The Sooner State Dairy Show has returned to the Payne County Expo Center for another year of showcasing the best the Oklahoma dairy industry has to offer. The organizers expect several hundred entries.

Competitors began checking in on Wednesday and were busy on Thursday grooming their cattle, a process known in the world of livestock showing as "fitting."

The Sooner State schedule includes showmanship competitions in additon to the actual livestock show. The competition kicked off Thursday with Pee Wee Showmanship for children age 5 or younger.

Jennifer York of Brown Cow Soap in Durham, said people who aren't familiar with dairy cows are often concerned about how skinny they look compared to beef cattle breeds.

"They eat a ton," she said. "But all that food goes into making milk, not making them roly poly."

Brasen McDaniel, a Perkins-Tryon student entering his sophomore year, was preparing to clip his milking shorthorn heifer Prosper. He will clip her legs and body in a process that takes about 30 minutes.

McDaniel says dairy heifers are judged on structural qualities like depth of rib, body width, heart depth and the length of their legs and necks. They should have a feminine look, he said.

For cows that are producing milk, their udder becomes a big part of the equation. It's 40% of their placement.

York says dairy cows are pretty pampered. She pointed out the $2,500 coolers and $400 fans competitiors invest in and haul to shows to keep their ladies cool and comfortable. 

It's important to treat your cows safe, cool and healthy, if you want them to produce a good product, she said.

York has a small herd of Jerseys that she milks to produce soap. She prefers their milk to other breeds because the fat content is higher. She says she doesn't show much.

"We love our girls so once a year we make the trip over here to show them off," she said. "It's like a beauty pageant."

Twitter: @mcharlesNP