The Hereford Junior National Show, held July 2-8, at the Nebraska State Fairgrounds in Grand Island, Neb., brought in some of the nation’s best Hereford cattle, and some of the most outstanding juniors in the breed.
A record setting 1,231 entries were evaluated, and two Nebraskan students came home with top honors. The grand champion horned owned heifer and the reserve grand champion owned polled heifer titles were won by Mitchell Tucker of North Platte, Neb. The champion junior AI heifer title went to Samantha Van De Walle of Cedar Rapids, Neb.
Tucker, who is just 13, competed against 215 horned heifers during the show, and co-owns the heifer JWG Miss Serendipity 1114 with his brother, Blake Tucker. The reserve champion polled heifer that he showed is named DSUL Mona Lisa 1245 ET.
Judge Eldon Krebs of Gordon, Neb., said these exhibitors deserve a standing ovation commenting on the entire owned female show. “This is an awesome set of livestock – I don’t care what breed it is,” he continued. “Unbelievable.”
Krebs commended the juniors with being involved in the livestock industry because it teaches them so much; it’s the best thing to put on a résumé. He added, “No woman or man has ever had the distinct privilege of witnessing an event like this. I’ve judged a lot of shows; I’ve judged a lot of breed events, and I’ve never seen this many good heifers under one roof.”
Winning the horned heifer show was a dream come true for Tucker. “I was so excited because I was in the winning circle this year. I thought she was good enough to win. My goal when I started showing cattle was to win a buckle. This year I won my first cattle buckle,” he said.
However, this was not the very first buckle he’s ever won. “This past year I started showing pigs, and I won the fair and won a belt buckle with a pig. I never thought I’d won a buckle with a pig. That was my first buckle,” he stated.
Tucker has shown cattle for several years alongside his brother, and going to and competing at shows is a family affair. “We do this as a family. I never grew up around it, but my husband did. I didn’t realize the magnitude of the Hereford nationals until the first year I went, and I’m amazed at who these kids come in contact with all over the nation. They probably don’t realize the magnitude of it now, but they will in 20 years. It was staggering the number of entries and the cattle that were there. We are so proud,” said Jill Tucker, Mitchell’s mother.
The Tucker family has a small herd of 10 cows. Both boys are involved in the daily activities with the cattle, from feeding to washing. “The biggest challenge with the cattle is the maintenance. We wash them, blow them out and clip them. There are little things we do that make a big difference at the show,” Mitchell Tucker said.
The family utilizes both artificial insemination and embryo transfer in their program. “All 10 cows are high quality enough to be donor cows, and will be used for that at some point,” said Jill Tucker. “We are lucky to be able to increase our numbers every year. We try to reinvest and grow our herd. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. However, quantity doesn’t matter to us as much as quality.”
Once the calves are born, the boys help with them and eventually will halter break them and use them to show. “I enjoy the fact of raising my own cattle, and seeing them when they were born and then watching them grow up, and then getting to show them,” Mitchell Tucker said.
“We are proud of the ones we raise,” added Jill Tucker.
Showing cattle is what both boys love to do, and Mitchell hopes to continue showing. “I love showing Herefords. It makes my grandpa happy, and I like showing Herefords because my brother has been showing them too. They are really gentle, and I get along with them pretty well,” Mitchell Tucker said.
Van De Walle’s heifer, JMS Mattie 104Y, was the champion in a division for heifers that are a result of participating in the NJHA Junior AI program, and allows youth to receive free semen and certificates.
Van De Walle, who is 20, has been showing cattle her entire life, and this was her 10th national show. “This show was exciting. It showed that all my hard work paid off,” she said.
She co-owns JMS Cattle Company with her two siblings Josh and Manda. They run 40 head of cows, with roughly half the herd being show animals and half the herd being commercial cows.
“It all started as a FFA Projects for all of us to help us market our cattle. We would like to get our name out there to people so that they do know that you can find good quality in a small sized herd,” she said.
Van De Walle handles most of the artificial insemination program, and the heifer that she showed this year was very special to her. “This heifer was one that I AIed the cow, and then I showed them last year at the junior nationals and the cow/calf pair won their class,” she stated.
Van De Walle and her siblings take care of the cattle, while attending schools and working jobs. “We have to get the cattle in, get them ready, go to work and then take care of them again. Winning at this show really shows that hard work pays off,” she said.
She added, “I enjoy everything with the cattle, from breaking them to lead and spending time with them, to calving season and watching the calves grow up. I love showing cattle. It’s a good hobby I like to have.”
Her fondest memory of showing cattle is not of one specific show, but the way in which she has grown, and can now help others to grow. “I looked up to the older kids, and they taught me what I know now. Now that I am older, I like helping the younger kids and giving them my knowledge. The guy I work for has two kids, and I helped teach them showmanship. It was such a cool experience,” she said.
There were a couple of other junior members who also had success at the show. At check-in, ultrasound data was collected on the progress steers, including ribeye area, backfat thickness and marbling score, and a yield grade and carcass weight were estimated. The reserve champion carcass steer was shown by Trevor Schultz of Columbus, Neb. His Purple Currency 24U ET son weighed 1,290 pounds and scanned with a 16.2 ribeye area, .32 backfat and a 4.05 marbling score, resulting in a 1.86 yield grade and 800-pound carcass.
Prior to the conclusion of the show, Carlee Meeks of Taylor, Neb., was named one of two junior premier breeders. Adult premier breeder honors went to Hoffman Herefords of Thedford, Neb.
The Junior National Hereford Expo (JNHE) is the highlight of most Hereford youths’ summer activities. It is held each July, and is co-sponsored by the AHA and affiliated junior and state Hereford associations.
Known to many as the ultimate family vacation, the JNHE provides an opportunity for competition of both junior members and their cattle projects. A hands-on type of program for youth provides educational, leadership and motivational forums. During the event youth can participate in 22-skill based contests. ❖
“I love showing Herefords. It makes my grandpa happy, and I like showing Herefords because my brother has been showing them too. They are really gentle, and I get along with them pretty well!”
~ Mitchell Tucker