The Spur Arena echoed with countless mooos on Saturday, when young competitors showed their cattle at the Jr. Breeding Heifer Show. Both male and female participants showed Angus heifers in various classes, each hoping to become the grand champion.
Georgia Blackwell has been showing cattle since she was 8-years-old, and is now a senior in high school. Saturday, she had four heigers present in the show. After showing two, known as ‘Number 7’ and ‘Number 8’, she won first place in both the second and third classes.
Standing with Number 7, Georgia scratched her heifer’s brisket and belly with a show stick, keeping him calm as she waited for the next round. The show stick looks similar to a ski pole, and has a small hook on one end.
“Just like a dog might like it’s tummy scratched, the cows calm down if you can scratch them a little bit, either right up by their neck…by the brisket or by the belly,” Georgia’s mother Kelly Blackwell explains.
Number 7 was born in April of 2013, and she, along with several other cattle, are Georgia’s responsibility countless hours of the week. “[It involves] hours and hours and hours [of] washing, feeding, drying, halter breaking, practicing—you’ve got to really commit if you want to do this,” she says. “You’ve got to wash them to keep them looking nice. You’ve got to feed them and take care of them.”
Georgia says the heifers are judged on a variety of things, including appearances and stance, as well as how good they look for breeding. “It’s about how they’re going to look and if they’re going to make more kids, and if their kids are going to look better,” she said. “It’s all about making the better generation.”
The cattle at the heifer show are not for sale and slaughter, but are kept for breeding, she explained with much relief, noting that she does get a bit emotionally attached to her heifers over the years.
“I’m very fortunate that we don’t have to sell our animals—we’re not market animals—so we don’t have to sell them at every show,” she said. “We get to keep ours to breed them again and again. They get really sweet and they learn to love you and they learn their names, they’re all baby to me. I have one really big one that did really well last season that I just adore. I can hang on her and she’s just perfect to me.”
Showing heifers is a Blackwell family tradition, that goes back to Georgia’s father, she said. Her older brother also showed cattle, and now she’s taken over the show.
“I love showing, I’ve made a lot of friends and it helps me with animals. I really like going in there and showing. That’s the best part. It’s a lot of fun going in there and getting really serious and knowing it’s like, ‘this is the final countdown, this is what you’ve got to do,’” she said.
Georgia’s mother Kelly Blackwell said that showing animals is great for children because it not only keeps them occupied outside, but also teaches them valuable lessons and keeps them out of trouble. On the weekends the children are out with their families at stock shows, so it brings the family together, she said. “All of the kids out here are good kids.”
“I think that showing is a good experience for everybody, and if they can get into it, it’s a good idea,” Georgia iterated. “Heifers, goats, bunnies, chickens—it’s a lot of fun. You learn patience, mostly. With heifers, you’ve got to halter break them and feed them and if you don’t win, you’ve got to be able to go on to the next show and keep looking forward.”