Crouched in her pink, rubber boots on the barn floor, 10-year-old Jaycey Miller, of Westminster, sang "patty-cake, patty-cake," as she tapped her palms to three pigs' wet snouts as they eagerly poked them through the bars of their pen.

For the Carroll County 4-H and FFA Fair that takes place Aug. 1 to 8, Jaycey and her two sisters, Atley, 12, and Trinity, 13, will be showing their livestock in the Breeding and Showmanship categories as well as judging dairy cows and heifers, a cow that has not had a calf.


"They are soft but they are slimy," Jaycey said of the pigs' noses as she rinsed her hands off at the water spout in the barn after her game of patty-cake.

Jaycey will show two of the six pigs roaming the pen as well as one dairy heifer. Atley, who was weaving through the pigs as they followed her and her sisters around the pen, will show one pig, four dairy heifers and one steer, a castrated male bovine. Trinity, who was nudging a soccer ball through a pig's legs, will show one pig, two dairy heifers, one steer and one cow.

"When we were little, we would feed them marshmallows so they would follow us around," Trinity said of the pigs, whose curious wet noses investigated everything as their round rumps waddled to catch up to the next discovery.

All three girls will be showing all of their animals in the breeding category, which looks at the animal and how it matches the specifications of its breed. They will also be showing one animal from each species in the showmanship category, which looks at how well the girls have trained and cared for their animals.

The Miller girls did not stumble upon this hobby by chance when they were each about 7 years old. Their mom, Tanya Miller, showed dairy heifers when she was a girl, and the dairy farm where she grew up is visible from her and her husband's property.

"I've always had a passion for it, and it teaches them to work hard," Tanya said is the reason she passed the hobby on to her children.

From working on the farm with animals, Tanya said her children also understand the circle of life and have a greater appreciation for the work that farmers do to provide so much for the world.

"It makes them hard working. It makes them more responsible. It makes them put their phones down. … It makes them grow up," said their father, C.J. Miller.

All three girls are responsible for caring for their animals. They have to feed them twice a day, keep their living area clean, and wash them at least once a week and sometimes every other day. They also have to walk the animals so that they are trained to be led in the arena for a show.

"Leading up to a fair, I think it's a lot of work because you have to keep the pen clean; you have to keep them clean," Jaycey said of the everyday responsibilities that become more important before a show.

"And you have to train them so they're not crazy in the ring," Jaycey said.

Jaycey held up a whip, a stick with a flap of fabric on the end, to show what she will use to direct her pigs around the arena so that they always face the judges.

"[You] hit them on the sides of the neck, not butt because it messes up the meat," Jaycey explained.

On the other side of the barn, Trinity led Dieon, a dairy heifer by her halter around an open, outdoor cement slab. Trinity raised Dieon's head high as she would for a show and walked backward slowly as Dieon's lumbering body followed.


Trinity led Dieon's mother, Diego, at an international show called the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisconsin, three times. After the county level is state, junior national show and international show.

"It kind of makes me nervous, but I'm kind of used to it now," Trinity said of the national competitions.

The two steers, which are kept in a pen separate from the heifers, may be a bit shorter, but they are bigger and stronger, Tanya said, which is why this is Atley's first year showing a steer.

"At the beginning, when we first got them, because we'd never shown something this big, it was a little harder," Atley said.

When she leads her steer during a show, she holds the reins, not the halter like she would a heifer, Atley said.

"He's my friend. ... He's not mean to me anymore," Atley said of her steer, Rusty, as she threaded her fingers through the fur on top of the steers' heads.

In the open space on the open slab where two heifers already stood with harnesses, Jaycey added her calf, Powder, who she will be showing at the 4-H Fair. Powder's pink tongue looped around the harness Jaycey held in her hand.

"The most fun is getting to walk your animals and having fun with your friends," Jaycey said of the 4-H Fair.