PALMETTO -- A big part of the Manatee County Fair is the livestock competition by area youngsters. The students buy dairy cows, beef cows, hogs, goats, chickens and rabbits. They raise them, care for them, then bring them to the fair hoping to win a prize.
ABC 7 talked to two Haille Middle School students who are putting it all on the line in the big livestock show.
You can find 13-year-old twins Hunter and Michael Fioretto in the cow stalls at the Manatee County Fair most of the time these days. Each has two dairy cows competing in the livestock show at the fair.
“The two cows I own currently are both Jerseys: Marley and Neara," says Hunter.
“I have two dairy heifers. One is a Guernsey, and one is a Jersey. My Jersey is named Patience, and my Guernsey is Lilly," says Michael.
Unfortunately, Patience doesn't live up to her name. "My twin brother Michael’s cow is very, very obnoxious; hates people, but she still likes him a bit."
And Michael admits he also likes her a bit. In fact both teens say they've become very attached to their cows. "We're supposed to treat them like farm animals, but many people treat them like pets. And they are a bit like dogs," says Hunter.
The boys have been feeding, milking, and grooming their cows for a long time, and now the big moment has finally come. The cows and their young owners are going to be judged as they parade across the ring.
The boys say showing a cow is an art. "When we show them, we keep their head up, move as slowly as possible so the judge can see the animal, and basically just talk to them to keep them calm," says Michael.
Their 4-H leader says through this, 4-H'ers learn poise under pressure, sportsmanship, and much more. Her own daughter was a 4-H member and took part in the livestock competition. "She learned the value of a dollar, because she paid for her animals and her feed out of her own money. They learn record-keeping skills, because they’re required to do record books, which means they keep tabs on everything they do with their animal," says Lorie Jorgensen.
The boys’ dairy cows won't be auctioned off at like some of the livestock shown at the fair. So the twins won't be earning any money for all this. But there is the possibility of getting a scholarship. "Colleges begin to recognize your ability and they may offer some scholarships," says Michael.
The judging is Friday night, and you can come down on Saturday and Sunday and see who the winners are.