The cow washing is underway, horns are polished, and we've moved into the Hopkinton State Fair grounds for Labor Day weekend. If my cows are at the fair, so am I. This is the third year for my “cow sleep over” at the Fair. Some participants sleep in tents and others sleep with their cattle but we, fortunately, have a borrowed camper. Given the prospect of cold, wet weather this weekend, sleeping with my 2,800-pound oxen sounds like a warm idea.
If I only had to get the animals ready for the fair, my life would be simple. But I also have to pack up yokes, brushes, four days of cattle feed for seven animals, Kaopectate for cattle belly aches (yes "fair food" can be upsetting for cattle), a wheel barrow, pitch forks, manure shovels, and all of my clothes and bedding as well.
Each animal is inspected on arrival at Hopkinton. If the critter looks unhealthy it is sent home. Tattoos are checked as well. These are not fancy tattoos like dragons or eagles. No, these are letters and numbers tattoo'd in the animal's ear that must correspond to the cow's health certificate. At least one month before the fair each animal must pass a health check that includes a rabies shot. This is lots of work for farmers but the 4H animals take even more preparation.
Each 4H member must sign a lease in April for the animals they intend to show during the Fair season. Then the 4Her must work with that critter until the fair. At the fair 4Hers are allowed to help each other but adults and parents must keep their distance. In this way, 4H members (8-18 years old), learn to handle animals and help each other.
Several years ago we sponsored a 4H club, the Highland Riders, here at Miles Smith Farm. Last year 4H Highland Rider, Jevanie Semezier, took Cooper, a yearling Highlander steer, to Hopkinton. This year Jev and Cooper are the “poster children” for the fair and are featured on the fair flyer. Unfortunately, Jev and Cooper are staying home this year but we have four other 4Hers who will be showing Highlanders.
The Hopkinton Fair has always been a fun Labor Day weekend event, even before I started showing cattle. Now the fair grounds will be my home for 4 ½ days where I'll be working hard to pamper my cattle. Come visit my cattle but also excuse my weary appearance. It's hard keeping seven head of cattle comfortable and clean. I can't think of a better way to spend Labor Day weekend than with my beasts and I'm sure they'll all make me proud in the show ring.