She’s not used to this. It’s hot, noisy and crowded. But her job is to be beautiful, so Lace reclines patiently as members of her entourage brush and cool her.
An Italian beauty who traveled to Hutchinson this week from Michigan, she is one of around 474 cattle being judged at the National Junior Maine Anjou cattle show.
The event began Saturday and runs until Friday night. Around 180 young people from 20 different states are competing in categories including showmanship, photography, grooming, salesmanship and even a quiz bowl. They are vying for prizes that include trophies, belt buckles and scholarships.
Sisters Amber and Kylie Pickard, 22 and 19, traveled from Hastings, Michigan with Lace and another heifer, Crazy Eight. They already have snagged a second place prize with their quiz bowl team.
It takes much time and energy to keep the animals cool. Generators roar, fans hum, mist machines hiss and everywhere, handlers are hosing down their animals.
Hannah Klingaman, from Lima, Ohio, said the animals are getting rinsed two to three times a day because most are used to climate controlled conditions.
“A lot of people have air-conditioned units at home so they’re used to being in the air-conditioning,” Klingaman said.
Animals are judged on physical traits. They need to be structurally sound and move well to ensure longevity, Klingaman said. A good heifer is stout with a nice belly, and, of course, a beautiful coat.
Kylie said showing cattle requires a whole lot of grooming. These competitors wash and dry their animals at least once a day, often more.
And then there is the brushing.
“Last year I had a Chia I spent three hours during the day brushing,” Kylie said.
The show has three age divisions. Amber and Kylie are competing in the senior division for ages 17-22. Amber, celebrating her 22nd birthday at the show, is in her last year of competing in the junior level.
“It’s kind of sad but it’s not over completely because there’s other open shows that you can still attend at any age,” Amber said.
Ben Nikkle, 17, of McPherson won Grand Champion at a junior show in Des Moines last year. This week he won third place in showmanship. He said the key to this competition is spending lots of time in the barn.
“You’ve got to work with your heifer or steer. You just know them and they’ll know you and be confident when you’re showing,” Nikkle said.
Nikkle who said he’s been showing cattle as long as he can remember brought two heifers to compete this week, Prim and Marley. They will be bringing them back later this year for the State Fair.
There are 13 junior national events showing 14 breeds. This show is for two breeds of cattle: Chianina and the Maine-Anjou.
Blake Nelson, executive vice president of the Maine-Anjou Association, said this breed hails from France. GIs in World War II admired the breed, Nelson said, and eventually brought it back to the states.
The junior cattle shows have been beneficial to both the students and the cattle industry, Nelson said.
“It’s a great place to bring tomorrow’s cattlemen together to not only form friendships, but also compete in a healthy environment and to also promote our cattle,” Nelson said.
Andrea Paulson, the American Chianina Association’s junior activities director, magazine editor and show coordinator, agrees.
“They’re excited to be in Hutch, see each other and spend the week here,” Paulson said.