The Lessons of the Show: Current and previous competitors in the 4-H dairy show talk about what they’ve learned

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Wesley Engleking wears a Holstein belt buckle during the Hancock County 4-H Dairy Show. Monday, June 20, 2022.

By Elissa Maudlin

HANCOCK COUNTY Right as a boy, holding onto the harness on his cow’s face, entered the mulched arena, his cow refused to walk. As the boy pulled, Lane Bassett, a curly-haired 12-year-old competitor of the dairy show, went to the opening of the arena and gave the cow a slight push — aiding his competitor.

When asked why, Lane gave a short answer: “Because he would do the same for me.”

Lane has competed in the Hancock County 4-H Dairy Show for three years. His mom, Brittany Bassett, showed dairy in 4-H, as well her cousins on her dad’s side of the family.

Jaysa Melton, one of Brittany and Lane’s cousins who showed dairy cows and a 10-year member in 2021, said their family has always had cows on the farm and “[they] kind of just grew up with it.”

At the 2022 dairy competition Monday, Lane was the Jersey Reserve Junior champion and Jersey Reserve Senior Champion, and showed four different cows named Casey, Roxy, Quinn and Harper.

Brittany referred to Lane as a “gentle-giant.”

“Lane is the most kind-hearted, gentle giant that I know and has great compassion for his animal, and friends and family,” she said. Her favorite moment watching Lane compete was “the sportsmanship, his love for helping others and getting along with everybody.”

“I love how [4-H] brings the kids all together,” Brittany said. “You see all the kids running around here, having water fights, playing and then they go in the ring and compete against each other and continue that playfulness as soon as they get out … you know, there’s no, ‘I won and you didn’t.’”

At one point in a part of the show he wasn’t competing in, Lane high-fived another person competing and. Brittany said Lane picked straw out of the top line of another person’s cow at one competition.

“I don’t care really where I place,” Lane said. “I just want to come out here and have fun.”

On the bleachers of the 4-H show arena, Lucinda Blair is hoping her daughter, Nora, will show dairy when she gets older. Although they don’t have any family members in the competition, it’s tradition for their family since Blair showed dairy when she was in 4-H and Phares was also involved in 4-H.

Blaire took away the concept of animal husbandry from doing the dairy show, she said, and creating a bond with animals.

One competitor, Nieko Engleking, who started dairy show in mini 4-H, said she’s learned more about animal emotions and understanding them.

“It’s taught me that, for cows, they are literally like big dogs,” Nieko said. “And they have emotions like humans, and when they’re done, they’re done … You have to respect them.”

Nieko was Grade Junior Champion in the Hancock County 4-H dairy show.

Nieko’s grandma, Bonnie Clay, said Nieko’s become more responsible taking care of a cow and has learned to be happy when she does well but also understanding when she doesn’t do as well.

Blair also learned about hard work and determination with her time in dairy show, saying you can’t just leave them to do other activities and you have to take care of them daily.

For Wesley Engleking, a 12-year old who has competed in dairy show for three years, dairy has taught him to pay attention more, including when the judge walks around and talks on the microphone during competition and outside of showing as well.

“My friends do other things and they get done earlier,” Wesley said. “So I have to sit and watch my cows, you know, and they all kind of [ask] me to play and all that when I have to watch my cows and just pay attention …”

He said he tells his friends “no” in situations like this and was Jersey Junior Champion, Jersey Senior Champion and Champion Junior Showman in the 2022 dairy show.

Laura Phares, Blair’s mother and Nora’s grandmother, was a 10-year member and her parents participated in 4-H. She believes it is a wonderful program for kids.

“It teaches them a lot of different skills that you can’t learn outside of here, including [in] regular school,” she said.

Marla Stone, mother of four competitors in the dairy competition, said her family has always shown dairy and 4-H has been in her family for a long time. She believes showing dairy is a lot of responsibility.

“I’ve gotten compliments about my kids on how they take care of things,” she said. “But they learn responsibility and they learn to respect judges too …”

Right outside the arena, where many competitors stand with their cows, a sign reads: “Somewhere in this barn, there is a little kid that wants to be just like you someday. You owe it to them to be the best you can be.”

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