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Fitter Roundtable: Preparing to Show on the Coloured Shavings

Spring (show) fever is starting to hit many of us, to help feed that fever, here is a look back at a Fitter Roundtable that previously appeared in Cowsmopolitan.

Showing is a very competitive business, to get the edge over your fellow dairy exhibitors it is important to make sure your animals have the perfect clip job, a good fill and the perfect amount of milk in their udder to have them looking their best on that important day when they are judged on the coloured shavings. To help make sure that your cows are looking their best on that big day many of us hire cattle fitters to help get our animals out just right.

Cowsmopolitan Dairy Magazine had the opportunity to interview three great fitters in the industry to hear more about how they got involved and to get some tips for those who may want to pursue a career in cattle preparation. The three fitters we talked to were: Mathieu Chartrand from Outaouais, Quebec, Canada, Patrick Lundy from Granville, New York, USA, and Steve McLoughlin from Kildare, Ireland, UK.

Mathieu Chartrand – Outaouais, Quebec, Canada

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Mathieu and his son Mathis

I grew up on our family dairy farm. When I was 17 there was not enough room on the family farm for me and I wanted to get some experience so I left to work for Ferme Gillette in Ontario for a year. I acquired lots of expertise there, then I left and went back to agricultural school, at Centre de Formation Agricole de St-Scholastic, to get more skills and expertise. During school I had the opportunity to do an internship at Blondin Farm and after school they gave me a job where I worked for two years. Working for them is what made me fall in love with the show industry. I worked with my cousin who was a clipper and has taught me everything I know. Since then I worked for many breeders at the shows, meanwhile my sister took over our family farm so my girlfriend, Kelly Hardy, and I are actually in the process of buying her family farm, Ferme Hardy. When I’m not away at shows I’m working at the farm in Mirabel.

Patrick Lundy – Granville, New York, USA

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Patrick with his family, L-R, Reid, Russell, Bill, Regina, Patrick and Malcolm Lundy

I am 24 years old and grew up on our family dairy farm, Luncrest Farm. At our farm, in Eastern New York, we milk 150 registered Holsteins in a freestall dairy facility. I have three brothers, Russell, Reid and Malcolm. My parents Bill and Regina are at home on the farm and my one brother, Reid, is on the farm as well. I also work on the farm when I’m not away fitting at shows and sales. In 2010, I graduated from a two-year Agribusiness Diploma at the State University of New York Cobleskill.

Steve McLaughlin – Kildare, Ireland UK

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Steve leading Supreme Champion at the 2014 Borderway UK Dairy Expo, L-R Mark Rueth, Bill Nadin, Yasmin Bradbury, Steve McLoughlin holding Peak Goldwyn Rhapsody and David Sayce

I am 38 yrs of age and live in Kildare, Ireland. I have 2 children, Byron (14) and Nicole (12). I grew up on my parent’s dairy farm where we milked 60 cows and youngstock up until 1999, when we sold the cows and converted it to a stud farm. I went to college to study Business Management and worked in a bank for a year. I knew that wasn’t the right path for me, so in 2000 I left the bank and went back to what I knew best and started clipping full time. I also own some Holsteins and Shorthorns with my girlfriend Ann Maree Manley.

How long have you been involved in fitting and in the dairy industry?

Mathieu clipping L’ormiere Sultan Panini at International Dairy Showcase, with Kelly Hardy on the halter

Mathieu clipping L’ormiere Sultan Panini at International Dairy Showcase, with Kelly Hardy on the halter

Mathieu: I’ve been working in the dairy industry since I worked at Gillette when I was 17. When I turned 21 I started my fitting career and that’s what I have done ever since. I was in the Papineau 4H club in Outaouais for about four years and I won many showmanship competitions. When I started clipping more and working for people like Blondin I was to busy to be in 4H.

Fitter-Roundtable_DSC_8064Patrick: I started clipping about 8 years ago, when I was 16. I started out clipping for myself in 4H and the Junior Holstein Club. When I was 16 I started clipping more for other people. We have a nice herd of cows, but weren’t really too involved in showing. My brother bought a calf for 4H, Autumn Ridge Storm Murphy and she was four-time Junior All-American, that is what really sparked my interest. Since 2010, when I graduated from college, I have been clipping fulltime and I clipped a lot throughout college too.

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Steve clipping a Red and White heifer at Lausanne Swiss Expo 2014

Steve: I’ve been involved in the dairy industry all my life and as a kid I worked on my parent’s farm. I joined the Young Members Association (YMA), which is Ireland’s version of 4H when I was 12. I started showing calves and finished bottom of every class for a few years. I learned that if I worked my way up through the ranks I could achieve more and by the time I was finished, at 26 I had many class winners and a national calf show champion!

How did you get into fitting and what inspired you to pursue this career?

Mathieu: My cousin Francis Chartrand inspired me to get into fitting, he is a fitter and taught me everything I know. He worked for Pierre Dubeau and he was the first one to give me the opportunity to be in the show industry, it’s with him that I fell in love with the dairy business, and that’s when I started to work for other people. He gave me his passion for the show and introduced me to breeders.

