Chris Lang, dressed in white pants and a white button up, stands in the center of the show arena of the Allegiant Energy Center in Madison, Wisconsin where the 2017 World Dairy Expo was being held. The shavings were a vibrant blue, as Chris held the halter of Springhill Mentor Jazzy-ET. There were five other leadsmen and cows alongside them.
The cattle were in Madison for seven days, and prepped for the show for five hours. And it all came down to this moment.
As the six leadsmen and cows stand in the center of the ring there was a silence before Metallica’s song “Wherever I May Roam” comes through the speakers. The judge was walking back and forth behind the cattle. The moment was upon them, the moment the 2017 Grand Champion Guernsey was being awarded. The bass drops just as the judge headed to shake hands with the Champion…
Springhill, owned by Chris, Tom and Karen Lang, a dairy farm in northeastern Ohio deep in the hills of Holmes County, where they have 200 head of both Guernsey’s and Holstein’s. The farm travels over the country showing Guernsey dairy cattle at the national level. What some people may not know what all goes into showing dairy cattle. It is a daylong event that starts early in the morning and does not end until late at night. There are tedious tasks to keep the cows looking good for their 20 minutes in the show ring.
It takes many people to keep things running smoothly in this process. Marshall Overholt, the herdsman at Springhill, was in charge of making sure the cows are eating and looking their best for the show while also managing the people who are helping. Ben Simpson, the cow fitter, makes sure the cows look their best by clipping and preparing them before the show. Billy and Meagan Grammer help make sure all the cows are milked and always have hay in front of them and also help keep the aisle looking its best throughout the show.
The air was crisp at a mere 56 degrees at 3 a.m. Oct. 5 show day for Guernsey dairy cattle. The sky was still pitch black as four individuals, Marshall, Ben, Billy and Meagan, climbed into a 2006 silver Dodge Ram that sat outside of a Country Inn in Madison, Wisconsin. After everyone was in the truck Ben started the engine. It made a low rumble as the key turned. Marshall was wide awake with anticipation, Ben was sipping on his hotel coffee in between bites of cookie, Billy put a dip of Copenhagen Mint as he peeled his eyes open, while Meagan drank her Green Apple Spark. The truck was put into drive and headed to Allegiant Energy Center where the 2017 World Dairy Expo was being held.
The 10-minute drive seemed like 20 as everyone tried to wake themselves up. Walking into barn two, aisle three Amanda Campbell, the night women, stood attentively behind Springhill’s four cows eating hay. Amanda was in charge of caring for the animals from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. every night besides show day when everyone was in the barn by 3:30 a.m.
“Get them up and get them to the wash rack” said Marshall Overholt when walking up to the show cow. Simpson agreed and started to put a halter on Springhill Mentor Jazzy-ET as she started to stand. Once to the concert wash rack right outside the aisle doors, Marshall rinsed Jazzy with cold water. He then picks up a gallon of shampoo and pours it on the cow then scrubbing in the soap vigorously to wash away all the shavings. He then starts the hose again and slowly rinses her to make sure no shampoo was left. At once everyone swarmed her with a green manure pail, which is a five-gallon bucket designated to catching the cows manure, and paper towels on the way to the wash rack. One by one the three other cows are gotten up and each time the cow gets swarmed. Taken to the wash rack for the same treatment. Springhill Laredo Jubilee-ET goes next because she was shown first in the group, as she was a junior three-year-old cow. Then went Knapps HP Fame Topeka-ET and Knapps HP MB Mission Trisha-ET side by side.
Everyone was standing around behind the cows watching as they eat hay and beat pullup, ready to catch the cow manure so they stay clean until the show. Around 5 a.m. as Jazzy gets up a yelp comes out of Meagan’s mouth “guys help she is shittn everywhere,” as the manure pail started to overflow. Marshall starts throwing paper towels everywhere while every cuss word known to mankind was flying out of his mouth.
Because Jazzy was up Marshall decided it was time to get her to the clipping chute to put in her top line, which is the hair on the top of her back which is cut and shaped to make the cow look straight. Billy grabbed the green manure pail and followed her as Marshall slowly walked her 50 feet to the chute. There were cans of Clear Magic, spray paint, baby oil and Final Bloom all the things to get the cows ready to show. First, he takes a hair brush and blow dryer to blow up the top line hair. After doing this he takes the blow dryer and Clear Magic to blows it all along the top line to make sure the hair stays in place. He takes the spray paint and covers the white from the Clear Magic to blend the colors together.
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After Jazzy was done Jubilee was put in next, followed by Topeka and finally Trisha as they got up to poop and eat. The same process happened to each cow, all meticulous and with easy to make them look the best they possibly could before the big dance in the show ring later in the morning.
