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  • Farrah Newberry

Dairy Whites Set Us Apart

Go ahead – call me old-fashioned, but I love traditions and history. When choosing names for my children, my husband and I tied family names from generations past to each child’s name – Dorothy, Clara and Ezekiel. I think it’s important to honor family members and to carry on American traditions.

Another tradition that I have grown to love (don’t shoot me show moms) are dairy whites. Yes, dairy show clothes are a mother’s worst laundry nightmare, but it’s a tradition that belongs only to Dairy. Our youth standout at state shows among exhibitors of other species; and proudly represent our industry without having to say a word.

This past weekend at the state show, I heard several kids and parents say things like: “Why do dairy exhibitors wear white”, “White clothes make no sense with all of the dirt, water and manure splashing around”, or “I hate washing white show pants!!”

Many conversations at dairy shows often focus on the fact that it was and still is a poor choice to be dressed all in white while working with animals. I agree - It is hard work scrubbing stains out of white show clothes! And I have definitely said my share of complaints as well. But, comments from the show this past weekend prompted me to do a little research when I came home on the history of dairy whites in the show ring. Here is what I found:

  • During the early 1900’s, the concept of 4-H was developed and soon after that youth started displaying animals for judging which included the ability to show the animal to its greatest advantage or “Showmanship”.

  • Many guidelines for animal showmanship were developed and depended on what species and part of the U.S. one lived in. However, the majority of the guidelines were similar to that of the American Holstein Foundation showmanship recommendations. They state that one must wear white pants and shirt, be clean and neat, and do not wear anything that will draw attention to the showman instead of the animal. Farm names, logos, wording or flashy colors can distract from the animal itself.

  • Animal agriculture is the start of the food process and white represents sterility. It also provides a clean uniform appearance that gives all the kids an impartial look that does not distract from judging the animal.

  • Wearing white in the dairy show ring is a tradition and the way it has always been done.

As you can see, there is no clear reason as to why dairy wears white in the show ring. There are some valid points above, but the most important one I believe is tradition – the way it has always been done.

Traditions build relationships between generations. Traditions are stories, beliefs, rituals and customs that are passed from one generation to the next and keeping them helps to teach children values. It fills an individual’s need to belong, provides a sense of continuity and a routine that one can depend on year after year.

So as I scrub my daughter’s whites this week I will try to think about the good reasons for wearing white in the dairy show ring. Just hope the other show moms reading this don’t throw any poop on me, or my daughter, at the next dairy show!!

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