Patrick: I got into fitting by going to shows. I liked to see how other people were clipping and preparing cattle and wanted to learn as much as I could from them at the shows to improve my own skills and technique. I really liked showing and it made me interested in looking at it as a potential career. I saw an opportunity to do what I like to do and work with great cattle all the time, it seemed like the perfect option.

Steve: I started clipping my own calves for shows, then neighbours asked me to clip their calves and it went from there. I got the showing bug and I was hooked. When I was at shows I would always watch what others were doing to see if I could learn new clipping techniques. Styles are always changing, plus when you work with cows you learn something new every day. That is one of the reasons I made this my full-time career, along with the chance to work with good cows, travelling, meeting new people and making lots of friends. One of the most appealing parts of the job is helping breeder’s dreams of winning a show become a reality. To me I’m a part of a team, 80% of winning a show is the work done at home the final 20% is done at the show.

Who have been or who are your mentors and what have they taught you?

Mathieu: My cousin Francis Chatrand has been my mentor, he trusted me and gave me my first chance and for that I will always be thankful. He has taught me everything I know about fitting cattle.

Patrick: When I first started going to shows and clipping, Jason and Jordan Thomas took me on the road with them to many shows. I learned a lot from them and made many connections in the industry through working with them. I’ve had the opportunity to work with many great cattle and great cow men, some of them that have influenced me most are: Pat Conroy, Nathan Thomas, Pat McGarr, Evan Creek, and Jason Danhof. One of the biggest influences on me has been Aaron Eaton. He has taught me a lot and helped me to improve my clipping. I also own some great cattle with him and we have worked with lots of great cattle together over the years. He has been a great friend to me and helped me to learn so much.

Steve: My dad was my first mentor and a true perfectionist. The most important thing he taught me was if you’re going to do a job, do it properly. I’ve been privileged to work and learn from a lot of brilliant people and am still learning. The common theme has been to treat the animal with respect, be calm, patient, and learn to understand what makes each individual cow tick. Cows are creatures of habit so having a proper routine is vital. It’s important to have a good open relationship with your customers, discussion and compromise is very important at the end of the day the breeder  works with the cows 365 days of the year we have them for a few days at the show. If I was to mention one other person, it would be Hardy Shore. I was lucky enough to work at Shoremar Holsteins in 1997 and Hardy taught me a lot about the industry.

How many weeks do you spend on the road and what are some highlights of the places you have been?

Mathieu: I spend about 38 weeks on the road or in a plane every year. The most exciting place I’ve been to is Switzerland. Switzerland is one of my favorite places to go, the people are amazing and it’s always a blast to see another lifestyle and learn in a different country. I also love going to Brazil, the people are really kind and the food is awesome. There is nothing quite like working in Quebec, here I work for Yvon Sicard, he gives me about 10 weeks of work per year and it’s always a pleasure to work with him, he is such a good breeder and such a nice person.

Patrick: I am on the road fitting a lot. In a year I am away about 45 weeks. When I’m not on the road I am pretty close to home, working on the farm. I really enjoy traveling for fitting and have had the opportunity to see many pretty cool places. So far I have had the opportunity to prepare cattle in Holland, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Brazil, Canada and Australia and many different states here in the US. All of the different countries I have been to have been great experiences and I have been able to work with many great cows.

Steve: I probably spend 36 weeks of the year on the road working abroad and the remainder of the year in Ireland. On average I do 25 shows and 6-8 sales a year. This year I’m counting the number of flights I make in the year and by the 1st of July I had already flown 26 times. I start in January, at Swiss Expo and finish in December at the Winter Fair in Belfast. Through the year I work a lot in the UK with Sterndale and Peak Holsteins, winners of UK Premier Herd in 2013. I also work in Germany, Holland, Sweden, Austria and Spain. The downside of the job is that I get to visit many beautiful countries but never get to take in the scenery; normally I go straight from the airport to the show grounds then back to the airport.

What is the biggest highlight of your career so far?

Kelly Hardy leading Sicy Ballet Atwood and Mathieu Chartrand leading Sicy Alisson Goldwyn at Expo Rive Nord.

Kelly Hardy leading Sicy Ballet Atwood and Mathieu Chartrand leading Sicy Alisson Goldwyn at Expo Rive Nord.

Mathieu: The biggest highlight of my career was in 2011, at the Quebec Spring Show, I worked for Blondin and we had the three Grand Champions with RockyMountain Talent Licorice, Pierstein Goldwyn Frisou and Safari Kelly Goldwin. That was one of the best moments at a show, even if I have others, this was a special one.

Patrick leading Luncrest Alex Wicked (now EX92) at the Eastern States Show, she was Reserve All New York Senior Two in 2012

Patrick leading Luncrest Alex Wicked (now EX92) at the Eastern States Show, she was Reserve All New York Senior Two in 2012

Patrick: It is hard to pick a highlight of my career so far, as I have been able to work with many great people and great cows. Last year I got to work with Fanico Reginald Marty, it was nice to work with her and clip her and get her ready to be Junior Champion at the Royal Winter Fair. I also worked with MD-Dun-Loafin Lauth Ellie in 2012 when she was Junior Champion at the Royal Winter Fair. I have enjoyed getting to work with so many good animals!

