Dwarfed by a cow named Judy, 6-year-old Paul Buttars led the Holstein about the show ring with ease Thursday.
"It was fun. I was going to show her last year, but I didn't because I was too scared," he said.But Buttars of Lewiston, Cache County, seemed pleased with himself, his docile cow and the blue ribbon he received for participating in the Kiddie Class of the the 62nd annual Plain City Dairy Days. The Kiddie Class features children nine and younger, some of them mere toddlers.
Dairy Days, held in the Golden Spike Arena at the Weber County Fairgrounds, is Utah's largest and oldest all-breeds dairy show. The show concluded Friday.
Thursday's contest was just for kids as children from throughout Utah competed in conformation and showmanship classes in Holstein, Jersey and Guernsey breeds. Friday's contest featured adult competitors.
When they weren't in the show ring, children played among themselves, somehow oblivious to the crisis brewing in the dairy industry.
Their parents, however, huddled in small groups to bemoan the low prices they have received recently for raw milk. Uncertainty shrouded the arena like a specter.
Milk prices at the farm level have dropped to their lowest levels in more than a decade. Meanwhile, milk surpluses have continued to rise.
The family farm is in danger of extinction, competitors said.
Kyle Anderson of Newton, Cache County, said the crisis is hitting home on a number of family farms.
"If it stays where it is, there's going to be a lot of people going out," Anderson said.
Raw milk prices have dropped 30 percent to 35 percent in the last year, yet consumers continue to pay steep prices for dairy products, industry officials say.
"There's no way you can survive," Anderson said. "A lot of people are in business now only because they bought their feed in the fall."
Despite the grim outlook for the dairy business, most of the contestants welcomed Dairy Days, the first dairy show of the season.
Anderson, who started showing cattle when he was 8 years old, said the shows enable young children to learn to handle cattle and compare their cattle to others. He judged the Holstein junior division on Thursday.
"When you come out here with the best cattle in the state you know where you stand," Anderson said.