Supreme dairy show a first for county, country

Messenger photo by Kristy Zurbrick
Helena Hall, 5, washes her cousin Kai Parker’s calf named “Special.” Hall had already given her own calf, “Brooklyn,” the same treatment, all in preparation to compete in the Madison County Fair’s first-ever Supreme Dairy Show on July 9.

“We’re doing something tonight that’s never been done in the U.S. before—we’re showing all breeds at the same time,” said Madison County Senior Fair Board member Ruth Ernst prior to the Open Class Supreme Dairy Breed Show held July 9 at the Madison County Fair.

In past dairy shows, contest entries were divided by age and breed of the animal. This year, entries were divided only by age.

“That means you could have Guernseys, milking short horns, Holsteins, Jerseys and Brown Swiss all in the same class,” Ernst said.

The set-up lessens the likelihood that a class will draw just one entrant, as has sometimes been the case. On the other hand, it increases the likelihood that people accustomed to showing several breeds will have to compete against themselves. To temper the latter situation, the fair board limited exhibitors to two entries per class.

Not only is it tougher for entrants, the all-breeds show also puts a challenge to the judges.

“The judges have to be experienced enough to know the characteristics of each breed, then compare them against one another,” Ernst said.

The Senior Fair Board recruited nationally recognized dairy judges, John and Bonnie Ayars, to do the honors.

Champions were named in each age category, after which they competed against one another for the title of Supreme grand champion. With fewer contest categories, winners earned more prize money.

As for why the board decided to break from tradition with the Supreme Dairy Breed Show, Ernst said, “To spark some new interest in the show” and increase the competition factor.

With fewer dairy breeders in the area, the number of dairy fair exhibitors has decreased over the years, Ernst explained. The change is not unique to Madison County.

“This was the last year for the open class dairy show at the Pickaway County Fair, and the Franklin County Fair cancelled its Holstein class because they didn’t have enough interest,” Ernst said.

By trying something new, the Madison County Fair Board is hoping to get more people involved in the dairy show. The new concept may take time to catch on, Ernst said, but a good sign is that this year’s first try did spark new interest.

“We have some new exhibitors this year who decided to show just because they wanted to see what the Supreme show is like,” Ernst said.

Wendy Hall of London, and members of her immediate and extended family, were among the entrants willing to give the all-breeds idea a whirl.

“I like the idea because it has brought people to the fair that I used to show with when I was in 4-H… This is the first time some of them have had animals at the fair in some time,” Hall said. “I’m kind of excited to see how this will work.”

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