What it takes to exhibit your cow in expo

Friday September 18 2015

Exhibitors in a parade with their livestock who qualified as the best in different categories at the Mombasa International Agricultural Show in Mkomani in this photo taken on August 26, 2015. Once you know where the exhibition will be held and when, get in touch with the organisers. They will help you know a number of things. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT

Stakeholders in the crops, livestock, wildlife, agro-finance and agro-chemical sectors, among others, are entitled to annual live show events organised the Agricultural Society of Kenya (ASK).

Normally, this is an opportunity to showcase what they have, thus, attract more clients and build their names and brand. This article will focus on the livestock industry, specifically, the dairy cows and we discuss what it takes to exhibit your animals.

It all begins with knowing where the contest will be held. ASK holds shows in Mombasa, Nakuru, Nairobi, Kisumu, Eldoret, Kitale and Meru, among others. Some of the fairs are regional, others national and international.

Once you know where the exhibition will be held and when, get in touch with the organisers. They will help you know a number of things such as;

  •  Shows normally run for several days but knowing the actual schedule dates for, for instance, the livestock contest, is crucial for your preparation.

  •  The cow breeds required and how many you are allowed to exhibit based on charges and space allocation. It would be in appropriate for you to show up with a crossbreed where only specific dairy cattle breeds are required.

  •  The classing of cows. This will assist you identify the appropriate class to slot your cows. For example, if you feel your cow has good udder characteristics but cannot beat cows from other competitors, then you can register for the Best Udder Award.

  •  Cost of registration to exhibit your animals.

  •  Information on what cash awards are on offer for various categories such as champions, reserve champions, first and second runners up.  This will help you reflect on whether you can recoup the costs incurred for the show period.

  •  The total cost you are likely to incur for participating in the exhibition and also whether the organisers will help in meeting part of these cost such as transport and feeding animals during the show period. 

  •  If the exhibitor will reimburse whole or part of the transport cost as happens with ASK shows. This can help to minimise cost of exhibiting.

  •  An often overlooked issue is the security and safety of your animals during transportation and also during the show period.  It is, therefore, important to get clear information on who will meet the cost in case of injuries or even loss of the livestock exhibit during the show period.  The ASK normally meets the cost of insurance cover when the animals are within the confinement of the showground but not during transportation to and from the Show.

  • Remember also to enquire on the period you are expected to be in the show to help you plan  on amounts of feeds to carry for your cows or and early arrangement for transport back to your farm.

  •  The health regulations such as vaccination and quarantine restrictions among other requirements.
  • Once you have the details, then shift your attention to farm and animal factors.  First, you must have and provide a certificate of registration of your cows with the Dairy Recording Service of Kenya (DRSK) or Kenya Stud Book (KSB).

This implies that to participate in the show, you must have all the animal records, both for performance and breeding. Breeding records must clearly indicate whether the animal is Foundation, Intermediate, Appendix or Pedigree whereas performance records indicate production.


Having the records is important because potential buyers will demand them to know the background of the cow. The DRSK must validate the records provided by the farmer and standardise the butter fat content of milk produced to ensure buyers are not cheated.

Second, the farm where your animal comes from is important. The name of the farm, area or location and what it deals with must be captured. This is useful in making the cattle judging catalogue. It is important that farmers make laminated posters showing the name of the animal and breed and performance.  Posters containing this vital information should be hanged around the stalls where your animals are located. They come in handy during photo sessions in case you win.


Cows to be exhibited must be well-trained to ease parading and marching in the cattle ring. Shows are public domain areas and animals that behave “wild” are not acceptable. After identifying the cow to exhibit from your herd, grooming her starts immediately in preparation for the contest day. Grooming involves brushing her hair smoothly to give her a neat and admirable appearance for presentation purposes. Cutting short her hair and clipping the hair under the belly make part of this. Grooming enables your cow to show strong points during competition.

Knowing what the judges look for in the dairy cows is crucial to guide you in selecting your best animals for exhibition. In the ring, a number of factors are examined, including alertness of the cow and the general features of an ideal dairy cow. They are:

a) The frame of the cow that constitute the rump, front legs which should be well set, stature of the animal and the breed characteristics. The loin should be strong and broad and show more proportionate height at withers and hips.

b) Dairy strength looking at the characteristics that support production and longevity. They are width of the chest, well sprung ribs, her chest, pliable skin, neck and the general body condition that is appropriate with the stage of lactation. Ideally, the cow should show more of the dairy rather than beef type conformation.  The cow should be light and narrow from the back towards the head.

c) Movement of the animal is also examined. Her walking gait should be with ease such that the rear feet nearly replaces the front feet.

d) The udder traits should be super as this is the centre of attraction for a dairy cow.  The udder should be fairly large extending both forward and backward and with good depth and well balanced.  It should have four medium-sized well-placed teats pointing downwards and not sideways for ease of milking. The size and proper placement of teats is important as too small or too large teats can have challenges during machine milking. The udder should not be pendulous, besides being well balanced and showing a clear symmetry. The teats should be properly placed and have uniform size and clear strong suspensory ligaments should be evident. The udder should be well attached to the body wall and show prominent milk veins and mammary veins.

Generally, the desired characteristics must show strength and balance. Each breed should have distinct characteristics, for example the Jersey should have the dished face with the brown colour. Undesired dairy characteristics will lead to low marks.

With this information, you can now adequately prepare to exhibit your cow in the many livestock exhibitions. Besides the ASK shows, others include field days by Kenya Livestock Producers Association.


Accurate record keeping helps a farmer to optimise production and maximise profit.

Record keeping assists the farmer to keep track of their farming enterprise, analyse their efficiency and quickly detect changes in production and implement corrective measures swiftly.

There has been a continual misconception by farmers that records are difficult to keep and have no value addition. 



Dr P.K Migwi is a senior lecturer, Department of Animal Sciences, Egerton University and also the chairman, livestock sub-committee of ASK Nakuru Show, Central Rift Branch.

Felix Opinya works in the Department of Animal Sciences, Egerton University.