by Grace Smith
|Limestone County’s 4-H Beef Club members enjoy showing cattle because it gives them the opportunity to work with calves and to spend quality time with each other. Pictured from left are, Presley Clark, Molly Odell, Summer Clark, Trent Spidel, Katie Odell, Lexy Malone and Lacy Malone.
The buzz of the clippers and the hum of the dryers have been hushed and the madness that is steer show season has come to an end. But the Limestone County beef showmen are already looking to the future.
The Limestone County Beef Club is a part of the county’s 4-H program that is a Limestone County United Way agency.
This year the county had seven cattle showmen, the largest number the program has seen. Kenneth Odell, a parent and volunteer, said retaining students’ focus on cattle showing can be difficult, but it has its pay off if they’ll stick with it.
"It’s hard to compete with sports and other activities, but this program is available to any kid at any school," he said. "It does require a lot of work and dedication from the kids, but there are a lot of rewards in it too."
Fourteen-year-old Katie Odell, the oldest showman, described the work required to prepare a steer or heifer for the showring. Katie said she works with her calves every day feeding, watering and washing them. She said once the calves become used to their halters, they’ll begin tying them up, brushing them and getting them accustomed to the showstick. But it doesn’t stop there. The calves must receive the proper vaccinations and identification tattoos and have their hooves trimmed.
||Kenneth Odell, parent volunteer, and Celena Gaines, Limestone Farmers Cooperative store manager, discuss fundraising ideas for the upcoming show season.
Breaking and showing cattle may require much hard work and dedication, but each showman agreed it’s something they’ll continue to do. In fact, Katie said she plans to show until she’s "too old to do it."
For Molly Odell, Katie’s 10-year-old sister, friendly competition is her motivation. "You get to be with your friends…and beat your sister," she whispered.
Eleven-year-old, Trent Spidel, said he enjoyed competing in the showring. But, he described the work he must do before his calves are ready for showring competition. "I tie them up by their halters and I have to feed them a lot more than the other calves," Spidel said. "I scratch them, work them with the showstick and get them used to being led around."
Presley Clark, a third grader at Owens Elementary School, said she enjoyed the quality time she spends with her calves and the other showmen. "I like practicing with them and spending time with the other kids," Presley said.
Another "show-related" activity she enjoys is naming her calves. With calves named "Freckles" and "Racer," it’s no surprise she puts much thought and creativity into selecting names for her steers and heifers. "Freckles had freckles on her nose and Racer was wild when we first got her," Presley said.
Presley became interested in showing cattle after watching her older sister, Summer Clark, a seventh grader at West Limestone High School. Summer said she attended an Angus Field Day a few years ago and after walking through the barns and watching the showmen grooming their calves, she decided showing was something she wanted to pursue. Now she’s been showing three years and each year she and her sister develop special relationships with their show projects. "We have fun with them," she said. "We work with the animals…we love them."
Kenneth said the Limestone County Farmers Cooperative is a vital partner with the county’s 4-H Beef Club. From cooking hamburgers for the showmen’s summer picnic to providing product knowledge for participants, the Co-op plays an important role in the program’s success.
Limestone Farmers Cooperative Manager Celena Gaines said she sees this program as an opportunity to give back. "I grew up showing calves myself," she said. "It’s my time to give back. If there’s something they need, they can just let me know and if I don’t have it, I’ll get it for them."
Kenneth said he appreciated the Co-op’s willingness to keep livestock supplies in stock as well as provide fertilizer and weed control for their pastures.
"They have supported us everyway they possibly can," Kenneth said. "They help the kids all the way around."
The Limestone County students join almost 300 cattle showmen across the state, all of whom can qualify for the Animal Scholarship Program sponsored through Alabama Farmers Cooperative. Last year, $6,000 was awarded to winners participating in the scholarship program. For more information on the Animal Scholarship Program, visit your local Quality Co-op.
Scholarship opportunities, competition and quality time aren’t the only reasons these students participate in calf shows. Perhaps Katie best described the showmen’s motivation in pursuing this activity.
"I love everything about it, but especially just having fun," she said. "That’s the most important thing about it. It doesn’t matter whether I win or lose; just have fun."
Grace Smith, associate editor AFC Cooperative Farming News.