Cow owners, fans delight in competition at state fair

HARRINGTON — Black cows, brown cows.

Old cows, young cows.

Hereford cows, Angus cows.

Cattle of all shapes and sizes were on display Tuesday at the Delaware State Fair, as competitors both young and old showed their prized cattle, with many receiving ribbons.

Cows were divided into categories based on their age and type and their owners’ age.

As dozens of spectators gathered in the bleachers around the ring in the Quillen Arena, proud competitors led their cows into the fenced-off enclosure where the judge waited.

In the background, owners and their cows waited for their turn and their chance at a ribbon and a cash prize — a validation of all the work that goes into preparing cows for show. Frequent mooing from the restless cattle was heard in the arena, and some stubborn cows were hesitant to follow when their owners pulled the rope to lead them around the ring.

The show began at 8 a.m., but plenty of owners and fans were there despite the early start.

Gillian Shane, 7, of Clayton, was one of the big winners. Gillian led cows much bigger than her before the judge, keeping a close grip on the rope and carefully leading her black Angus cow, Summer.

Gillian, who has been raising cows for three years, received a first-place ribbon for the early junior heifer calf category.

Asked how she felt, Gillian beamed with pride and said just one word: “Happy!” It was not the only ribbon she won.

Karen Breeding, who owns a farm in Greenwood with her husband, has been showing cows since she was a child. On Tuesday, she won several ribbons with her heifer and bull.

She plans to keep showing both cows.

Judge Brad Johnson, an animal science instructor at Morehead State University in Kentucky, has been judging professionally for 21 years. He weighed in with his opinions on every cow that crossed in front of him.

One animal had a good rib shape and took long strides, although it could have been “more feminine,” he said.

As the event started, Amy West, of Milton, watched from the side with her two children. They like cattle, she explained, and when you come to the fair, you “got to get a little bit of everything.”

With so many categories, some featured only one contestant.

Matt Gott was pleased he was the only competitor in the early senior yearling heifer category, meaning he was guaranteed the prize.

“It’s easy money,” he said.

Mr. Gott has been competing for more than 15 years. By the time cows arrive at the fair, they’ve already been broken, he said. The heifer he was showing, which he referred to simply as “102,” has taken part in competitions before.

She will be entered in future events as well, he said.

Like Mr. Gott, Morgan Jewell, 20, has been competing for years. Gillian’s half-sister, she has been raising cows since age 7.

Ms. Jewell initially showed pigs before moving on to something tougher.

From the side, Gillian and her 12-year-old brother Nicholas shared their favorites things about cattle. Nicholas said he enjoys the whole experience. As for Gillian, she likes naming cows.

The family breeds their own cows, Ms. Jewell said in the stable shortly before the event began.

A lot of work goes into preparing cows for shows, several competitors noted.

“You have to make sure you spend time working with them so they’re comfortable with you in the showroom,” Ms. Jewell said.

Cows have to be walked, washed and fed frequently, Ms. Breeding said.

For many, all that work paid off on Tuesday — a cattle owner’s Super Bowl.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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