Crazy for Cows: Interview With an A-Day Dairy Show Competitor

By: Alyssa Murphree, April 5, 2017

In last week’s post, I went into detail about my experience showing a dairy cow at A-day last year. Since then, I made a trip down to the dairy barn to reunite with Sahara and spend some time with my friends who were practicing with their cows for this year’s show. One of those friends is Anna Smith, a senior who is showing her other half, Shorty, for the second and final time before she graduates. Nobody is obsessed with their A-day cow quite like Anna, and the best way to get inside the head of a girl crazy for her cow is to hear from her firsthand.

Q: What is your major and did you have any dairy cow experience prior to attending DelVal?

A: I am a small animal science major and I had zero dairy cow experience before DelVal – I hadn’t even seen a cow in real life before I came here… how sad is that?!

Q: Why did you want to show a dairy cow?

A: I wanted to show a dairy cow because of something someone said to me my sophomore year. I was walking back to my dorm one night after finishing a PM check at the Markowitz breeding center. As I was walking, this girl pulled up next to me and asked if I needed a ride, which I gladly accepted. I asked where she was coming from and she told me she just got done “playing with her cow.” I didn’t know exactly what she meant, so she told me all about showing the dairy cows at A-Day and how you have to bathe and brush them, clip them; you know, the works. I’ve been showing horses for many years, and with that, have given many a horse a bath. But I had NEVER heard of someone bathing and clipping a cow for show. I told her how much fun that sounded like and that I wanted to try it next year, and she told me I had to do it. “It’s DelVal tradition,” she said. “This is the one thing, out of everything else, that you truly can’t do at another college.” That sounds a bit dramatic, but that’s what she said to me. And it stuck. I mean, this may be the one and only chance I ever get to show a cow in this lifetime… why not?

Q: Is working with cows easier or more challenging than you expected?

A: Well, considering I had no experience with cows, but many years of experience with horses, my only prior expectation of what cows behave like was based off of what horses behave like. But anyone who knows both knows cows and horses are really nothing alike. Whereas horses are extremely sensitive and often times flighty, cows are belligerent and aren’t as tuned into your body language. Which is great, because the average cow is 10x as chill as the average horse. I also happened to luck out, because the cow I work with, Shorty, is 10x chiller than the average cow.

Q: What is your favorite memory from the time you’ve spent with your cow?

A: My favorite memory of Shorty is definitely from A-Day morning. We all had to wake up at the buttcrack of dawn to go down to the dairy and start bathing and preparing for the show. It was a frenzy of people scurrying around their cows, frantically lathering and rinsing and brushing and wiping off every last speck of dirt and poop. I’m telling you, I felt like I was on the set for that movie “Best In Show”. Those cows were so stinkin’ clean, we could have brought them to Eukanuba and sent every dog there to the pound. But I digress. Amidst all the insanity; people shouting for baby wipes, some cows bucking and charging at other cows, some too stubborn to move at all, the people in charge yelling out numbers and times and do’s and do nots; none of that bothered Shorty. She was a star. People have called her the “sass master” at the dairy, but that morning, she was cooler than a cucumber. She carried that attitude with her in the ring, too. There were many cows that morning, who’s names I will not mention (ahem.. Sahara) who seemed determined to take out either 1. The Judge, or 2. The arena itself. But Shorty was so calm and well behaved. We even won the blue ribbon in our first class, which was surprising considering that was my first ever cow show!

Q: What skills or character traits are beneficial to have in working with cows and which ones do you develop after doing so?

A: I am really no expert at what skills or traits are the most beneficial for working with cows. But based on my limited experience, patience is a big one. Cows are not very responsive animals, which takes some getting used to. With horses, you can make them walk forward, backwards, and side to side really easily. Cows will just headbutt you if you try to make them move when they don’t want to. They never signed up to be a part of any of the things we put them through, and parading around an arena surrounded by screaming children is one of those things. So having patience and not getting frustrated with them when they don’t behave how you want them to is important. As far as skills I have developed, I definitely never had to shave an udder before, but now I know how too. Good resume builder.

Q: Tell us why you love your cow.

A: I still remember the day I first met Shorty. I remember walking into the cow pen and there she was, just standing there, covered in layers of cow sh*t, nose dripping with snot and slobbering like a toddler, belching and farting, in all her glory. But she was easily the sweetest looking cow in the lot. She had big doe eyes and a golden brown coat with black socks up to her knees, and was massively pregnant at the time. I don’t think she was too thrilled about being haltered and walked around at first, but we reached an understanding after I started scratching her belly and udders, which she cant scratch on her own. She’s like a massive, itchy puppy dog, if puppy dogs had hooves and huge udders. I love Shorty because she’s a happy-go-lucky kinda gal. She’s always hungry and all she wants to do when I take her for walks around the property is graze, so I can totally relate to her. If I had the resources, I would adopt her in a heartbeat. But it’s for the best, because hopefully, someone else will have the honor of showing Shorty next year, and they too will fall in love.

But the thing I love most about Shorty is that every time that Iyaz song comes on shuffle, you know the one, it goes “Shawty’s like a melody in my head, na na nana every day,” I think of her. Even though I’m graduating this year, and this upcoming A-Day will be the last time I get to show her, Shorty will forever be my shawty.

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