Winter Wonderland

Guess what we woke up to this morning? Yes, snow and lots of it. We haven’t had this much snow in a few years.


I believe this is all due to Rick. Both times we got snow earlier this year we were out of town and he has been whining, complaining, commenting that he really missed the snow. God heard him, because we have snow now.


At least a foot of fresh powder overnight and more is still falling.


The cattle don’t really seem to mind, and as long as you keep them well fed they stay warm.


They also have sheds for shelter.


I love the patterns the fresh snow leaves. This is the fence line on our upper pasture.


The snow covered our squeeze and chute and is hanging off the fence.


You can see our little ranch truck is pretty well covered.


And here is our store building covered in snow.


Two little snow birds on the pasture fence.


Our stock trailer wearing a snow hat.


The trap fence is covered too.


The snow is only supposed to last a couple of days before the weather changes and it all melts off. I hope that happens; we are getting very close to calving season and it would be easier for those babies if they aren’t born in the snow.

National Western Stock Show

If you are a cattle or livestock person you know now what city we were in. It is home to the largest stock show in North America, this year attendance was 640,022. Let me give you another clue:


Yes, we flew from Seattle to Denver the week before the Super Bowl. That was interesting. I am not much of a professional sports fan – football or any other. So all this wild behavior, carrying on and adulation for a bunch of guys who throw/catch/run with a ball escapes me. But it was entertaining, the fans I mean, not the game.

Anyway, back to the cattle, we met up with all our friends from the Western States Lowline Association and other areas as well. Some of the exhibitors are international – from Canada and even Australia.

high point signILCC sign

It is always fun to catch up with our friends and see everyone.

muddy creek sign

Showing cattle (or any animal for that matter) for those of you who have never done it is a lot of work. Well before the show even starts you must begin working with the animal so they are tame enough to lead on a halter, you also have to train them to be washed and dried – something they don’t always appreciate. Then you have to get to the show, which means hauling the critters and people and equipment to a location which may be hours if not days of driving away and usually involves and big truck and trailer. Once there you unload the truck and trailer and build your “camp” for the duration of the show for both the animals and humans; tie-ups, windbreak, signs, table and chairs, heaters and ice chests, the grooming rack, etc. Of course the critters must be fed (you have to bring your own feed) and watered as usual and then you add in all the extra grooming required. Washing and blowing dry and trimming and combing, all on a bovine  who may or may not cooperate. Sometimes it is an accomplishment just getting them into the rack.

2014-01-23 002

Blow drying before the show.

steer blown off

Looks just like your blow dryer at home doesn’t it?

2014-01-23 005

Then throw in weather conditions which may not be ideal – in this case it had snowed the night before – and the whole cattle show is an adventure.

2014-01-23 006

Since it had snowed overnight, they had to get all the ice and snow off the animal coats in addition to the regular grooming before a show.

tunk sign and bull

Bovines aren’t the only ones who have to be ready for the judge, the people need to look good too. The girls told me they didn’t use the same hairspray on Ashley as they did on the cows.

Ashley hair

And finally you make it into the show ring where you try to show your animal to his or her best advantage to the judge, the guy in the white hat walking. He is judging the animal on its conformation, how it moves, etc. All the judging criteria have a direct application to the use of the animal in the herd for production either calves or meat.

ashley bull

Or you may be in the sale ring, same concept only you are showing the animal to potential buyers. Now if you’ve ever attended a livestock auction, you know they are not exactly quiet, calm events. The auctioneer is on the microphone talking a mile-a-minute and banging his gavel trying to generate excitement amongst the buyers, the hawkers are yelling when someone bids, the gates clang open and shut and through it all you are supposed to keep your animal calm and set-up to look his best. Didn’t Beverly do a good job?

ILCC sale

There are lots of different classes at the cattle show, open heifers, bred heifers, cow-calf pairs, bulls, etc. One of my favorites are the “pens” where you take a pen of four to six animals with something in common. Either Produce of Dam, which means they are all from the same mother, or Get of Sire which means they are all fathered by the same bull. The animals are lined up together from oldest to youngest and shown as a group. This requires not only four to six animals, but four to six people to show them all plus there is usually one “herdmaster” who tried to present all the critters at their best to the judge. That is Beverly in the tan shirt below. Then your “pen” is judged against other “pens” of animals.

ILCC pen

Something I love about cattle people (or at least most cattle people) is they are willing to help out where needed.

ILCC and ashley

See the picture above? The pen of six is from Idaho Lowlines. See all the people? Those folks are from three different ranches – just helping out. Of course there is always a (usually) friendly competition between ranches with bragging rights involved.

mcr people

In between classes, the animals are tied up just outside the show barn so they can go back inside when it is their turn again.

ILCC outside tied up

As you might imagine, it is quite a production to get all the right people and animals in the right place at the right time in the right order to go into the show ring. There is a “staging area” in the back where they get lined up; sometimes people have two or three animals in one class or they are showing different animals in back-to-back classes. In those cases, it really helps if you have a couple of extra people to help get the animals ready so you can just switch animals at the door and go back into the ring.  If you look really carefully you can just see Rick in his blue shirt in the doorway of the show barn below. He was “working the door” as they call it, which means he was in charge of getting everyone staged and lined up correctly for the next class.

rick at gate outside

Then you go into the show ring and try to make it all look as effortless as possible.

show and stands

And we haven’t even talked about the skills of showmanship. This was an “open show” which means the people showing the animals can be any age, young or old and they do come in all ages. This little guy on the right below was 7 years old and he is already a veteran. He did a good job too with an animal that outweighs him by at least several hundred pounds.

kid w steer

Neither Rick or I have shown an animal competitively since 1974 and have no desire to do so again. But I do think it is a lot of fun to watch and you learn a lot about cattle and their correct conformation and how to pick the best ones to be producers in your own herd.

Stay tuned for the “rest of the story” as Paul Harvey used to say. You don’t think Rick could go to a cattle show and not buy anything do you?