On Wednesday, March 30th, I drove with our two year old son, John, to the livestock barn at the Clay County Fair to set up for opening day on Thursday. I used leftover St. Patrick's Day shamrock decorations to emphasize the Irish ancestry of Dexter Cattle. I also had way too much hay delivered for the ten day long fair. 30 square bales but they only needed 14 bales (and I probably fed them too much hay).
At about 4:30 Wednesday evening, I haltered and tied up all the cows to await their ride to the fair. They loaded up well considering this was the first trailer seven of the cows had ever seen and their first time away from from home. We unloaded and tied them in their assigned spots. I fed each one in an individual bucket and fed them their hay before leaving them in the care of Kyle, who has been the one helping me with their halter training and grooming.
Thursday morning, bright and early, I arrived after a rainy night and cleaned their beds, fed, and watered. Some of the cows did not want to drink. I decorated with shamrocks and put up sign tags above each cow. We also had a sweet smelling gardenia plant that my dad bought for decoration. I had a big display about Dexter Cattle and a smaller display about our farm. I rigged up the hose and set up the CD player to play Irish music once the fair opened. Once I was satisfied, John and I walked around a little before the fair opened. As soon as the first people came down the walkway, I knew that folks liked our set up. I was surprised how many people read our display. One mother even scolded her restless child by saying that since someone had gone through the trouble to make the display, it was polite to read it. LOL! I had some gifts to hand out to the kids and they went quickly. Shamrock crazy bands, stickers, necklaces and coins were snatched up by eager little hands.
Friday morning, I bathed all the cows in preparation for the day. It was the second bath for most of the cows and the first bath for the three babies. The babies did great! When baby Erin was born, she had meconium smeared on her belly so I had to bathe her when she was less than an hour old. Consequently, she was the easiest to bathe at the fair. That evening, my other helper, Miranda, arrived to watch the cows through the evening hours. I can't say enough good things about both of my helpers. They did a great job and enabled me to go home every night to be with my husband and go through our toddler's bedtime routine. I could not have done this without them.
I learned quickly that no one is afraid of our little cows. People who would never think of approaching full sized cattle walked right up and petted ours. I encouraged them to pet the babies at the end so I didn't have to worry about their feet being stepped on accidently. As far as I know, no one's toes suffered during the ten days at the fair. Many people, especially little children, were eager to feed treats to the calves and cows. Since all of our cows love treats, they were happily and gently received from little fingers.
The weekend was brisk and I met many people who enjoyed our cattle very much.
At first, I think some of the other cattle folks scoffed a bit at my little cattle, but after about 4 days, I caught a few of them petting the calves. One gentleman even said that our cows were so friendly they were more like dogs than cattle.
Monday began a pattern of late afternoon opening hours so we had some time to ourselves during the day. The steers were coming in all that day. I let Fiona and Erin run and play in the unoccupied arena before the day's events began. They had the best time bucking and sparring with each other. They even drew a small audience to witness their antics. The following day, I turned out Bonny and Arnold together and then Daisy and Cloe together. There was not an opportunity to turn out Blake or the big girls during the fair. However, Tara and Tina kicked up once when I was walking them in to eat. Naughty cows, but it was a long time to be tied up.
Overall, it was a great experience to meet, not just a lot of visitors that enjoyed our cows, but to be able to meet other cattle breeders from our area. It was fun watching the children with our cows especially. John met some new friends among the children and grandchildren of the other families who were showing or exhibiting cattle. A few times, I watched him as he walked up and down the walkway with a big grin on his face while holding hands with two little girls.
On April 10th, the trailer arrived early that Sunday morning to take the cattle home. The trailer drove them straight to one of our fresh pastures. It had rained a bit during the time the cows were away, so they had some young grasses to eat. I took off each cow's halter and turned them loose. They ran and played, each one joining the running herd. Bonny was so excited, she took off with her halter still on. Once they calmed down I fed them and removed Bonny's halter. It was good to see them run and play after being cooped up for so many days. I think they did a great job representing their breed and their relaxation time back home in their own pasture is well-deserved.