As we move into the cooler days of autumn, I always look forward to the changes this season brings- cutting corn silage, last cutting of hay and fall dairy shows.
Each year, just as school began, we readied the chopper and wagons and cranked the silo unloader up to the top of the silo. Then for a day or two, we pitched the silage out of the silo to feed forty milking Holsteins. Once the silage heaped over the staves of the Hanson silo we let it settle and the gas clear out before lowering the unloader and getting back to the routine of augers rather than silage forks.
Fourth cutting of hay was different from the other cuttings. Colder temperatures and morning fog meant it took longer to dry and the bales always seemed heavier. By then the haymows were nearly full and the cousins had to “walk the bales” back to fill all the spaces between the rafters. The good thing was that the last loads were fed off the racks so they didn’t have to go up the elevator.
But, the best part of fall for me was the fall dairy shows- North Iowa Fair, Clay County Fair and Dairy Cattle Congress. The show heifers felt better with the cooler temperatures and looked better. Loading tack and cattle onto the two-ton truck is different than loading a goose-neck trailer and took lots of planning because of the extended times spent at the show. But when we pulled out of the yard, the excitement was electric. Equally exciting was pulling onto the fairgrounds and going to the office for stall assignments- quick greetings from other exhibitors that you may not have seen since last year and then the work of stalling your animals.
After a full day, the logical thing would be to get a good night’s sleep but that didn’t happen. Making the rounds to see old friends and their animals lasted long into the night. Herds like Paclamar, Carnation, Muellers and Hyseen had incredible displays and amazing cattle. Careful attention to every detail of care those great herdsmen gave to their animals was logged and then tried on my animals. Great showmen like Melvin Scholl and Ellis Knutson knew they were setting the bar for every dairy kid in Iowa and they readily share their knowledge for most things when asked. And of course, there was always the steak dinner at the Kit Kat Club!
Whether you won or stood in the “pack”, those memories stuck with you and the stories were told for years. It’s not all that different today, different names and better cows, but the thrill and excitement can be seen on young faces at every show.
After missing the Clay County Fair for over a decade, I’ll have the opportunity to be part of the show this year and I’m looking forward to it. Over the summer I’ve attended many county dairy shows and rekindled friendships with lots of folks and got to meet their kids and grandkids. It’s kinda spooky to see a kiddo in the ring and recognize a face that belongs to dad or grandad- time does that.
Till next time!
Fred M. Hall grew up in rural Fort Dodge on the family dairy far, showed Holsteins and is a graduate of Iowa State University. He has been a livestock photographer, cattle fitter, newspaper editor, plus county Extension agent in Iowa and Texas. Currently he is the Iowa State University Extension Dairy Field Specialist in Northwest Iowa.
Fred M. Hall