The farmers of Weakley County’s future

The farmers of Weakley County’s future
The farmers of Weakley County's future | Weakley County Dairy Show

MOOVE OVER — Cousins Brandon Cole and Cole Nanney were sniffed out by one of their show Holsteins this past Saturday at the Weakley County Dairy Show.
With the precision and concentration of a trained stylist, Jordan Bell sprays his Jersey’s tail with hairspray to make her look her best for the judging that’s soon to come. But while the owners, exhibitors and judges at the Weakley County Dairy Show held this past Saturday will readily admit that the event is a beauty contest of sorts for the five breeds of dairy bovine, first and foremost they’ll say that it’s mostly all about the kids. In a pavilion full of Jersey, Holstein, Guernsey, Ayrshire and Brown Swiss cows are children armed with water hoses for baths, hay for feeding and brushes for last-minute touch-ups before the big show. Across the way from Bell and his family are Nicole Crum and her family from Cottage Grove. Though Crum is young, she’s a dairy show veteran having walked cows in front of judges for four years. Farther back in the pavilion are Greg Nanney and his children Anna Cate, Kinzey and Cole and nephew Brandon Cole preparing to show off a Holstein. As they hold onto their cows by ropes and lead them across the floor to parade them before judging eyes, they realize they are becoming a part of something much larger than a dairy show. In Weakley County, an area that was once home to more than 100 dairy farms and now only six, they are helping to keep a long-standing tradition alive. Freeman Brundige, president of the dairy show and the Dairy Herd Information Association (DHIA) has been to 45 Weakley County Dairy shows in his life and remembers when the event was once the largest one-day show in the state. It was once held in the Feeder-Pigg Pavilion in Dresden, but later moved to Martin. Now receiving sponsorship from the state as well as local merchants, the number of cows is down this year to between 80 and 100 heads due to Henry County’s show being held at the same time, but the enthusiasm for the event and the enjoyment of showing the cows remains just as strong. “The dairy business is still important to Weakley County even though herd size has increased and smaller businesses have gone out,” Brundige explained. “It’s not economically good and many farmers have left to go to other parts of the agricultural field, but there are still some operations in the county and they are all family owned.” Though the cow’s most important job, of course, is to produce quality milk, at a show the cow is analyzed, for the most part, on her looks. “The judge is looking for a cow that’s refined and feminine,” Brundige admitted. “The cow needs to be trim. It’s really like judging a human beauty contest. But they are also judged on their ability and potential to produce milk, their ability to walk on good legs and their ability not to just put fat on their back. The mammary system has to be firmly attached, wear well and be able to last a long time.” Even though the cows are the stars of the show, however, the area youth help keep it going with their time and efforts. “The emphasis is on the youth. They need recognition for this,” Brundige stressed. “They stay involved with it. Most of them were raised on farms that raise cows. These shows are great ways to educate the youth and without them, the show would have very little purpose.”

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