Can I pet your cow?

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.”

As I Cajun baby I saw alligators before I ever saw cattle, but visits to Oklahoma meant spending time with my grandparents and four legged things that went “Moo”

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.

My sister, Alexis and her Shorthorn heifer Lucy.

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.

All clean from a bath, my sister and I blow dry her shorthorn heifer Gracie. All the hair has to be dried forward in order to look right for the show ring

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.

Give me a lawn chair, a barn full fans, misters, and mooing cattle and I’m out like a light. I promise it’s the best sleeping conditions ever, try it sometime.

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.

Alexis and Fuzzi, her Chianina heifer, and Roscoe a family friend’s steer in the background

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.

Alexis and Gracie showing at the Tulsa State Fair

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.”

Win or lose my sister has a kissing picture with her heifers right out of the show ring. In the event they would lose I’d always hear her whisper to them, “That judge was dumb you’re beautiful.”
She’s hardcore like that. 😉

  • 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.

18 thoughts on “Can I pet your cow?

    • High Heels & Shotgun Shells says:

      Thank you Dad! The fact that you put (Dad) after your name cracks me up… just in case you were wondering.

  1. Daniel Hayden says:

    This is great!!!! Instead of being the annoyed showman when asked “can I pet your cow,” you put into practice the main reason of a fair, connecting agriculture with the rest of the world.

    • High Heels & Shotgun Shells says:

      Thank you!! Yes, it is the main reason of the fair, and it’s easy to forget when in competition mode… but neither my sister and I were ever super competitive (there were a couple, “first from the right” shows) so unintentional PR worked out.

  2. Rich Holifield says:

    very good writing Danielle, kept me interested to the end, and being the suburbanite that has found hisself in the country I can totally relate to the ” can I pet youre cow ” statement, as I am the one asking, great to know that i dont come off as a complete idiot to the owner of the cow., thanks.

  3. Chris says:

    Very nicely said! I need to share this with my current 4-Hers, including my 10 year old who will show her first calves this summer!

  4. Linds says:

    wow, I never once was annoyed when someone asked if they could pet my cow. I used the opportunity like you and your sister did. The only part that would make me lividly mad is when they would walk up and pet them without asking. Despite the amount of training we put into them, they still are large animals who can kick. And the last thing I want is anyone hating cattle because they didn’t understand the animals’ instincts and accidentally put themselves in a position to be kicked.

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