Last year there were a dozen or so children meeting once or twice a week at High Roller Dairy on the outskirts of Hanford. This year there are 20 kids along with parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins helping prepare a small herd of dairy calves, heifers and cows for the Western Classic Dairy Show. You don’t really have to be family – once you visit the dairy community once, you are no longer an outsider, rather a family member.
“All the kids have a great time,” said Monica Mendes, who with her husband, Joe, own High Roller Dairy. Their daughter, Caitlin, and son, Blake, are young dairy exhibitors. “They have a great time learning about agriculture and cows.”
Nephews and nieces of the Mendes are also involved a well as children other Hanford and Tulare kids.
Eight-year-old Fernando Valadao lives on a dairy and enjoys training and showing cows.
“I like it, when my cow isn’t stubborn,” he said.
Yes, Black Beauty, as he calls his calf, can be stubborn, not wanting to learn to lead. Otherwise, she is easy to work with, he said.
Valadao’s cousin, Madeline Valadao, 11, is experiencing her first year as an exhibitor. While the animals are not new to her, as she is growing up on a dairy, the show arena is.
“I’ve always wanted to [show], but haven’t had a lot of time,” she said.
Her new-found friend, Summer Parriera, is helping her out. Parriera, also 11, has been showing for a few years learning from her parents, grandparents, cousins and friends. She is showing multiple animals this year, so the family is helping to prepare them.
“It’s fun,” she said. “Whenever I show, I feel happy. This is my hobby.”
Her hobby, and perhaps a future profession.
She helps Valadao with some of the little nuances in helping a cow to look good. For example, Valadao’s cow tends to tilt her head when being lead – Parriera gave her some tips to correct that.
And, if Parriera doesn’t have the answers, “I can always ask my dad,” Valadao said.
Her dad is Congressman David Valadao (CA-21). Growing up the congressman worked on the family dairy – he didn’t get involved too much with extra-curricular school activities, but he was a FFA member and did exhibit dairy cattle. He traveled to the Cow Palace and did have one cow make it to the State Fair, he said.
“It’s fun for them,” he said referring to his three children. “It’s their first time – they’re not used to it.”
It is also the first time for his wife, Terra. But, the family is getting into it and plans are for the kids to join 4-H and FFA. They also plan to show at the Kings County Fair, a couple of months after the Western Classic show.
Tularean Kalob Rebelo, 8, is having his first experience at showing as well. His calf, Brownie, a Jersey, was chosen for him and it’s a good fit. He is somewhat afraid of the larger animals, he said, but not of Brownie. Although, he has concerns about appearing in the show ring.
“I’m nervous,” he said, “There will be a lot of people.”
And, “What if she goes too fast? She might drag me.”
His mother, Bethany Rebelo, showed dairy in 4-H for 10 years.
“It teaches responsibility and discipline,” she said.
Derrek Rebelo, 12, will be showing two animals this year – a Jersey named Val, and his Holstein, Molly. He enjoys all aspects of preparing and showing, he said, and he generally just enjoys being around his cows.
He prefers to show Holsteins, he said, “they don’t stop and lay down.”
With the growing group of kids, there are more animals too, said Danielle Parriera, Summer’s mom, and organizer of the High Roller show group. This year, they will be taking between 25-30 animals to the Western Classic show.
“It takes team work,” she said. “Without a little help from everybody, it wouldn’t get done.”
The calves, heifers and cows are kept in special pens at the dairy for a few months leading up to the show. They are fed specific diets to their show string status along with their various ages. The Silvas, cousins to the Mendes, spend a lot of time at the dairy – Marc Anthony actually works their now – and he and his brother and sisters can be found cleaning out the pens and providing fresh bedding.
Most Saturdays, and sometimes Sundays or during the week, exhibitors and their families practice walking the show string, brushing the animals, bathing them, and analyzing what else needs to be done. The weekend just prior to showing the clippers come out for a final cleanup.
Some of the animals will remain at the dairy until the Kings County Fair in June. Others, especially those belonging to Tulare County kids, may be moved closer to home for housing through to the Tulare County Fair in September.
It’s a close-knit group of kids and family that makes this show group happen and there are others around the Valley, as well. Maybe it isn’t really about winning, but about participating. With show groups, such as that at High Roller Dairy, growing, so are the entries at dairy shows with 190 exhibitors showing more than 300 heads of cattle at Western Classic last year. The final entry count for this year’s show is expected show continued growth.