Often we look to seasoned veterans in any field for wisdom, but when it comes to showing cattle, 21-year-old Gabrielle Glenister has some great tips to share.
"Gabby" began showing at age 6 with a feeder pig bigger than she was. She became a Master Showman at age 13, winning the New York State Fair Holstein Showmanship class. She continued to develop her skills to find success at the national level.
Among her treasured accomplishments are trophies for Reserve Grand Champion Cow/Calf Pair in the Junior Regional Preview Show at the Atlanta National Angus Show in May 2006, Supreme Champion Female honors at the 2010 New York State Fair, and Reserve Supreme Champion Female there in 2011.
In the fall of 2010, Gabby and her heifer Sasha took Reserve Junior Heifer Calf honors at the Keystone International Livestock Exposition Open Angus Show. In the summer of 2011, she took second place in the Bred and Owned class at the National Junior Angus Show, both held in Harrisburg, Pa.
In her first appearance at the 2010 Junior National Hereford Expo in Indianapolis, Gabby finished in the Top 10 of Senior Showmen. She won Honorable Mention Showmanship honors at the 2011 National Junior Angus Show.
This young woman knows how to show cattle, so much so that three commercial dairy farms hired Gabby to show their cattle while she was still a teenager.
Patsy Gifford, executive manager of the New York State Holstein Association, says, "The value of showmanship classes for young people is handling the registered animals that are the genetic base of our industry and learning how to recognize the best animals."
Gabby's own herd of more than two dozen dairy and beef animals has grown from the foundation of two Registered Holsteins and three Registered Angus females. A work-to-own Holstein calf that Gabby handled in 2005 is now among Gabby's herd with its daughters.
Gabby says, "One of my suggestions for being successful is that if you want to be a winner, you have to do the work to win. I like working hard and earning an honor on my own. I am very proud of being a breeder-owner."
Here are some of Gabby's other tips for success in the show ring. Regardless of your own age or how long you have shown cattle, there is wisdom to gain from reflecting on Gabby's experience and suggestions on building a successful reputation in the ring and in the marketplace.
"Everything begins at home early. If you raise your own calves, start spending time with your animals from their birth. If you buy calves later on, start working with them as soon as you get them home. I try to halter break my calves at 1 to 2 months old, and to tying, washing and leading by 3 to 4 months of age. Attention to proper nutrition and care from early on influences how well your animal will show later in life.
"Get organized and keep binders with good records of birth, weaning and yearling weights; veterinary visits; vaccinations; deworming; and milk production (DHIA) or beef carcass quality. To breed your own cattle well, you need to study and select good genetics. I have been making my own breeding selections since 2004, and it's nice to see the end results."
Spend time to develop touch and composure
"You have to spend time with your animals every day. Be patient in getting them used to your control. I practice leading the calves on our front lawn and walking them down our country road to get them accustomed to cars and dogs. They need to become used to music, sounds and all types of activity around them."
"If you remain calm no matter what is happening around you, that helps your animal stay calm. Your nervousness can transfer to your animal and other animals in the ring. Practice paying attention to the judge and to your animal and being aware of everything else in front of you, behind you and beside you," Gabby says.
What if something goes wrong in the ring? "Don't make a big deal out of it. I have been pushed and shoved and run over. Do everything you can to keep yourself and your own animal under control. If I can't do anything else, I laugh. Attitude is important."
People who have watched Gabby show over the years remark about her enthusiastic demeanor and constant smile in the show ring.
Dairy Judge Wayne Conard says, "You can see the will to win in the faces of the youth handlers. I am looking for someone who acts like they want to be there and has a gentle touch, but is still in control of his or her animal with a proper head carriage."
Know why you are showing
"If you are interested in establishing your farm name and reputation, showing helps you get your name out and people will learn to come to you for quality animals. Think about how you want to present yourself and your animal. Know what you need to do in the ring to make your animal shine and stand out. This takes time and commitment to practicing with the animal long before you ever get to the ring. Once there, learn from your mistakes so you do better next time."
Build your breed knowledge and communication skills
"Learn the different breed standards so you can knowledgeably answer any questions the judge might have," says Gabby, who is equally well-spoken about both dairy and beef breeds. Without hesitation, she easily talks about preparing a dairy animal to show its thin pliable skin, sharp withers, wide front, and correct feet and legs and pasterns at a 45-degree angle. She talks about how to lead the animal at a proper pace so its line of stride will place the back foot where the front hoof has been.