Steve’s children, Nicole and Byron McLoughlin with calves Bonaghmore Alexander Mac 1 and Bonaghmore Alexander Mac 2 at Kildare YMA Show.

Steve’s children, Nicole and Byron McLoughlin with calves Bonaghmore Alexander Mac 1 and Bonaghmore Alexander Mac 2 at Kildare YMA Show.

Steve: There have been many highlights. The first big wins are always special because you dream about them for so long before they happen. Winning the National Calf Show was my first big one. I have been involved with the Irish team’s success at the European Show in 2004. I’ve been very fortunate to win five of the last seven Nationals in Ireland with three different cows, for three different owners. Recently winning Supreme at the UK Dairy Expo for Sterndale and Peak with Peak Goldwyn Rhapsody EX-95, their first major championship and a culmination of five years of work since I started with them was amazing; that week I was at three shows in three different countries and had two Grand Champions and one Reserve Champion. Watching my kids compete in showmanship classes at the National Calf Show, with Nicole winning the junior showmanship class at nine years of age was also very special.

Do you have any advice for junior members about getting into fitting or showing?

Mathieu: My advice for junior members that want to start a fitting career, is that first start at the bottom instead of trying to start clipping for Grand Champion cows! In other words, start by practicing at home, the best way to improve is by asking questions to people and listen to them, that’s the most important thing. They need to practice, listen, and never be afraid to ask for help which is the best way to learn and to be on top one day.

Patrick: I would say the biggest thing to remember is even if the talent isn’t there yet for clipping, working hard is most important. Try to take everything in, learn from the people you are working for, listen and watch. Ask lots of questions, don’t be nervous to ask, the people you are working with will be happy to help you to learn more. It takes lots of practice and hard work. If you watch, listen and work hard, the rest will come.

Steve: I’m involved with YMA in Ireland and have written a handbook and made a DVD on preparing for shows and showmanship. I do workshops when I can; I like to give back after everything I have learned.

My advice is always the same: practice, practice, practice, to me perfection is the key to success. Showing is a very tough game, both mentally and physically, with long hours you’ve got to be prepared to work hard and start at the bottom and work your way up. Always keep your eyes and ears open to learn from the best. Be prepared to be the first person in the barn in the morning and last to leave at night. Most importantly be honest to yourself, to the cows you prepare and to the customer you work for.

What are your goals for your future in the dairy industry?

Mathieu: My goal is to farm with my girlfriend, Kelly, and manage the business with her, that’s always been my first goal. Fitting is a nice career, but one day I’ll have to be steady and that’s what I want to do. We hope to be a Master Breeder and maybe one day I will clip my own Grand Champion cow at the show; that would be my biggest dream.

Patrick: Fitting is great, I really enjoy working in the industry and working with great cattle at the shows. Eventually, I plan to go home to work on our family farm operation. I would like to continue improving our herd, through increasing the type and index of the cattle on our farm. I would like to milk a barn full of profitable high type and index cows.

Steve: My goal is simple, keep working, learning, and improving my skills and hopefully the good results will keep coming! I really enjoy judging both showmanship and cows, I’ve done many shows in Ireland and the UK and I’d like to pursue that more. Long-term, when I hang up my clippers I’d like to go back to managing a farm and milking cows again.

What cow stands out as your favourite cow that you’ve gotten ready?

Mathieu: Many cows stand out for me, but I work for Yvon Sicard at many shows and a very special one I have in mind is Cobequid Goldwyn Leno.

Patrick: Robrook Goldwyn Cameron stands out to me, she was 14 days fresh when I worked with her at Wisconsin State Show last year and she took home the Grand Champion honours that day. I also had the privilege to work with Page Crest Excitation Karlie, Champion Jersey at World Dairy Expo and Supreme Champion at the Royal Winter Fair. Some of my favourites that I’ve worked with might not be as famous or as well known, I have worked with so many great ones that I don’t think I can choose a favourite. I am honoured and very lucky to have people trust me to clip and prepare their best animals and I would like to thank them for their faith and trust in me.

Steve: I’ve been privileged to work with a lot of good cows. Two cows that come to mind are my most recent National Champions, Ridgefield Dundee Portea EX-95, owned by Pat and Derrick Frawley, Croagh Holsteins, Irish National Champion 2012 & 2013, and also Peak Goldwyn Rhapsody EX-95, owned by Sterndale and Peak Holsteins, Supreme Champion of UK Dairy Expo 2014. Both are similar cows, wide, powerful, balanced cows that are aggressive eaters that you can bag square. They are no nonsense cows, just keep the food in front of them and let them get on it with it, more importantly they have the qualities that the commercial dairy farmer outside of the ring wants which is very important for sales, which at the end of the day pays the bills.

Written by: Katie Hunter

 

 


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