By Brandy Harrison
VANKLEEK HILL When the lights came on at the big show in Toronto, Kenny McRae had his game face on, daring the judge to notice.
“You have to have that look on your face that you want it more than everybody else. You can almost see it from the stands,” says the 21-year-old from Vankleek Hill, who impressed judge Jeff West enough to get the nod as champion showman at the dairy 4-H classic during the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. “Youre in the ring with 30 or 40 other kids. You have to do something to make him concentrate on just you.”
The little things make the difference in elite company and you have to be flawless, says McRae, who is in his final year of the agriculture program at the University of Guelph.
“If your calf acts up at the wrong time, youre out of contention. Thats what youre doing all year making sure shes right on the money and you are too,” he says. “You get to the point where you could do it with your eyes closed.”
McRae was undefeated in showmanship all year and had a top three finish in September out of 130 youth at the European Young Breeders School in Battice, Belgium.
“It was kind of a storybook ending on a year like this,” says McRae, crediting the feedback and coaching from neighbour Kelsey Mode, who runs Bonnie Brae Holsteins with her parents, Bruce and Susan. “You can practice all you want, but you dont get to see yourself show.”
Eastern Ontario was also home to the champion 4-H calf, Belfast Doorman Lovestruck.
Alex Chabot knew she had a good calf she was reserve junior champion at the Eastern Ontario-Western Quebec Championship Show in October but was stunned when her calf was judge Chris Lahmers choice.
“When she walked into the ring, he fell in love with her,” says the 19-year-old, who co-owns the calf with her mother, Marianne Janssen of Mary Inn Holsteins in Embrun, and the breeders, her uncles, Robert and Denis Chabot of La Ferme Belfast Holstein ENR in Saint-Patrice-de-Beaurivage, Que. “Shes just so fancy and dairy. That gives her an edge over a lot of heifers.”
Fresh off the win, the calf commanded top dollar at the open show, but Chabot is glad the easy-going calf will overwinter in their barn.
“I love her. Even though we sold her, shes still my baby.”