This show box belongs to Adam Pride, 14, of Pride Family Farm in Limington. It’s crammed with the many items that Adam needs to make his animal look beefy and beautiful in 4-H fitting (grooming) and showmanship classes at fairs in Maine and elsewhere. Adam has been exhibiting cattle since he was 9 years old. This summer, he’s showing the 950-pound Buster; they’ll be at the Cumberland Fair next month.
Do not call Buster a cow. “They teach kids in school that a cow is something that says ‘moo,’ ” Adam said. “On my farm, you know a cow as a female cattle that is 2 years old or has had a calf. Buster is a beef steer.”
It takes about four hours to prepare a beef steer for the show ring. He must be washed, thoroughly dried, clipped and fitted. There are so many unguents, soaps, tools and brushes in the show box, which is 3 1/2 feet deep by 2 feet wide, that Adam has lost count. But he estimated that the filled box weighs a few hundred pounds. It requires both him and his father to load it onto the truck to take it to the fair.
Winning cattle have fluffed-up hair and full, stocky legs (long legs are a good thing if you’re a supermodel, not so much for the beef steer). But neither fitting nor showmanship classes are beauty contests. Showmanship judges are looking for “length of loin, how long the ribs are, how he walks,” Adam said. “They want an animal that can walk smoothly and keep packing on the pounds for meat.”
Here is a very small sampling of the tools and lotions that Adam keeps in his show box.
– PEGGY GRODINSKY
Yes, that’s ordinary shampoo. “You would think that someone who has a bunch of show cows would use nice and expensive shampoo,” Adam said, “but this soap works great.” The curry comb, at right, helps work the soap deep into the steer’s hair. In the back is a filter, because chlorinated water can make cattle sick.
This is what Adam uses to dry Buster before grooming can begin. The blower, as Adam calls it, is also used just before the steer enters the show ring to blow off any dust or sawdust.
Showmen use combs to groom the cattle’s hair both after the steer is dry and again just before he enters the show ring. The farther apart the teeth of the comb are set, the fluffier the cow’s hair will be. Buster “seems to like his hair nice and pretty,” Adam said.
If horseflies or fleas are swarming around Buster, obviously he won’t be calm and happy in the ring. And a steer that a showman can’t control in the show ring isn’t likely to win.
Buster’s hair will be trimmed with electric clippers when he’s at home in his own barn, but touchup work will happen at the fair. The brush keeps the clippers clean and the oil in the blue bottle keeps them lubricated.
Technically, it’s called adhesive. It’s used on the steer’s legs and the top of his back near his butt, to make him look beefier, smoother and to give his back just the right lines.
Check out the nice leather and the shiny metal chain. Ordinarily, Buster would wear a rope halter, but when he’s in the ring, he wears his Sunday best, which he dons just before he goes in. “He’s really calm in the show ring. He seems to enjoy it,” Adam said. “He has one of those attitudes, like ‘I can win. I can beat you.’ ” (He did win the steer class at the Topsham Fair this month.)
After the show is over, it’s time to take the adhesive off, or the steer’s hair will be damaged, and dirt particles, hay and shavings will cling to it. With a quick spritz of Hocus Pocus, the stickiness vanishes.