Adam Hirl leads his calf around the ring during the cow-calf class of the beef show.


The beef show is one of the longest shows at the Great Jones County Fair on an annual basis. Beef entries, first heifers then market entries, paraded into the ring July 19 in the midst of a heat wave.

Before that, however, the show starts off with a few classes of cow-calf pairs. In these categories, contestants are judged, not on a single entry, but how mother and calf look as a pair. The uniqueness adds to the difficulty.

“You have to get them both to look good. You have to get them both really clean, get the hair fluffed up and make them look as big as possible,” Adam Hirl said, of the Olin FFA.

Practicing walking is also key so that the pair, particularly the calf, are comfortable in the ring. Even during practice, they are walked at the same time if it can be arranged. Doing it that way allows the calf to know what to do by watching their mother, and having their mother in the ring with them helps the calf stay calm as well.

“The calf knows that mom’s there if anything happens and every now and then mom will try to look back and see if the calf’s there,” Hirl said. 

It may sound counterintuitive, but six years in to his cow-calf show career, Hirl said being able to have the two animals in the ring at the same time is actually easier for him than showing the normal singular beef entry.  

Last year, Adam had the reserve champion steer entry, but this year the Hirls limited their entries to cow-calf category, which he says is one of his favorites.

“It shows that you can work with both,” he said of why he liked it.

In recent years, the participation in that particular event has decrease, which Hirl said is disappointing. For him, the challenge of bringing a calf into a foreign situation where they’re surrounded by noise and activity, is balanced out by the accomplishment he feels by being able to show how far the animals have come over the course of the summer.

“It’s very fun,” he said.

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