Chris walks in the barn around 6:30 a.m. in a slow nonchalant way examining the cows as he walks up.
“They look good,” said Chris.
“Yeah, but good enough,” said Marshall, “I just want everything to go good we have worked so much at home I don’t want it to all go down the drain.”
“It’ll be fine just keep an eye on them, I’m going to change for the show and stay out of the way,” said Chris.
The show started at exactly 7:30 a.m., and the cows were prepped in a hurry just as Tom and Karen Lang the owners of Springhill stop by to check on everything and bring coffee.
“Thank you Lord I needed this,” said Ben as he got all of his supplies out.
“It’s no problem at all,” said Karen, “we are going to the show arena to watch let us know if you need help.”
“Don’t be nervous,” said Tom, “we trust in your abilities.”
Ben started barking orders “Get Jubilee up and to the clipping chute,” said Ben. Jubilee’s needed the final touches before heading to the show ring. Baby oil was sprayed across the udder as Ben takes a paper towel to wipe up the dirt to create a soft glow across her udder before he applies baby oil gel to make the udder pop. Ben took a large blow dryer and blew off the all of Jubilee to get the dust and shavings off of her. The final step was to spray Final Bloom on her and brush it in to give Jubilee a shine. With that it was time to walk her down to the show ring.
Chris grabs the halter and Meagan follows behind Jubilee and Chris with a manure pail. The trek to the show ring took 10 minutes.
“Nice and easy there is no need to rush we have plenty of time,” said Chris,
“Okay, what do you want me to do about getting Jazzy down here? Want me to leave after you go in the ring,” said Meagan.
“Yeah, I guess that’s what will be best just make sure they walk her really slow you know how much of a nut she is,” said Chris.
The nerves built up in the barn as the other three cows needed rushed through the same processes as Jubilee did just a mere 10 minutes before. But the only difference was Jazzy was the biggest hope for Springhill, making getting her prepared and to the show arena a tense ordeal.
“Billy, stop messing around and make sure she doesn’t shit anywhere,” said Ben.
“Here is the super glue seal her tit again I don’t want her blowing the seal of it,” said Marshall handing Ben the glue.
“She looks good dude stop freaking out,” said Ben.
“Okay let’s just get her down there so we aren’t late that would be our luck,” said Marshall.
Jazzy slowly walked by the lead of Meagan down the aisle outside towards the show arena. As they walked by everyone started looking at them, questioning who it was and what age Jazzy was. When they made it to the ring the wait was no more than five minutes before Chris comes up and takes the halter and beginnings to walk the rest of the way into the ring. Meghan stands there for 15 minutes as the class of four-year-old cows and handlers parade around the show ring. Seven minutes into the first pull was made, the judge points to Chris and Jazzy and they hurry to the center of the ring. Meghan lets out a tiny yelp of joy, but quickly goes silent. Chris and Jazzy stay in first during the second pull, “hell yeah that’s our girl,” said Meagan as she turned to walk to the back of the waiting area.
Billy and Marshall were slowly walking Trisha and Topeka towards the show arena.
“I wonder how Jazzy did,” questioned Marshall.
“Uh I’m guessing good because she looks like a million bucks today buddy,” said Billy as he spits out his dip.
“Hi, uh I would like to order 15 pizzas,” said Chris Lang as he drove down the highway in his 2016 Red Dodge Ram on the way to Walmart. After hanging up the phone he said, “shit I hope that is enough, how many people do you really think will show up.” Running into Walmart to avoid the rain drizzling down, it was getting very misty throughout Madison. He bolted straight to the beer and liquor aisle, knowing the cart would be overflown of booze. Three 24 packs of Coors Light, two 24 packs of Michelob Ultra, a 36 pack of Bud light NFL Limited Edition, one bottle of Absolute Vodka and a 12 pack of Mike’s flavor of America.
Around 7 p.m. a swarm of 30 people showed up to the aisle and dived into the pizza.
“I want to thank everyone for their hard work and support along our journey,” said Chris, “it’s been a great ride and hopefully it isn’t over yet. Drink up everyone.”
“Chris stop being a little bitch and get over here,” yelled Marshall.
“Yeah Chris come take a shot,” said Billy.
There was a moment of silence, then suddenly a cheer went out. Tears were running down Tom, Karen and Marshall’s face. “We did it,” said Marshall as he wrapped Karen in a hug. They all head into the show ring to hug Chris Lang and their Grand Champion Guernsey cow at the 2017 World Dairy Expo, Springhill Jazzy ET had done the unthinkable. She was a 4-year-old homebred cow which was almost unheard of at a show of this level. Chris was standing there in tears, smiling from ear to ear.
“This is a once and a lifetime opportunity, I am so blessed.”