"You need to be able to assess the animal you are showing, and when the judge has you change animals with another competitor you need to be able to quickly evaluate that animals' strengths and weaknesses.
"Take advantage of programs in public speaking, such as 4-H training, so you can develop good conversation and communication skills to use with judges. Make good eye contact and be respectful. Observe proper etiquette - even if you think the judge is wrong, be polite and listen. And, win or lose, don't boast; congratulate the winner and be humble when you win."
Practice your animal preparation skills
"You have to practice clipping and combing to learn how to sculpt the hair to feature each animal's best assets and to hide any flaws. Use cool water to rinse the animal every day to train the hair to grow the direction you want it go."
Start Early-Master Showman Gabby Glenister says one key to success is starting your animals early. She is seen here winning the Oswego County Fair Senior Fitting Contest in 2007.
Photo by Kara Lynn Dunn.
Gabby has competed and succeeded in judging contests for both livestock and dairy. She says, "Judging is a great way to enhance your livestock evaluation and selection skills. In order to breed and select better animals, you need to know what to look for to improve your genetics. Many young people that participate in judging contests through 4-H, junior breed organizations and college are more likely to breed and select better cattle and livestock. Not only can these youth use their talents on their own farms, some go on to judge local, state, regional, national and even international livestock shows. Attaining superb judging skills is an opportunity not to be missed. 4-H office and breed websites can provide information about evaluating livestock."
Prepare for showing off your farm and your animals
"Plan your stall setup ahead and get set up before the animals arrive at the show. Have a good amount of bedding packed and leveled with end panels to keep the animals separated from other farms. Always use fans for good airflow and to keep the cattle cool. Take your farm signs and stall cards for each animal; sometimes add an educational display for the public if you are at your county or state fair.
"Plan your schedule so you have enough time between classes. Be sure to hire your fitters far in advance of the show and have your family and others help you get organized and on time. Assign different tasks for their attention. Have your show ring tools: halter, harness, stick, or comb ready ahead. Allow time to make sure your own appearance is professional, neat and clean.
"Keep an ear to the announcements so you know how quickly the classes are running ahead of you. You don't want to be too early or too late to the makeup ring. I try to start heading to the ring two classes ahead of my own."
Enjoy the experience
"Showing at events like the Spring Dairy Carousel in Syracuse and other large shows offers the opportunity to meet others in the dairy industry and to meet people from other states. Traveling to shows is fun, and you get to see the country and our landmarks."
Get involved in all aspects of the industry
"Network with people who share your interests and take an active interest in learning and service opportunities. You are building your résumé and farm reputation every day by the choices you make to get involved. For youth, every learning experience you gain, whether it is in a baking, photography or other class or in the show ring, can be valuable later on."
Gabby became New York Junior Angus Association President at age 13 and held that position until her last year as a junior member in 2011. She served as New York State Angus Princess from 2005 to 2008 and as New York Angus Queen 2008-2011. She was Oswego County's Dairy Princess in 2007-2008 and 2009-2010. She belongs to the junior breed organizations for Hereford and Shorthorn beef cattle and was an active member of the National and New York Junior Holstein associations for six years.
"Become an ambassador for your industry; help spread the good word about dairy and beef, and about farmers and agriculture in general. One of my favorite things to do is to visit schools for Ag in the Classroom projects."
Gabby is also a budding photographer and took the October photo in the American Beef Society 2012 calendar.
Livestock handlers who spend time with their animals develop a special rapport with the animal that can be seen on the farm (the Glenister family's Highway Meadows Farm in Pulaski, N.Y.) and in the show ring.
Photo by Brian P. Whattam.
Find resources online
"Look for 'how to show' tips on the websites of breed associations. You will also find scholarship and leadership-building opportunities there."
Gabby recommends the online Stock Show University funded by Sullivan Supply. Find information at www.sullivansupply.com about free clinics on clipping, fitting and showmanship to help improve your skills.
Today, Gabby is a dairy production and management/animal science major at SUNY Cobleskill. Becoming involved with various organizations helped Gabby earn scholarships from the Angus Foundation and the New York Beef Producers Association.
She plans to complete her bachelor's degree in agriculture and life sciences education focusing on agriculture communications at Iowa State University. She will continue to manage her own dairy and beef herds.
Kara Lynn Dunn is a longtime contributor who keeps horses and sheep on a 100- acre farm in Mannsville, N.Y.