Raising beef teaches youth about industry


— Some of Routt County's finest young people were working their animals and showing off months' worth of work, time and responsibility at the 4-H and Future Farmers of America Beef Showmanship and Market Beef Show at the Routt County Fair Friday in Hayden.
This year, about 30 contestants and 71 steers participated in the event.
"This is it for the market steer," 4-H extension agent Jay Whaley said.
The only thing left to do after the animals are shown and judged is sell them at the livestock sale on Saturday, where buyers will take the animal to slaughter after their purchase.
That can be a traumatic experience for the younger participants, as 16-year-old Kaylee Myers remembered.
"My first year, I was really attached to them," she said.
The steers usually bring in $300 to $500.
Myers raised two animals for the beef show, one for the showmanship and the other for market beef.
In showmanship, the judge looks at the boys and girls themselves, and how well they control and groom their animals.
The judge also asks the children questions, and then rates them on the content of their answers and their overall disposition.
For the older age groups, the questions are more technical, focusing on the cattle industry, while the younger classes are challenged to give answers about details of the animals.
"It just depends on how you work with the animal," Zane Younglund said. He said a good show is really dependent on how the animal acts.
"Everything goes fine as long as it's a broken-in steer and it's relaxed," he said.
Younglund, 14, showed his 1,310-pound steer named George in both competitions.
In the meat market show, he explained that the judge looks at the animal and how it's built.
"They look at muscle and fat," he said.
Whaley said the judge goes by the today's industry standards, focusing on quality grade, which is fat content in the meat, and yield grade, which is muscle compared to fat.
Ideally, a steer should have a yield grade of two, meaning mostly muscle and a little fat, Whaley said.
The judge also peeks into record books kept by the 4H and FFA members to look at the amount of feed that was used and to check the weight gain of the animal.
Steers must be at least 1,000 pounds to show in the fair. At the steer weigh-in last February, most of the animals weighed around 500 pounds. At that time, the youngsters set a target weight, which is usually more than double the weigh-in weight. This year's steers average around 1,250 pounds.
A veteran of the county fair beef showing, Tyler Knott, 17, said he enjoys raising the steers, even though it's a lot of work.
"Four hours a day, just doing chores," he said of his responsibilities.
But that type of work ethic, which 4-H and FFA teach, is why Beryl Rienks has been the announcer for the show for 31 years.
"I love these kids. They're good kids and they make good friends doing it," he said. "I definitely love doing it."

To reach Doug Crowl call 871-4206 or e-mail dcrowl@amigo.net


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