Months of hard work and animal care culminated in the biggest spring event of the Ponoka 4-H Beef Club’s season, the annual Show and Sale.
Held at the Calnash Ag Event Centre Heritage Barn May 5 and 6, members spent most of their time prepping their charges, mostly steers but also heifers and cow-calf combinations. Each animal was washed, given a haircut and spruced up for the judges. The 4-H members have been busy since October with these animals and the excitement in the air was obvious.
This year’s grand champion was intermediate club member Chase Fleck and he said he was pleased to see his steer Argo win. “I am glad he was pretty calm today.”
He hopes to continue on with the club for some time. The reserve champion was young Colter Bresee, in his first year of 4-H, and he said he was most proud of his steer Tick Tock. For him the biggest lesson was learning how to take care of a calf.
Charity steer Cookies
The club also has one extra steer that is raffled off at the Show and Sale and this year, senior member Lindsay Gartner took charge of the Cookies, the club’s charity steer.
She enjoyed caring for her own project steer while raising Cookies. Gartner says 4-H gives members a strong sense of accomplishment, not only with raising animals but also with other projects such as public speaking and community projects.
Cookies raised $6,665 in raffle tickets and the lucky winners, Brent and Erin Fleck donated him back to the club to be auctioned off where excited buyers paid top dollar for him. Melodie and Craig Woods of World Financial Group bought Cookies for $2,928, making a total of $9,593 that the club will donate to STARS Air Ambulance.
Members also learn the value of promoting themselves by inviting businesses to the sale. President of the 4-H Beef Club Mark Matejka says there are approximately 40 kids involved in raising steers and some of them also raise heifers.
“I think it’s important to the agriculture sector because anyone that’s going to be involved in agriculture should be involved in 4-H because it’s a direct reflection of what’s going on,” said Matejka.
He feels kids members of the 4-H Beef Club will gain a strong understanding of the importance of animal care and provide them with a sense of responsibility and work ethic. “They take care of the animal every day.”
Tawni Kjenner is also a senior 4-H member and she had to feed her steer every morning and every night. This is her seventh year in the club and her biggest challenge has been trying to handle a steer that is so much heavier than her.
“Usually you have to stay calm and stay in control of them. If you stay calm, they stay calm,” said Kjenner.
She says the club is a positive experience that taught her a love of animals and helped develop skills such as tracking and documenting a steer’s weight. She recommends the club to anyone interested.
Keen judge’s eye
Fred Taylor was asked by the 4-H to judge the steers this year. He is in charge of beef grading at the Cargill meat processing plant in High River and his job was to provide key tips to 4-H members on their steers.
“We know what we like to see and what the industry wants,” said Taylor.
He says buyers such as restaurants and chefs are looking for a lighter steer than what people are used to. A steer that is 1,400 pounds or higher has primal cuts that are too big. Taylor said most members had steers with a decent build but some were on the heavy side and others needed a few months before being ready to purchase. He feels the demand will continue to be for a smaller carcass.