Over the past month I have been to 5 cattle auctions and 7 cattle shows in 4 different states or provinces. To say that I spent some time on the road driving from one event to the next is an understatement. And, while all of these events were amazing in their own unique way, there was one consistent thing that surprised me. Less and less people are attending these events.
Now normally this would cause one to think that dairy cattle showing is dying, but in reality I actually think that the exact opposite is true. Consider this. The quality of cattle at these shows has been the best I have ever seen. I have had the opportunity to see the great RF Goldwyn Hailey multiple times, and this last time at NY Spring Show I would say that she looked the best I had ever seen her (Read more: RF Goldwyn Hailey Rides to the Top Spot at NY Spring Carousel and New York Spring Holstein Show 2013 Results). Also in NY I saw one of the most competitive Sr. 2 year old classes ever, where the legend in the making R-E-W Happy Go Lucky was beaten for the first time in milking form. Though in all fairness she is in the later stage of her lactation and the others are peaking.
At the Ontario Spring Show, I saw what I think to be a future World Dairy Expo and Royal Winter Fair Grand Champion, Valleyville Rae Lynn, giving Hailey a run for her money, though as Hailey has shown this spring she is untouchable. (Read more: Ontario Spring Discovery – Nothing Slipped Past Judge “Crack” and Ontario Spring Discovery Results). And at Quebec Spring Show I get to visit with many of the most passionate breeders in the world today (Read more: Do We Speak the Same Language? and Quebec Spring Show Results).
So what is it then? Why are less and less people attending the shows?
In discussing this with Randy Blodgett, newly appointed publisher of Holstein World and mastermind behind Holstein World Productions, the answer becomes pretty clear. They are all watching the coverage online.
During the recent NY Spring Show, there were over 5,000 people watching on the live video stream. This reminded me of the video stream we shared of the EU Championship Show where there were so many people wanting to watch that we had up to 1,000 people waiting to get one of the coveted spots to watch the live stream on the Bullvine alone(Read more:The All European Championship Show: The Greatest SHOW on Earth and Decrausaz Iron O’Kalibra Wins Grand at the 2013 All European Championship). Interesting note about the EU Championship show. The show itself did such a great job of covering the show, we here at the Bullvine didn’t even have to attend the show and we had the largest viewership in the world, thanks to the power of digital and social media.
And now we are talking about just those who are able to take the time to watch it live. If you add in those that watch the coverage on the various publications and Facebook you would easily be over 12,000 viewers. There are more publications than ever covering the shows. Gone are the days when you were lucky to get covered in your national breed publication and that’s it. In today’s digital dairy media world, you are likely to have 4 or 5 publications there taking pictures and sharing the results. Who knows maybe someday we will have coverage comparable to a professional sporting event? Imagine it, commentators during the cow show bring you all the play by play.
But already even this is starting to change. We here are the Bullvine try to do even more. While we have not gotten into the live streaming of the shows, we have started to do more and more stories about what happens beyond the placings. We try to bring you the story behind the story, such as (Read more World Dairy Expo 2012 Holstein Show – A Battle for the Ages and The 2012 Royal Winter Fair Holstein Show – One of the greatest ever told!).
Watch out for those “Moovie” Stars
Actually, it’s almost scary how much some things have changed. Just write or share a picture of Hailey, O’Kalibra, Happy Go Lucky, or Rae Lynn and the piece goes viral. These cows have become “Moovie” Stars. They have their own cult following that would rival that of One Direction, Maroon 5 or Justin Bieber.
While I am sure that many dairy breeders are not “Beliebers”, they are very passionate about great cows and these four certainly are that. And yes I am sure that many of the showmen that show these animals do have egos as big as Justin’s is. Things have changed so much that the showmen of these cattle have gone from complaining about or at least ignoring the photographers in the ring, to a point where they make sure they have the animal set up correctly. They are all looking good and appreciate the exposure. So much so that in the past 2 weeks alone we have had over 20 requests by breeders for pictures from the show for use in ads and other marketing efforts. A “money shot” of their animal winning their class or better yet the show, brings coverage you just can’t buy and a boring side shot cannot compare with. (Read more No Cow Is Perfect – Not Even in Pictures and Introducing the Dairy Marketing Code of Conduct)
The Power of Social Media
Starting today in Wisconsin is the Mid-West Spring National. This is a show that I am sure will be great. But I will not be there. That’s because between, myself and my trusty traveling partner (my father and Bullvine writer), we need time to rest. Yes the time in the car is fine for discussing many of the great events or challenges facing the dairy industry and leads to some great articles (Read more: Where is the Balance in Balanced Breeding?)., we need time to get caught up on the other things in our lives.
We were stressing out that we needed to be there but just couldn’t do the 11hr drive back and forth and still get everything done that we need to do. So we are not going. The amazing part is, when I mentioned on Facebook about the show and asked what animals were there and who looked good, we got some super responses. The best of them were the people that said they would take some pictures for us and share with us all the “juicy” details about the stories behind the story. To our faithful readers who are doing this for us we send a BIG thank you. To those looking for results, we say “Don’t worry we’ve got you covered”.
Touch my heart
Now there is one event that I would love to be at. And yes it does happen today, and yes it is at a cattle show, but NO it is not happening in the show ring. Since starting the Bullvine we have had the opportunity to get to know many amazing people. One such case is Beverly Donavon, the passionate owner of the great Ayrshire show cow Sweet-Pepper Black Francesca. Their story has touched our hearts and made us huge fans of both (Read more: The Magic of Francesca).
Through the power of social media we have gotten to know Beverly and her husband Richard. Recently Richard mentioned to me that a great young artist, Emma Caldwell, had painted an amazing picture of “Frannie” and that he would be attending the Ayrshire Spring Show in Quebec today with Beverly to meet the artist and pick up the picture (Read more Emma Caldwell’s Art Stirs Mind and Heart!). Now you see Richard may come sometimes come across as a sarcastic wrangler but when you get to know him, you can’t help but like him. This special event that he has arranged, and that Beverly knows nothing about, is just another reason why. When Frannie passed this past winter, Beverly was understandably devastated and Richard has done everything he could think of to help her through this tough time. This picture is just one of the many things he has done to help her through it. Emma Caldwell has graciously agreed to auction of her latest painting “Hailey” with a portion of the proceeds to go towards a charity (click here to learn more).
So my interest in being there has nothing to do with the show, which I am sure will be great. It has nothing to do with covering this story, which I am sure will be a tearjerker. But rather, it has EVERYTHING to do with the power of the human spirit. Three amazing people will get to meet, share a few tears (Bev most certainly), and celebrate an amazing cow and a very thoughtful gesture by all in involved. There will not be a big presentation in the center of the ring. There will not be any announcement over the public address system. If you see Bev with tears in her eyes over her trademark heartwarming love for one of her favorites , be sure to give her a big hug and say, “Way to go, we all loved Frannie and she was one of the best ever.”
The Bullvine Bottom Line
While we here at the Bullvine will not be able to attend as many shows as we would like, I think that is also the case for many passionate dairy breeders. However thanks to the power of social media and the enhanced coverage many of the trade publications are providing, you can rest assured that you will be able to get the full story. To those who pioneered this, such as Randy Blodgett over 16 years ago, when he first did digital real time coverage at Expo, “Way to go Randy”. To those that have stepped up to help bring us the story behind the story at Mid-West Spring National, we say “Thanks”. Yes show attendance is down, but there is no question that the show passion lives on.