ZEBULON -- Caroline Creech and her cows, Molly and John Wayne, made a name for themselves at the N.C. State Fair Beef Show, winning Reserve Grand Champion awards in the Santa Gertrudis breed category.
It was only the second year Creech, 17, and her cows, 18 months, competed in the State Fair contest, so she was surprised to come away with the second place awards – second receives Reserve Grand Champion; first place is awarded Grand Champion – for both bull and heifer.
“I’ve had division winners, but never had a grand champion,” Creech said. “I was pretty surprised with two grand champions, but I was excited also. I worked hard to make sure they looked good.”
So good that Creech competed in the Juniors and Open Shows and came out a winner in both.
Besides the Reserve Grand Champions, in the Open Show, John Wayne was also named Best of Polled Bulls – bulls that do not have horns.
In the Junior Show, Molly also won Grand Champion. And Creech had the Junior Reserve Grand Champion with another heifer, Rose.
Creech’s family raises Santa Gertrudis cows at Creech Farms outside Zebulon. She described the breed as cherry-red colored cattle that are a combination of Brahmin and Short-Horned cattle.
“The Short-Horned (side) is where they get their thickness,” Creech said.
“Brahmin give them their heat tolerance because they come from India – they were originally brought to Texas. Most cows in the summer are under the trees, our breed are out grazing, even in the 100 degree heat.”
Creech said her father first raised Santa Gertrudis in the 1980s, but she got her start when the family began raising them again in 2005.
By 2009, Creech was raising and showing her cattle in competition.
“They are like humans”
Creech said it takes a lot of work. Raising a cow for show is an involved process.
“You have to be around them, feed them, make sure they have plenty of water and hay, brush them and work with them,” Creech said.
“You start when they’re weaned. Some are easier than others. They are like humans; they each have different personalities,” she said.
Creech said the hardest part of raising cows for show is devoting all your time to it.
“It teaches you a lot about work ethic,” Creech said. “They have got to get used to you. You have to be around them every day and you have to be calm around them.”
Creech said you have to be calm so the cows can first get used to you, then they can get used to being around other people when they are brought to shows.
“It takes months to get them to walk for you and stay calm around people,” Creech said.
“I try to work with mine to walk into set up position.”
When the cattle are shown, they are walked into a ring and stopped at a point where the judge can look at them, Creech said. Then the judge says what they want to see – the cows are either walked around the ring or turned around – but to make a good impression you don’t want an unruly cow wandering around on its own.
“If they are acting fine, you can leave them (in place). If they keep walking, you try to circle them back (to set position),” she said.
Creech didn’t have any problems with any of her cattle.
“Molly is really friendly, she always has been. She likes everyone and she is easy to handle,” Creech said. “John Wayne, like his dad and granddad, is a gentle bull. He’s really calm and easygoing, but he’s almost lazy.”
Creech said the awards for her cattle’s showing at the State Fair included banners, ribbons and a couple hundred dollars in prize money.
“I saved it, I didn’t spend (any),” Creech said.
Her involvement in cattle shows has taken her beyond the state fair. Creech participated in the Junior Nationals in Texas and plans to return next year.
A senior at Corinth Holders High School, Creech is making plans for college, but she intends to continue showing cattle.
“The best part of raising and showing cows, my favorite part, is making friends from every state and all across the country,” Creech said.
“It’s a lot of fun.”