually with a sheep you don’t even use a halter you just walk them around holding them.”
It is not a quick lesson to be taught; on average it takes a month to teach a sheep how to walk on a lead, according to Daniel.
“It takes some time to train them to walk,” Daniel said. “It varies, but I would say you could probably have one trained pretty well in a month. That’s not all this time in one month, it’s working with the animal for a few minutes each day.”
It can take even longer to train cows for shows, according to Bridges. For some, it can take months.
“It takes quite a few months,” Bridges said. “You have to train them how to wear a halter, how to walk on it, how to swap their feet. It’s just preparing them for the show, like any athlete does for their competition.”
Different animals require different ways of showing them, according to Bridges. It even varies from cow to cow; dairy cows will be shown a different way than beef cows.
“A way you would show a dairy cow is you have them on a halter and all you have to do is through the halter,” Bridges said. “You are not supposed to touch them with your hands. The first two feet have to line up so they’re square with each other. If it’s a heifer, the foot farthest from the judge is up and the foot closest is down and when the judge walks around you swap them. If you’re showing a cow, you want the back foot farther up that’s closer to the judge. It helps shows off the udder, how much storage they have to hold milk.”
Berry students are allowed to pick from a designated group of animals what animal they would like to show. There are different criteria for each type of animal. With sheep, it depends on castration, the angles of the limbs and muscle mass. Castrated male lambs are called wethers and are an ideal showing animal.
“We usually choose wethers and beyond that we look for good confirmation,” Daniel said. “That’s the angle of the feet and leg; they are unlikely to have leg and feet problems later in life. We try to look for heavier muscled sheep for them to show. Ones that grow pretty fast, but our biggest criteria are wether.”
The animals Berry shows have to interact with animals from other places, causing a risk of disease, which plays a role in deciding which animals to show.
“It’s a good learning experience for the students,” Daniel said. “But there is some disease risk with taking the animals somewhere else. When they’re on campus they’re not around other sheep, but when we take them to a show there’s other sheep so there’s an inherent risk with that. And we usually prefer students to show castrated males because those, if something happens to them, they are destined to become meat anyways. We don’t want them to get sick, but it’s not as big of a loss if something happens to one of them.”
The Coosa Valley fair will be held in Rome, Ga. October 5 through 9. The fair will feature numerous acts.