by Susie Sims
||Caleb Elrod, 17, displays some of his awards from his four-year career in steer and heifer showing.
Holly Pond High School senior Caleb Elrod recently won top honors at the 2006 Alabama Junior Beef Expo in Montgomery.
The competition, which was held in March, featured more than 300 competitors from around the state.
Elrod, 17, and his 18-month-old Chi-Maine steer, Sam, won the 2006 Grand Champion Steer award. Sam was also named the Champion Heavyweight Steer during the event. For his efforts, Elrod received $1,000 from Alabama Farmers Cooperative as a participant in their Animal Scholarship Program, as well as other prize monies.
The Expo was part of the festivities included in the 49th annual Southeastern Livestock Expo.
"The biggest thing I ever won was the state steer show," said Elrod. "That was what I was working for."
In addition to winning Grand Champion Steer at the Expo, Elrod is particularly pleased with an honor he received in the heifer competition. He won the Maine-Anjou division of the Alabama Bred and Owned competition. "This award is special to me," said Elrod. "I won against others who raised their own animals."
Elrod explained that some competitors do not use their own animals—they buy animals that will "show good." His Maine-Anjou heifer was born and raised on his family’s farm.
Elrod also won second place in showmanship at the state competition.
|Caleb Elrod of Cullman County showed the Grand Champion Steer at the 2006 Alabama Junior Beef Expo. This animal was also the Champion Heavyweight Steer. The Expo was held March 10 through 12 at Garrett Coliseum in Montgomery.
With the win, Elrod completed his career in showing steers. "I can continue to show heifers in various national shows until I’m 21," said Elrod. "Because I’m a senior (in high school), this was my last steer show."
Elrod has been competing in state shows for
four years. He said he usually competes in anywhere from 20 to 25 heifer shows each year. He and Sam the steer have competed in about 10 shows.
A Family Affair
He and his family stay busy during the show season as his younger sister, Kylie, 10, is in her second year of competition. She recently won Champion Steer at the Cullman County show.
During the show season, Elrod said he works about 18 hours each week preparing for the events. Of course, there are feedings which have to be done whether or not a show is approaching.
"I’ve got my routine down to about an hour a day for feeding," said Elrod. "The other stuff (grooming, practice, etc.) takes up the rest of the time."
Besides his show animals, Elrod said his family has about 60 cross-bred mama cows and 100 head total.
||Caleb Elrod displays the awards he won at the 2006 state steer show in Montgomery.
It’s Not All About Cows
Asked if he has time for other activities, Elrod answered yes. "You can do other things and show cows," Elrod said. "People tend to think you can’t do other things, but you can."
Besides being active in national steer and heifer shows, Elrod has been involved in many high school clubs and activities including Future Farmers of America, Key Club, Student Government Association, Journalism staff, BETA club, Math team and Young Farmers Federation. He is also a member of the FFA judging team and is in the Top 10 in his class academically.
Elrod said it is even possible to show animals and play sports. He pointed to his sister as an example. "It was my decision not to play sports in high school," noted Elrod. "But it can be done—Kylie does it. You’ve got to be willing to work."
Besides school activities, Elrod occasionally likes to deer hunt. The only problem is that deer season usually coincides with show season.
Elrod said that instead of curbing his extracurricular activities, participating in cow shows has afforded him to do more things. "The money I’ve won from cow shows has allowed me to have extra hobbies," said Elrod. "I have money to do the things I want to do."
After graduation, Elrod plans to attend Wallace State Community College in Hanceville, where he has earned a two-year scholarship. Afterward, he plans to attend Auburn University and enroll in Pharmacy school.
Elrod’s immediate plans include a run for a seat on the board of directors of the National Junior Chi Association. If his bid for the spot is successful, Elrod will spend time promoting the Chianina breed and he will work shows in Louisville and Denver.
He wants to make a difference in lives of younger competitors. "The older competitors must work to motivate the younger ones," stated Elrod. "We have to keep the interest going in the breed."
Elrod explained that there is more to be learned from competing than how to win. "You have to be willing to work, to take care of your animals," he said. "If you’re going to do it—do it right."
What Makes a Winner
Elrod said establishing a good feeding program is vital to success in the show circuit.
Some competitors are neither willing nor able to fully care for their animals, and it shows, said Elrod. "Anyone can win if they put forth the effort," he said.
Asked if show competitors had to live on a farm, Elrod said that it wasn’t necessary but it did help. "Not everyone can live on a place with a barn and pastures," he said. "Many kids have grandparents, uncles or other relatives who have places big enough to keep a couple of cows."
Elrod stressed that what mattered most was the time spent in caring for the animals and preparing for the shows.
"Cullman County was well represented at the state show," said Cullman County Co-op manager Chad Federer. "There were five winners at the state show who use Co-op feeds." Federer is proud to have Elrod and his family as customers for feed, fertilizer, chemicals and farm supplies. Elrod uses 13% cattle pellets with Bovatec, Performance Beef Ration and Fitter’s Choice concentrate along with other ingredients to produce these winners.
Prior to this year, Elrod’s family had a small barn with no room to groom the animals. Thanks, in part, to his success at showing heifers and steers, the family now has a new barn with an enclosed wash room where the animals can be easily groomed.
Elrod’s parents are Tony and Kelly Elrod.
Susie Sims is a freelance writer from Haleyville.