Riley Cochran, 12: "I drive anything around the farm with a steering wheel on it"Recalls his first Haywood County Fair farm show at only age 4
Riley Cochran, a 12-year-old seventh grader at Waynesville Middle School, vividly remembers his first time showing cows in the dairy show at the Haywood County Fair.
It was a hot August weekend in 2005 and he was only 4 years old.
“What I remember about that was I walked in the rain and showed a cow that weighed 1,250 pounds and every step I took she took and every time I stopped, she stopped,” he said.
He wore cowboy boots and a big cowboy hat and a big belt buckle with a picture of a man on a horse roping a calf that his cousin Scotty Cochran, who passed away in 2009 after a farming accident, gave him.
“At the end when the judge asked me what my cow’s name was, I was bashful and didn’t talk and I remember he said to everybody in the crowd, ‘Well, I guess he came to show, not to talk!’” Cochran recalled.
Every year since 2005, Cochran has showed cows in the dairy show and hogs in the swine show at the Haywood County Fair and began competing at the age of 9 — the official competing starting age. Since then, he has won numerous trophies and awards, including Grand Champion in both the dairy and swine shows.
Cochran makes the show look easy, but it is really a lot of hard work, starting months before the show back at Cochran Farms on Hyatt Creek Road in Waynesville.
“We have to break the calves by putting a rope on them and pulling them to lead and we have to work with the hogs so they know you are trying to get them to go a certain way,” explained Cochran.
During the shows, Cochran says, the judges are very strict and judge based on a variety of aspects of the show including the position of the cow or hog, how well the animal is led in the show and the direct, constant eye contact from the show person to the judge. “You have to keep your eye on the judge the whole time,” explained Cochran, noting that he learned more and more how to show animals as he practiced over the years.
“Mainly my older brother Samuel taught me,” he added.
When fair-goers watch Cochran show cows and hogs at the fair this weekend, they will likely be able to tell that he is at home in the dirt leading a cow or hog around. After all, he works daily on his family’s farm and loves every minute of it. Neighbors on Hyatt Creek Road often see him milk cows, lead cows across the road, feed and water hogs, bring in slop for the hogs, put hay up, get ground ready to plant corn and drive trucks, backhoes and tractors around on the farm.
“I drive anything that has a steering wheel on it,” he said.
This weekend, the two calves Cochran will be showing are named Alex and Bridgett. “We named one Alex because its Daddy was named Alexander and the other one we named Bridgett because Bridges was the last name of the people we bought her Mama off of,” noted Cochran.
“My favorite part of showing animals is the money I get out of it,” he joked.
“No, really, I’ve done it about my whole life and I really do like it,” he added. “What I would like to say to the younger kids out there showing animals this weekend is to just be proud of what you’re doing and don’t give up.”
Look for Cochran and other young people from local farms in the dairy show at 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 24 at the Burley Livestock Barn and the swine show at 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 25, also at the Burley Livestock Barn, at the Haywood County Fair.