A good friend and fellow animal ag advocate called me as I was headed to work at the town job this morning and I had exciting information to share with her. My husband and I had just spent a week away in Texas which included a stop at the San Antonio Stock Show. While there we were inspired and challenged by the youth involved in beef production in Texas. We stumbled upon the Commercial Steer Show after walking through the steer barn. We have raised two sons in Missouri 4-H and FFA and spent a lot of time in cattle barns around the country. Watching this contest made me wish they could have participated in such an event and makes me desire to effect change before our grandchildren are old enough to be involved.
In the San Antonio Commercial Steer Show placings are based more on the exhibitor’s knowledge, records and ability than any other steer show I have ever witnessed. Each exhibitor has fed two steers for a minimum of 150 days. The score card for this contest has a total of 130 possible points with only 20 points for ultrasound data (yield grade and quality grade) and 20 points for live evaluation (yield grade and quality grade). The remaining 90 points are broken down into three additional exhibitor based categories. 35 points are awarded for a beef science test, 35 for a five-minute speech and 20 for the record book. While we only got to hear 3 young people speak, we were impressed. There were likely 150 or more people watching and listening to these speeches. We heard an 8-year-old boy, voice shaking, answering questions on production with “Yes, sir.” We watched him walk back to his seat being encouraged by other exhibitors. We heard a young lady in high school remind all producers in the audiences that the goal is not to bash organic or GMO fed beef, corn-fed or grass-fed – but rather simply to get consumers to eat beef. We heard her confidently answer a question on fat content from a chef with absolutely no hesitation. And finally, we heard from a 9-year-old girl explain profitability spread. Her example was that if she spends $1.40 a pound on a feeder calf, she would need to get $1.00 a pound on her fat calf to break even. We listened to her joke with an order buyer with an ease rarely seen in someone her age.
We’ve been to a lot of cattle shows and sold a lot of calves. We’ve wished there was more of a learning opportunity for the youth and worked to provide opportunities. We’ve hosted beef days and beef clinics here at the farm and at our local fairgrounds. But we’ve never gotten the chance to work with kids long enough to impact the future of the cattle industry, like the leaders of the youth in this contest have. I am hopeful that once a presentation can be put together, we may have the opportunity to present to the Missouri State Fair. My desire is to find the funding for such a contest for a few youth in the state. There were 22 contestants in San Antonio and it is a well established contest. If we could begin the contest in 5 years and could have 10 kids the first year, I would see that as a success because that would be 10 more youth who have shown exceptional dedication to the beef industry. And what better results could we ask for?