Last weekend, we had our Market Beef Weigh-in at the La Plata County Fairgrounds, where 31 4-H and FFA members brought their animals to get tagged, tattooed and weighed.
In total, we weighed in 41 steers and heifers, ranging from 594 pounds to 1,063 pounds. This is always an exciting event for us because it is the kick-off to a busy next five months of fair preparation.
Most of our members selected their calves in the fall and have been working with them every day since then. They work on building a strong, trusting relationship with these large animals so they are able to lead them, bathe them and ensure they are in good health.
One of the requirements at weigh-in is that each 4-H and FFA member must be able to lead their own animals to the chute and scale. I am always so impressed with how well they handle 600- to 1,000-pound animals when they themselves are sometimes not even 90 pounds!
There are times when a steer or heifer gets a little frisky and a member has to dig their heels into the ground and pull with all their might, but they manage to get their animal back under control and lead them to the chute to be tagged.
The purpose of the weigh-in is for our members to confirm the steers and heifers they will be using for their projects and ultimately show and sell at the La Plata County Fair in August. We tag and tattoo them for identification purposes and weigh them so the members have an idea about how to regulate their feed between now and the fair.
There is a minimum weight of 900 pounds for heifers and 1,000 pounds for steers to sell at the fair, so those animals that are smaller in size will get to be fed three times a day so they are able to gain enough weight by the fair. Other animals that are larger or have already made the weight limit, will continue to be fed normally and will gain a few hundred pounds in the next five months.
Our market beef projects offer youths the opportunity to get hands-on experience and knowledge of the cattle industry and production. They learn about nutrition, feeding, health, grooming and daily care. This experience builds important life skills, such as responsibility, compassion, critical thinking and decision making. Many of our 4-H members use their beef project as a way to help pay for their college and go into ag-related careers.
You can help make their dreams come true by purchasing an animal at the La Plata County Fair Junior Livestock Sale at 6 p.m. Aug. 14. The animals sold at the fair are locally raised, high-quality and healthy animals, raised with love by our local 4-H and FFA members.
Angela Fountain is the La Plata County 4-H youth development agent. Reach her at [email protected] or 382-6460.angela Fountain