By Tom Collins
BELGIUM — It was an unusual judge’s request. He asked two showpeople to switch animals during competition. The rare decision paid off for one Ontario youth who was named honourable mention showperson in an international competition.
Hasting County’s Vanessa Crowley, was one of six Canadians that made the trip to Battice, in Belgium, to the Aug. 30 to Sept. 3 European Young Breeding School.
“We pulled into line, he grabbed my heifer and said ‘you go to this participant’s calf and he’ll switch with you’,” she said. “That was midway through the class. I was like, ‘okay, I’ve got to remember what to do here to make it look like I know what I’m doing with the new calf.’”
The switch worked in Crowley’s favour. Although she showed the new calf for only four minutes, it was enough to earn her second place in her class. The competitor she switched with dropped from first to fourth.
Finishing second in her class put Crowley in the finals, where she was named honourable mention showperson. Quebec’s Alana McKinven was named top showperson.
It was the second time Crowley had been asked to switch animals while in the ring. The first time was when she was 15 years old at an intermediate 4-H show. For that show, she recalled she was in first place prior to the switch and stayed there.
Crowley, whose family runs Crovalley Holsteins at Hastings in Peterborough County, now works at TD Bank in Guelph. She said that switching calves is designed to help differentiate two close competitors.
“It’s really just a test to see how you react to different calves and how you handle them under the pressure right away,” she said. “It’s a good way to separate two participants because they’re so close.”
Another feature of the competition is the tight timeline. The event started on Aug. 30, with immediate workshops on washing, clipping and how to lead a calf.
Many young Ontario showpeople are used to practising leading a calf for an hour a day for weeks and even months before a show. Crowley could only practise with her designated calf 10 to 15 minutes at a time during down time, which she estimated was about 90 minutes total over three days.
All 135 participants aged 15 to 25 were from Canada, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Poland, Ireland, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Belgium.
They were judged on an accumulation of showmanship, clipping abilities, two quizzes based on marketing and classification, and two judging classes. Crowley finished seventh overall in points and had the second-best Canadian showing. Five of the six Canadians finished in the top 20. Oxford County’s Trent Jones finished 18th. Martin Rypma from British Columbia was the highest-ranked Canadian, finishing fourth.