To say Jenna and Abby Tlach know how to pack a showbox would be an understatement. This sister team from Prole, Iowa, manages showboxes for two species, cattle and pigs, as they travel to local, state and national shows each year.
Thirteen-year-old Jenna says exhibiting her Maine and Chi heifers and show pigs means she is among an extended family at every show her family attends. Jenna loves the connections she has made at national junior breed shows and says her greatest moment in the ring was walking the white chalk line at the Iowa State Fair to lead her Champion Mainetainer heifer into the ring for Supreme Overall.
“The chalk line is a path for the kids to follow into the big show ring,” Jenna says. “But it’s also a symbol of how much of an honor it is to walk that line into the ring to show for Supreme. As you go into the ring the announcer is telling your name and breed over the microphone so it’s a great feeling to follow the white chalk line.”
Jenna’s Mainetainer heifer was also named third overall at the 2016 AkSarBen in Omaha, Nebraska, and she says it was the highest honor she’s received at a major livestock show.
Abby is 11 years old and also shows Maine and Chi heifers and pigs – mostly Yorks, Durocs and crossbreds. She was a member of a team this summer that won the fitting contest at both the National Junior Maine-Anjou and National Junior Chianina shows.
“I like getting to meet new people at shows, and it gives me a chance to experience things I might not have been able to without showing,” Abby says.
The Tlach girls have show power in their veins and in their showboxes. Here are their top, can’t-leave-home-without items.
1. Show halters. Abby says they are selective about their heifer halters because they are buckled just right for each heifer and the leather lead is cut to just the right length. At home the girls will practice with these halters and also oil them. Then, these essential items go right back into the box.
2. Show sticks and whips. When the Tlach sisters are not using their show sticks they can be found in the family’s show pickup. Each girl has a favorite, for Jenna it is a silver stick with pink zebra-striped tape on the top. Abby’s is a dark purple color and is just a bit shorter than her sisters. Their favorite pig whips are also put away in the pig show box.
3. Registration and health papers. The girls never want to experience the feeling of getting to a show without the right paperwork so their animals’ registration papers are a must-have item in the showbox. The Tlach family keeps all paperwork in a folder and blue binder in the box and even keeps a few of their older, retired heifer or gilt papers in the pockets as sentimental items.
“Mom always double checks this binder for us,” Jenna says. “We have to have the registration and health papers so we’ll go through the binder a few days before we leave.”
4. Vita Charge® Paste. This product is important to the girls’ daily routine, and they like to use it at shows the first night they arrive. When they unload heifers or pigs from the trailer the animal gets an oral dose of Vita Charge Paste (transitioned to Vita Charge® Gel July 2019) right away. Jenna says the paste keeps their heifers hair fresh and ensures the heifers and pigs stay on feed.
5. Sure Champ®. Every night, even at home, the Tlach sisters feed Sure Champ. They’ve noticed a difference when they don’t keep this product on hand so they work to be sure it is given at home with the evening feeding, and the Sure Champ bag also travels to shows.
6. A hair brush. The girls realize how important it is to look professional in the ring so they carry a hair brush of their own in the showboxes.
“If we forget it we’ve had to use a scotch comb,” Jenna says.
7. Deck of cards. When there is downtime at a show the girls sit with friends and play cards. They’ve also been known to keep a bit of fishing line and maybe a fake spider in the box for a little fun when people walk down the aisle. One of their favorite games is also to sit in a circle with friends and turn on a blower. Each person takes a turn balancing a scotch comb on the blower nozzle and passes it around the circle until it falls off.
8. Sure Champ stickers. At the shows, particularly national junior events, the Tlach sisters collect the different colored stickers, which tend to accumulate in the show box.
9. Show Coat. Both at home and at the shows, Jenna says they stick to a routine of spraying in Show Coat into their heifer’s hair. They believe it increases hair growth and in the summer they’ll mix in fly spray and Mane and Tail to the spray bottle.
10. Paper towels. Abby says the family always uses them and never seem to have enough.