My View From The Country

Should We Fear Lovable Fluffy Cows?

Some are concerned about the potential negative impact that this publicity might have, that is, making “fluffy” cows seem more lovable or pet like.

The beef industry received a ton of free press this week, thanks to a photo of a club calf sire that went viral. The hair coat of this animal, dubbed “fluffy cow,” was a real sensation on the Internet and news networks.

Some are concerned about the potential negative impact that this publicity might have, that is, making cows seem more lovable or pet like. I can see that, but I tend to be from the school that any press that isn’t negative is probably good. The episode, however, does point out just how important of a role the show and youth segments of our industry play in exposing our industry to the average consumer.

A lot of us will go to Denver, Louisville, Fort Worth, Kansas City and Houston with our own business in mind. The exhibitors and industry participants are concerned about placings and marketing their programs within the industry. Meanwhile, we tend to forget that hundreds of thousands of people attending these events are shaping their opinion of our industry by what they see and do there.

Our youth programs play a similar role on probably an even wider scale throughout the country. I’m as big of a fan of youth programs as anyone, but even with all the good they accomplish, they also have the potential to inflict significant harm. 


Like what you are reading? You might enjoy this commentary from BEEF Daily Editor Amanda Radke.


A large majority of competitors do things absolutely the right way. But it’s also a well-known fact that certain practices, which wouldn’t be perceived well at all by the average consumer, are considered almost acceptable, especially at the highest levels of competition. The fact is these practices wouldn’t be well received by the typical cattlemen either. Still, we continue to avoid confronting the issue, hoping it will go away.

If nothing else, we should recognize that the enemies of our industry are working diligently to discredit us. Anything we do to give them ammunition is extremely poor judgment on our part.


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Discuss this Blog Entry 7

Anonymous (not verified)
on Jun 7, 2013

I would like to see any livestock competitor that is using any practice other than feed and water prohibited from ever exhibited again. It is the competitive market animal junior shows that are the worst. Something needs to be done about it and it needs to be at carcass inspection at harvest time.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Jun 7, 2013

I understand there is a need for the show industry....however, in my experience, it is not a practical or quite frankly moral part of the cattle business. I am a few hundred head commercial producer and am proud of the cattle I raise with the "working" genetics that are used in my herd. I have had a lot of exposure to "fluffy" cattle...judging shows and competitions and attending Louisville, Denver, Dallas/Fortworth, Royal, Houston....and several smaller shows. A vast majority of Club Cattle could never live on a working ranch. The structure train wrecks and conformation incorrectness in these cattle are astounding! Not to mention the January 100lb BW animal that somehow is registered as a March 80lb BW calf is just the start of an animal that has to be fed like a fat steer just to compete in a breeding class....a long time saying "Fat wins the Show" is sad but true....and groomed and fitted to give the "Appearance" of muscle.....its just dishonest..plain and simple. Now I know of several honest hard working Club Calf people who excel in this industry, kudos to them and their operations!! Shame on the others who rely on a spray can and clippers and breeding for hair rather than quality for being the stain in the beef industry as a whole.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Jun 8, 2013

I couldn't agree more!! I know of a couple of people that show and pushed expense heifers way to hard to fatten them up. After the showing season they went to flush her and couldn't even get one good egg out of her. What a waste just to when one show.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Jun 8, 2013

As a life-long cattleman, I have never understood the reason to show a steer at halter. Reserve the halters for the family milk cow or for doctoring or calving. If kids "need" the show experience of a beauty pageant, have them show a horse or dog which are much more suited for the purpose.

Big Jim (not verified)
on Jun 8, 2013

Certainly there are parts of the show industry that are questionable however now everyone who shows is unethical or dishonest. The part of our industry that plays to the show steer in not real world for sure however still it is a part of our world. I see from comments above that are negative that these folks still go to shows that include most of the majors. Certainly those big money deals are surreal but as in our case we raise seedstock with our female target to those juniors that show. Our bulls either get cut or go on to be sold at consignments sale here on the left coast with bull mates to our "show heifers" selling first, twice in last 5 years, in the west’s most prestigious bull sale (and 1 that sold second this year out of a “show Heifer” we sold 10 years ago). So before some people lambast the show industry remember there are many parts that make the world go around. FYI my daughter won the 4H portion of our county fair and went on to res supreme steer on one that she bred out of a cow she bred and won because she worked hard and it paid off both monetarily and in life’s lessons. I also agree with the writer any kind of positive publicity always pays off!

Kenny (not verified)
on Jun 9, 2013

For many years now I haven't been able to see the purpose of the "Club Calf industry" other than seperating the ranchette dwellers fron thier money so their child can pretend to be a "country kid".When I was in 4 H we showed OUR cattle at the fairs. They were judged on merits of either being a potential breeding animal or a desirable comercial feeder steer. NO One would have dreamed of BUYING an animal for this purpose! That would be no different than going to the flower shop buying flowers then to the bakery and buying baked goods and entering them as your own work at the fair. The whole club calf concept is a sham as far as I can see. Primarily because the most prominent breeds in the industry are not what the beef industry is striving for, nor are they suitable for the comercial or seedstock industry. Seems to be nothing more than a beauty pagent for animals that are really serving no other purpose.

Bryan (not verified)
on Jun 25, 2013

I agree entirely! It's heartbreaking to see a ranch kid trying to compete at the local county fair, with their own ranch raised calf against the suburbanite kids who'll spend thousands of dollars on a calf that sometimes comes from out of state. Where is the lesson in that situation? Our local fair board even has started a "bred & fed" class, but with a handful of "club" calf breeders it's just a HUGE joke. And that doesn't even touch on the other things these kids go through with feeding or even how about the calves that are kept in air conditioned barns during the summer so that the hair grows out. The ol' county fair just isn't what it used to be and it shows, at least where I'm from.

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What's My View From The Country?

As a fulltime rancher, opinion contributor Troy Marshall brings a unique perspective on how consumer and political trends affect livestock production.


Troy Marshall

Troy Marshall is a multi-generational rancher who grew up in Wheatland, WY, and obtained an Equine Science/Animal Science degree from Colorado State University where he competed on both the livestock...

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