By Tom Collins
TORONTO — The grand champion 4-H showperson at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair last month spent a lot of time getting her calf ready for the noise of a large arena. She waved plastic bags in front of the calf’s face, played loud music and even instructed her boyfriend to run up to the cow and yell.
Vankleek Hill’s Ariane France was named grand champion showperson at the Nov. 8 Canadian 4-H Dairy Classic in Toronto, beating out about 350 competitors from Ontario, Quebec, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. This is France’s last year in 4-H, and she leaves with an impressive resume.
Besides winning multiple times at county shows, she was also grand showperson at back-to-back regional 4-H shows at the Metcalfe Fair.
She said that young 4-Hers need to be passionate about showing if they want to succeed.
“It’s just about work, work, work,” said France, who turns 22 this month. “You’ve got to have the passion for it. All the time you spend scrubbing and clipping your calf and getting ready for the fairs, that’s really what makes the difference when you get to the show ring. I’d say 99 per cent of the work is done at home.”
France spent plenty of time getting her calf, Bonnie Brae Ape McKenna, ready for the noise that might accompany the shows. It’s easy for a calf to get spooked by a kid running up to the ring and yelling because they’re excited to see a cow. So practice included startling noises and moving objects. She even took the calf for walks along the side of the road to get it used to passing cars.
“It’s a lot of noise and it will scare her the first few times but eventually she doesn’t even care anymore,” said France. “It is Vankleek Hill, so I’ve got to say I don’t think people are that surprised by a cow walking on the side of the road.”
All the extra work paid off. Judge John Werry of Loa-De-Mede Farms in Oshawa told the Royal spectators it seemed liked France and McKenna were communicating telepathically.
“My goal was to try to make it look like I wasn’t doing anything at all,” said France. “It shouldn’t look like you’re doing something in the ring. It should look like you’re doing nothing.”
France also credited her success to her coach, Kelsey Mode, and the calves that were loaned to her from Bonnie Brae Farms. France grew up on a non-dairy hobby farm and is in her last year of undergrad at the University of Guelph. She plans to study veterinary medicine and wants to work in the cattle reproduction or artificial insemination field.
The Royal was bittersweet for France as this year was her last appearance. “I was a little sad going in, but I have to say now, I’ve kind of achieved everything I wanted to, so I’m not so sad anymore.”