On St. Patrick’s Day this year I attended Oklahoma Youth Expo (OYE) with several friends. As we walked through one of the cattle barns discussing and reflecting back on our own showing days, one friend stated, “If annoys me to no end when some little kid or grown adult comes up and asks, can I pet your cow?” As I stared at her shocked and slightly confused she continued on to say, “Livestock shows are not a petting zoo, and its not a ‘cow’ its either a steer or a heifer.”
As I have mentioned before, I was born into the urban jungle, and as a child I was without a doubt a member of the “Can I pet your cow” club. Why? Because I didn’t know any better, but I wanted to know more. So for me as a little girl skipping beside my parents in the livestock barns at the Tulsa State Fair, face painted like a cat, hair pulled into pigtails, and white sandals that would eventually end up squishing into a cow patty, I was ecstatic when an exhibitor would grant me permission to flounce into the wood shaving stall and pet their super fluffy ever-so-soft “cow.”
After our move to the country, a little ag knowledge, and our own show livestock, my sister and I found ourselves on the receiving side of the “can I pet your cow” question. Maybe because we understand both sides, this always thrilled the two of us. It gave us the opportunity to educate.
Not that either of us saw it that way then, but looking back, it’s exactly what we did. When someone would ask us if they “could pet our cows” our answer was always yes, and followed by explaining how to safely interact with cattle, talking to them about what we fed our show cattle and why, and explaining that they were in fact heifers and what exactly a heifer was.
Because neither my sister or I ever liked when people would make us feel uneducated about agriculture we always incorporated our mini info sessions with personal details like our heifers names, letting people feed them, and holding children on or next to our heifers so their parents could take pictures, this usually made people feel comfortable asking us further questions.
So maybe we did treat our livestock show time as a petting zoo, or maybe it comes with having the last name “Beard” and the genetic ability to have a conversation with a brick wall.
My point is directed towards my friends and readers in the agriculture industry. Whether you want to be an advocate for agriculture or not, realize you are what the public sees, and it’s your job to uphold the values that go hand-in-hand with this industry. Also remember you are never to young or to old for this job. It’s easy to get caught up in what you do, but remember to take the time to drop the agriculture lingo and let someone “pet your cow” you never know what a positive impact you could be making on the rest of some small child, or even a grown adult’s life.
And to my non ag based friends and readers, don’t be afraid to ask exhibitors questions at county and state fairs. No question is a dumb question if you do not know the answer, most of us are more than happy to gibber to strangers about our livestock, and even let you “pet our cow.”
- Heifer- In cattle it is a young female that has not borne a calf.
- Steer- In cattle it is a male who has been castrated.