MADISON – Alec Fortin and his favorite cow may have a combined age of 11, but together they make a formidable team.

Alec, 10, of Madison, has a young cow that’s on a winning streak. Under his care, his heifer Moonshadow Gabby has earned eight first-place awards and four second-place awards at fairs and competitions this summer and fall.

He has taught his Belted Galloway commands, such as to place her feet in certain positions and to walk when he tells her to. He feeds and waters her, and bathes and styles her hair.

“I just like taking care of her,” Alec said. “She behaves really well for me. She walks like a dog pretty much, follows me right around. She gets a bath every morning and blow-dried.”

Gabby is owned by Alec’s grandparents, Scot and Chris Adams. They run Moonshadow Farm in Starks, which has about 30 beef cattle. Alec goes to the farm two or three times a week to do chores and to teach and take care of Moonshadow Gabby, said his mother, Katy Fortier of Madison.

Alec explains how he puts adhesive — cow hairspray — in Gabby’s hair to make it look fuller for competitions. He spikes up the hair on her legs and combs up the hair on her back. The top of her tail gets formed into a mohawk.

The secret to winning? “You have to look at the judge, and you have to smile. You have to bring her in there and set her up as quick as you can,” he said.

Heifers are judged by the length of their neck, the squareness of their body, the health of their legs and feet, and how they walk around the ring.

“It’s really fun. I like doing it. I make lots of friends, and it’s just fun showing cows,” Alec said.

He has learned communication skills, having given several presentations about Gabby to his fourth-grade class at Madison Elementary School, said his teacher, Pamela Thompson. He is responsible for keeping journals, and he shares photographs of his trips.

Alec has also learned about working hard, sportsmanship and teamwork, his mother said. “I think it’s taught him a lot of patience, responsibility; he’s learned it takes a lot of hard work, but you get out of it what you put into it,” she said.

Alec shows cows with his brother, Evin Fortin, who is in seventh grade at Madison Area Junior High School, and his cousin, Francis Quimby, a senior at Madison Area Memorial High School.

“The kids have learned to be humble winners and be happy for others when they don’t,” his mother said. “The goal on show day is to do your best in the situation and let the cards fall where they may. No two judges judge exactly alike, so you never know what the results of the next show will be.”

Alec is showing Moonshadow Gabby this week at the Fryeburg Fair. And his work won’t end once this showing season finishes. He’ll next raise a Belted Galloway steer named Harley, who was born this spring, his mother said. Harley will be sold at the 4-H auction in Fryeburg next October.

In addition to raising Harley, Alec will have a new heifer project, as Gabby moves on to another phase.

“She’s going to be a momma,” Alec said.