Garrett Schmitt led Febe out of her pen and down the aisle of old tie stalls. This was the barn where the eight most elite cows at Fairmont stayed. They went out the white and yellow barn doors and onto the pavement. Schmitt walked her out to the double- decker cattle trailer in the driveway.
The morning sun was shining off of the stainless steel trailer. Febe went up the set of ramps and down onto the lower deck of the cattle trailer where a fresh bed of sawdust and hay was waiting for her.
She and twenty other of Fairmont’s most valuable holsteins were on their way to compete at the Northeastern Spring Show in Springfield Massachusetts. They would be competing against cows from all over New England.
These cows are a huge part of the revenue for this side of the farm. The show was to promote Fairmont’s name and see how well their animals stacked up against some of the best cows in the northeastern United States.
Garrett Schmitt is a fitter: a person who clips cows and gets them ready for the show. He was one of the twelve employees that worked for Fairmont at the Northeast Spring Show. Elizabeth Hall is married to Ricky Hall, one of Fairmont’s owners. She would lead Febe in the show.
Elizabeth Hall with Febe
Fairmont is known for breeding and raising show cows at a high level. They’ve sold calves for $115,000 and $225,000 in recent years. One cow family (offspring from the same bloodline) has made them over $500,000 just from heifer sales and another $200,000 in bull sales. Febe is a three year old holstein, one of the nicest cows that Fairmont has ever bred.
Febe was conceived in a lab using IVF(in vitro fertilization),where eggs are taken out of cows and fertilized in a lab with a bull’s semen to create embryos, which are then implanted into other cows. This creates 10-15 nearly identical calves at one time instead of 1 each year.
Dave Hoffman is the herdsman at Fairmont farms. He looks over the herd and does all of the calvings. Fairmont also does a lot of DNA testing on its calves. “You can predict how fancy a cow will be,” Hoffman said, “what their milk production will be, and almost everything about the cow.”
Febe was anxious to get off the trailer when she arrived in Springfield. Hall led her off the trailer and headed straight for the wash rack. Hall scrubbed her with soap and water and led her back to the straw pack with the rest of Fairmont’s animals.
Feed is the single highest cost on a dairy farm, so it is important to maximize the outcome. Fairmont works with Melissa Carabeau of Poulin Grain. She does all of Fairmont’s feed sampling and testing. “I analyze the homegrown forages that make up the majority of the cows’ diets,” Carabeau said, “then I formulate custom grain mixes to supplement protein, energy, minerals, and vitamins to the cows.”
Febe has a special diet that includes grain, cracked corn, oats, dry beet pulp, protein, sodium and hay. This diet can change depending on the day. On show day cows will get TMR(total mixed ration) which is sweeter, so they will eat way more of it, making them produce more milk and fill out their stomachs better.
Fairmont’s Aisle at NorthEastern Spring show
The air was crisp on show morning. Schmitt, Hall and the rest of Fairmont’s employees walked through the darkness and into the barns. Fairmont’s aisle was like an ant hill, with people buzzing around working to get ready for the big day.
Hall led Febe out of the straw pack and onto the foam mats in the aisle. She took Febe on a long walk around the barn to stretch out before the show.
Before Febe went into the ring Schmitt led her to the clipping chute, a singular stall where a cow is tied so the fitter can have access to all sides. This is where the cow gets its top line(hair along the back of the cow) done and gets shined up for the show. Schmitt blew her top line up and sprayed it with Clear Magic (hair spray for cows) to make her top stay up. He cut it so that it was perfectly straight along her back.
Schmitt clipped the hair off of her udder almost down to the skin, as if there was no hair there. He cleaned Febe’s udder with rubbing alcohol and put a full bottle of baby gel on it, so it was shiny. He cut the hair on her ribs shorter to make her look sharp, and sprayed lots of shine onto her so that she would look fancy.
When Febe was ready, Hall slowly led her out of the chute and walked her to ringside.
David Crack, a dairy farmer from Quebec, was the judge for this show. Along with the udder, Crack was looking at the udder (worth 40% of the cow) dairy strength (25%), feet and legs (20%) and frame (15%).
Crack looks for cows with dairy strength, depth and width of rib, and lots of style. Every judge is different. Crack will prefer a cow that has lots of style and depth of rib with bad feet and legs, over a cow with good feet and legs but with less rib and style.
Febe has a really high and wide rear udder. This shows she has an udder that will last and that the udder attachment(where the udder attaches to the body) will not depreciate over time. She is a cow with a tremendous frame with lots of style.
When it was time Hall led Febe into the ring and started circling around the outside so Crack could get a good look at everyone in the class.
He circled around Febe getting a good look up close. With his right hand he moved her tail out of the way so he could get a good look at her shiny udder. He let go of her tail, walked around her one more time and headed back to the center of the ring.
She was still taking short choppy steps after about five minutes of circling the judge. With each step Febe’s tail would sway back and forth across her shiny udder. Crack finally made up his mind. He gave Febe one last look and pointed at her to bring her in line first. He did it with a lot of confidence, as if there was no question she should be first.
This was a huge accomplishment for Fairmont, but Febe was not done showing yet. Because she is three years old, she had to come back in the ring for “intermediate champion,” the best milking cow under four years old.
All of the first and second place cows had to come back into the ring. Crack sent the best four cows out to the center of the ring where everyone could see them. He spent about five minutes circling the four, trying to determine who the Intermediate champion should be. He kept everyone on their toes until he made his way towards a cow. With a smile on his face he tapped Febe’s back and shook Hall’s hand. There was clapping throughout the building and hoots and hollers from Fairmont’s aisle.
Left- David Crack. Febe after winning intermediate champion
Febe was also named best “bred and owned” of the show. This a huge award because she was bred by the owners and was not an animal they purchased. To wrap up a good day, Fairmont also won Premier Breeder and Premier Exhibitor.
Fairmont’s crew for Northeastern Spring Show
Ricky Hall is one of the owners of Fairmont and is also a herdsman for the farm. “The ultimate for me is when we’ll have a sale,” Hall said.“People are really excited to buy something that has a Fairmont name”
The week after the show, Cowsmopolitan (a dairy magazine) came to do a photo shoot with Febe at the farm. She will have a chance to be on the cover of the 2021 summer edition.
On June 18th Fairmont will be showing off all of their animals at their “Favorites of Fairmont sale.” Farmers from all around the United States and Canada will be bidding on cows to bring back to their herd. Febe has two daughters going through the sale that will hopefully bring $4,000- $8,000 each. Febe will hopefully sell for $12,000-$15,000 and represent the Fairmont name. Until then, she will be hanging out in her pen, eating hay and looking pretty.
Cover of Fairmonts sale Catalog