Brett Moriarty of Fort Worth, Texas, the livestock judge for Friday’s “All other Breeds” open cattle show at MontanaFair, is a pretty good judge of livestock — and he knows a thing or two about the children who work hard to prepare their cattle for Moriarty’s practiced gaze.

“I love working with kids and quality cattle,” he said minutes before Friday’s competition began. “If I could do both of those on a beach, I’d never leave.”

Having been a kid in a show ring himself, Moriarty said he can relate to the anxiety that FFA and 4-H youngsters often feel entering the ring to show their animal.

“If they need a hello or a smile, they’ll get it,” he said. “These kids are friendlier than I ever was, and they’re good communicators.”

He said he particularly enjoys chatting with and judging cattle entered by younger children.

“When it’s their first or second time, you can see the passion they bring, and that’s refreshing,” he said.

Those younger entrants quickly learn that “constructive feedback is part of life,” he said.

“It’s an important piece of showing livestock. There’s always someone better,” he said. “But it’s humbling to be in the ring with people who trust your judgment. How to get better is not always fun to hear, but it can change your life going forward.”

FFA and 4-H youth were busy Friday morning readying their entries for those few minutes under Moriarty’s watchful eye.

Cody Johannes, 15, of Worden, was washing off a calf named Tim, the black Angus offspring of Minnie, which Cody acquired to begin his herd as a gift during last year’s Northern International Livestock Exposition. Cody was showing both mother and son Friday as a cow/calf team.

Preparing his calf involved using a hose and nozzle to spray Tim clean and blow-drying his hair before “working it forward to start fitting him to look good for the show,” Cody said.

He admitted to a few nerves preparing to show the pair.

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“At MontanaFair, you do get a little nervous,” he said. “Small jackpot competitions are OK, but here you really want to win.”

Kolby Dietz and her sister Lexy of Shepherd were in the Expo Center representing Dietz Livestock Co. One cow, a Shorthorn cross named Sonar, carries that moniker because she can see only about 12 inches in front of her face.

“She’s the ringleader. Even though she’s blind, she leads everyone else around,” Kolby said with a laugh. “She sees a little bit, and when she runs, she’ll stop when she’s right up against the fence. She’s really fun to watch.”

In a separate portion of the Expo Center, Lacey Lanaghan, the poultry chair, was working with Heather Larkins, the rabbit chair, to give animals the once-over.

On the poultry no-no list: mites, mite eggs and bad-looking feathers. Rabbits free of skin issues and ear mites were welcomed to their cages.

“A lot of kids are really into this,” Lanaghan said during a brief breather from her check-in duties. “There are a lot of pretty birds here this morning.”

The birds proved fairly sedate as entrants gently carried their poultry to Lanaghan for inspection.

“Outside their environment,” she said, the birds "chill out a little.”

Some critters required a little extra attention. Keyara Mills-Low, 12, with the Project Rockin Wranglers 4-H Club in Huntley, noted that Mythic, her purebred Polish rabbit, “wants nothing but to lick me when I bring her here. It makes her stress go down.”

In addition to showing her rabbits, Keyara and her brother, Corbyn, 15, were set to enter some of the family’s 27 rabbits in Friday evening’s jumping competition. The rabbits are harnessed and guided through the course on a tiny leash. “They’re kind of like horse jumps,” said Ann Mills-Low, mother to the two. “They’re beautiful to watch when they jump like they’re supposed to.”

The weekend MontanaFair schedule is at www.montanafair.com.

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City Government Reporter

City reporter for The Billings Gazette.