Maintaining poise is key when it comes to dairy cattle handling. FFA senior Zach Paul knows this all too well.
Representing the state of Illinois, Paul went to the National Dairy Cattle Handlers Competition in Indianapolis last Thursday, placing in the top ten out of 34 contestants.
The show was held early in the morning: contestants were required to be ready at 7 am to be randomly assigned a heifer.
The dairy handlers show is among the FFA’s many career development activities. According to the FFA’s event description of diary handling, “handlers earn recognition for their ability to set up their assigned animal to its best advantage…and exhibit effective restraint and move the animal as requested by the event ringmaster.”
The handlers begin the show by parading the cattle around a few times before lining the cattle up for examining; Paul says that sometimes the heifer can make things difficult.
“I was pretty happy with how I did. There was one time where the heifer didn’t want to cooperate really well, which showed poorly on me, but I guess they (the judges) didn’t mind it. But other than that, I thought that was about the best I could have done.”
According to Paul, when a heifer gets agitated, it is most likely because the cow needs to rest or a drink of water. Though it is not the handler’s responsibility to ensure the cows are needs are met, Paul always assesses his assigned heifer before the show.
“Sometimes you have a heifer act up, and you just have to deal with it and make the most of it,” Paul said.
Paul has been showing cows for 11 years, having only performed at the local and state level until now.
Paul received acknowledgement for his lifelong efforts from not only placing at nationals, but also from an offering from Kaskaskia College shortly after his performance on Thursday.
“A judge, who’s also the (Assistant) Professor of Agriculture at Kaskaskia, approached me and offered me my first full ride. The plan now is to go to Kaskaskia for two years in the Ag. school, then transfer to Oklahoma State, ” Paul said, “I’m excited.”