What it Takes to get your Cow to the “Superbowl”

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What do you do during your spare time? Read? Watch TV? You’re probably not training a 900 pound calf.

What do you do during your spare time? Read? Watch TV? You’re probably not training a 900 pound calf. Winnie Hirsch has been doing just that in preparation for the “Superbowl of livestock shows.” It has taken a lot of dedication and hard work to make it from a small family farm in Cedaredge to the National Western Stock Show.

Since Winnie’s calf Annabelle was born, Winnie has been training her to do everything necessary for a show, which involves everything from excitement mitigation to cow stage decorum. Winnie started out rewarding Annabelle with treats whenever she did anything good. Then taking baby, or calf, steps Annabelle has learned to square her feet for the judges, walk decorously, wear a halter and walk on a lead, and tolerate the beauty treatment.

Besides the basics of showmanship, Winnie also had to teach Annabelle around other elements of the stock show. To acclimate Annabelle to the noise and excitement of the stock show, Winnie has recruited her sisters to help scare the calf by sneaking up of jumping up and down and yelling. It’s not enough to just train the cow, Winnie has to be able to think like a calf as well. Winnie has to provide water from Cedaredge for Annabelle because she might refuse to drink strange tasting water and she has to ensure that the feed is the same and she has to remove potential hazards.

Before the show, Annabelle gets the beauty treatment. Winnie says about preparing her, “When you show the calf, you bathe her with dog or horse shampoo, to make her look right. We need to shave her shoulders and face so she looks good. To blowdry her, we don’t use a hairdryer or blowdryer, we use a vacuum with a tube. Then you have to brush her the right way so she looks just right.” The stock show requires innovation. Who would have thought a vacuum would be used on cows?

The National Western Stock Show will be Annabelle’s show debut, and Winnie is excited. And this confidence is important when dealing with a 800-900 pound calf. “You have to be confident.” Winnie says. “If you freak out, then the cow will sense your feelings and freak out too.” Winnie believes her sacrifice of sledding days and free time have been worth it, and she is sure Annabelle is ready. “She’ll be scared and she’ll be excited but we can do it.”