Helping youth build their herd and knowledge of pedigrees and selection
August 3, 2018
Keith Russell, Kay Cornelius and Roy Wardell set out nearly 20 years ago to remedy the declining numbers in the breeding cattle show at the Weld County Fair and began Weld County Cattle for Kids.
The funds raised are all returned to 4-H members involved in the breeding program and, in the years since its inception, the Weld County Breeding Beef program is among the largest in the state.
The program began as additional prize money in recognition of the challenges of exhibiting breeding cattle at the fair, according to volunteer Margaret Patton.
"Our theory is no kid leaves the ring without being rewarded for their hard work," she said.
The program also boasts a cow/calf incentive award that Patton said can be helpful to 4-H and FFA youth who are working to build their beef herd. Heifers are shown and nominated in the program and once that heifer is brought back to the fair with a calf at her side, the exhibitor can claim their incentive money, currently $200. This year, seven exhibitors returned with their pairs to claim their award and to showcase their hard work and growing herds.
"It's a ton of work not only to keep your cow happy but to get that calf broke when that cow is there, too," she said. "That's why we like to reward them with the additional prize money and to recognize them."
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Most of the kids, she said, take the prize money and invest it right back into their projects, oftentimes right there at the supply trailer, supporting local businesses.
The Heifer Purchase Award allows exhibitors in the breeding beef project with show ring eligibility remaining to be entered into a drawing for $2,000 to spend toward the purchase of a heifer. The heifer must be registered and purchased from a Weld County breeder or a breeder in an adjacent Colorado county. Three exhibitors received this award and brought their heifers to the fair this year.
Sydney Vaughn earned first place in class with her registered Angus heifer purchased from Yearous Cattle Co. Dominic Gittlein was fourth in class with his registered Simmental heifer, and Marshall Konig exhibited a Maine Anjou heifer for a second place finish in class.
In 2016, Collin Ochsner was a recipient of the heifer purchase award. He purchased a heifer, MAGS Dealing Magic 425D, from Magness Cattle Co. in Platteville, Colo., at their female sale during the National Western Stock Show. He showed her last year as a heifer, bred her to his own bull that he raised, Capstone, and Dealing Magic had a heifer calf last February that he then showed at her side as a pair.
"This is a kid who understands the breeding program and how to build his own herd," Patton said.
Ochsner is not only building his herd and showing the pair at the local level but exhibited his cattle at the Limousin Junior National Show and Congress which took place in July in Denver. Ochsner earned first place in his cow/calf class at Limousin Junior Nationals, first place in his class at the All American Limousin Futurity, also in Denver, and was selected Reserve Champion Cow/Calf pair at the Weld County Fair.
Dealing Magic, according to Julie Ochsner, has become quite a showmanship cow, helping Collin capture Reserve Champion Intermediate Showmanship honors at the Limousine Junior National Show in addition to Grand Champion Senior Beef Showmanship, edging his sister out for the banner.
BUILDING A HERD
Ochsner, who will be a freshman in high school this year, has used his Cattle for Kids funds as well as the income he has earned selling market cattle to purchase breeding stock and is also building on his knowledge of pedigrees and selection.
"My dad has a lot of passion for the matings and selection of sires so I really learn a lot from him to put the cows and bull together that will make the ideal calf," Ochsner said.
Oftentimes, Patton said the heifer nominated for the cow/calf incentive won't return to fair as a pair but the heifer, instead, produces a bull calf that can either be shown in the breeding show as a registered bull calf or even become the exhibitor's market steer project.
"It's a win win situation for everybody," she said.
Patton's youngest son, Joey, exhibited his heifer, Miracle, this year and has nominated her in hopes of bringing her back with a calf at her side. Joey earned Champion Junior Beef Showmanship honors with Miracle and second in his class.
Miracle was purchased shortly after the Patton family was involved in a serious automobile accident and was purchased in an online sale while Margaret underwent surgery, inspiring her name. ❖
— Gabel is an assistant editor and reporter for The Fence Post. She can be reached at email@example.com or (970) 392-4410.