The more hair a steer or heifer has, the less its muscular or bone irregularities are noticeable to judges. And placing the cattle in cooling rooms encourages hair growth.
Those are just a couple of small things Chaves County 4-H youth learn as they raise heifers and steers and participate in local and area fairs to show their efforts.
Rowdy Gray of Hagerman, Brighton Wooton of Roswell and Carter Munson of Roswell talked about some of their experiences Tuesday afternoon as they prepared to show their animals at the Eastern New Mexico State Fair Thursday.
Held at the fairgrounds at 2500 S.E. Main St., the fair survived a night and morning of heavy rains. Concerts moved indoors and some vendors had difficulties with their booths. The Special Needs Day, which involves local school districts, also had to be canceled until next year. But the animals, underneath roofed stalls, were unfazed.
The youth talked about the hard work and responsibility involved in what they do. As members of agricultural families, they are accustomed to working with animals, and Munson and Wooton expect that they will continue to do so as they grow up. All the boys also raise other livestock and crops and play sports as well.
Their daily schedules involve waking at 5:30 a.m or 6 a.m. to feed the animals, which they do again about 6 p.m. at night. They also spend hours a day washing them, putting them in cooler rooms for hair growth, walking them and leading them as will be needed during judging, and otherwise caring for animals that they say they feel responsible for but don’t grow attached to, as they know they will be sold and probably slaughtered at some point.
Munson and Wooton said people thinking about raising livestock need to be aware of what it entails.
“You are getting yourself into a lot of work,” said Munson, “and if you are going to do it, do it to your best.”
Munson, who has three steers in the competition, expects ribbons for his efforts. Wooton isn’t so hopeful this time around for his steer. “Maybe next year,” he says.
It all depends on the weight of the animal, they said. If the steers go into a larger class, the competition is tougher.
Gray, who recently won third place in state for his heifer, Ash, said he competes mainly because his parents have encouraged him in the endeavor.
All three said that the county fair is their favorite, with Munson competing outside the state as well as at fairs in New Mexico. They said the county fair is where everyone knows each other, where the crowds are less bothersome.
Munson and Wooton hope they will be able to sell their animals and, according to Wooton, “buy a better one.”
Wooton said he appreciates most what he learns from the experience, while Munson said he enjoys both the ribbons and the lessons.
“If you are going to do something, do it to win and to learn,” he said.
The fair will be open to the public until Saturday, when the junior livestock sale begins at 9 a.m. Today is Seniors Day, with free entry and parking for those 55 or older. Dairy heifer and market lamb shows are scheduled. Arts and crafts, 4-H exhibits, and horticulture and flower exhibits, as well as entertainment, vendor booths and carnival rides, are also part of the day.
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.