The reigning super cow at the Kansas State Fair for the past two years was unseated at the Kansas State Fair in 2018, but she was beat by a member of her own herd.
The Super Cow/Calf competition at the Kansas State Fair judges cow and calf pairs brought by ranchers from around the state on their build, but also their ability to produce a high quality calf. The same pair from G3 Cattle in Uniontown, Kansas, won the event in 2016 and 2017. This year the pair returned, but was beaten out by another G3 pair.
“I keep thinking maybe I’ll just come and watch,” Gale George, who brought the Grand Champion pair, said. “But I can’t just come and not bring a cow.”
George won the super cow competition the past two years with a pair he brought again this year — one of three pairs he entered into the competition — but they didn’t take the crown this year. Another pair from his herd stepped up.
Statistics such as cow age, cow weight, calf weight and adjusted calf weight at 205 days are gathered on the cow and calf pairs entered into the Super Cow/Calf competition, and those stats are run through a data system which gives the pair an index score out of 100 possible points. The pairs are then brought to the fair and put in a pen in front of two judges. The judges each score the pair out of a possible 50 points for each judge.
Those scores are combined and added to the pair’s index, giving each pair a score out of 200 possible points.
“It’s the most real-world thing that happens at the fair,” Judge Tim Marshall said.
Show Superintendent Kent McKinnis agreed.
“The purpose of the index score is to measure the economics for the producer,” McKinnis said. “The competition is trying to see who can raise the biggest calf, with the least amount of input. If you can produce the same size calf with less feed and things given to the cow, you are saving money.”
Judges for the competition were Marshall and Ryan Breiner. The two looked at the size and structure of the calves, as well as the udder quality, body capacity, structure and femininity of the cows to give their scores, much like judges would in breeding classes for cattle at the state fair.
The index score from the data balances that with the economic productivity of the cow.
“Part of what we look at is what kind of job the cow is doing raising that calf,” Marshall said. “We want to see that she’s raising a big calf, but keeping enough conditioning on herself.”
The pair from G3 Cattle that took the grand champion place scored a perfect 100 on the index.
“That pair won on paper,” Marshall said. “The cow was a solid individual. She was functional, and blew the other entries away on the index. She wasn’t necessarily the best looking cow here today, but still a good cow and her stats put her over the top.”
The aspect of raising the best calf with the least input is what George looks for when picking pairs from his herd.
“The number one thing I look for is a good calf,” he said. “Then I look at the cow, and I may reject the cow if she doesn’t have a great udder or something else.”
He looks for a big calf coming off a small cow. That shows that the cow is doing her job well. The size of the cow isn’t always important. Ranchers make their money selling calves off their herd, so a cow that requires little input, but mothers big, beefy, good-looking calves is a money maker.
The event also offers a time for camaraderie and friendly competition between producers. George met with several other competitors after the event to catch up.
“It gives these old guys that used to show something to do after the kids grow up,” Kathy George, Gale’s wife, said following the event.
The couple’s two daughters showed at the state fair for many years before G3 ever entered into the Super Cow/Calf competition.
“The first year we came for this was 2001,” Gale George said. “All the years before that the girls had showed and it was the first year they were too old to show at the State Fair.”
G3 Cattle won that first year, too. They’ve entered at least one pair the 16 years since.
The competition places five pairs overall, as well as the top four pairs in each class.
Overall pairs following the G3 Grand Champion were pairs exhibited by MacKenzie Modlenhauer, Reserve Champion, Dallas Korte, third, Tom Carney, fourth, and Kent Rahmeier, fifth.