Learning to do, by doing, for hundreds of hours, over months, leading up to a show and sale. That's how 4-H Club members get so good at preparing their animals for events like the Inter-Club Show and Sale held earlier this week at the fairgrounds in Weyburn.
"We had an exciting five days of fun and competition," shared event Chair, Bev Gordon.
Gordon, who has worked with the 4H for 28 years, said it was so great for everyone to be back to a regular show after the 2020 show had to be canceled completely, and last year's event had to be modified.
She said it was special to be able to behold the event in its full glory once again.
"I was working in the sound booth, looking out, and I was thinking of all the things I was grateful for, and one of the most important things I was grateful for was to see the stands full of people, and to see the kids intermingling amongst their clubs and just having so much fun. So it was worth all the work to have that."
Gordon said the judges were Cooper Brokenshire, Shannon Eaton, and Taylor Eaton, all former 4-H Club members excited to give back to the organization.
The Grand Champion Steer, weighing 1,356 lbs, was shown by Kyla Lees of the Arcola Kisbey Club. The Reserve Grand Champion Steer, weighing 1,487 lbs, was Dawson Fladeland of the Radville Club. The Best Homegrown Steer, weighing 1,417 lbs, went to Emma Lees of Arcola Kisbey. The Grand Champion Cloverbud, the younger age category for children ages six to eight, was fourth-generation member Rhea Holdstock of the Weyburn Club. See photos HERE.
The participants are only allowed one project per show, so they either have a steer or heifer.
"You learn to do by doing in 4H," she noted. "As you learn how to judge cattle, you learn how to judge well every species, for that matter. When you get older, if you go into the regional and provincial judging program that's offered by Saskatchewan for each, they write judging cards and they learn the terminology of the animals. They learn what to look for in a steer, and what to look for in a heifer. If you've ever watched the show, you'll hear the judge talk about spring of rib, depth of loin, and how a steer will carry down in the hip, because that's where your best cuts of meat come from."
While the beef is the purpose, ultimately, the showmanship side of the competition is fierce, and instills plenty of patience, diligence, and dedication in the members.
"They want to make them look perfect," Gordon said. "Before those calves come to Weyburn, they're probably washed every day at home from as soon as it gets warm enough in May, till they get to the fair. They're probably washed every day at home and blown dry, and that's why their hair is trained the way it is, so it all goes forward. They look pretty, because they're washed and the hair is all blowing in one direction, and that takes hours and hours to train hair to do that."
Not only that, but the animals need to be fed.... a LOT.
"I mean, those steers have to be fed twice a day, and you have to be knowing to bump up their feed, and estimate their weight, or weigh them. But a steer should eat three percent of his body weight every day in order to continue to gain weight. This year, in particular, was a difficult year because the price of feed grain is so high."
"The biggest part of it is to learn to do by doing, and you can still pick out what you think is a really great steer and feed him properly. But oh, then maybe he gets sick or and he doesn't eat for a while, and then he does. So there are lots of variables, too. I don't know anybody who's ever had a steer, they just put him on feed and there weren't any problems. Because the weather fluctuated, and when it gets really hot, that just takes the weight right off of fat steers."
Gordon said the Show and Sale is the final confirmation of all the hard work the children put into their animals throughout the year.
"There's a lot of work that goes into that, and the same thing with the showmanship. Those kids practice with those animals at home for hours, and hours, and hours, to get them to come into the ring and stand perfectly, and you see them with their show cane, just moving their foot a little bit sometimes, but they probably had 300, 400 hours of practice at home with that [animal] in order to get them to stop."
While many think it's going to be too sad for the club members to sell off their animals, Gordon said, "the first is one is probably the worst one."
"Some people don't let their kids have steers until they're older, because they want them to not be sad, I guess, or something," she commented. "But, but you know, ultimately, these kids, a lot of them are probably going to stay on the farm in the business or whatever, and so, I mean, it's just part of life. They would live and die, and people who don't have a connection to the farm, maybe don't see it as much as farm kids do. Better to practice [coping with death] on your steer or something than your grandparents."
Gordon said she was, in fact, concerned about her own grandson, as this was his first year in the show and sale.
"But he was okay. He knew he was going, and he insisted, he had to watch him get on the trailer, so that was to say goodbye. So that was good."
The Pangman-Ogema Club, she noted, didn't have any bovine for the sale, but they have a sheep and goat club.
"They asked if they could sell their market lambs and their champion goats at the Weyburn sale. So, after the steers were done, they had their first annual sale, and those lambs brought like four times more than their worth market value. So it was kind of something fun and different and they had a very successful lamb and goat sale, I would say."
Many attended to just purchase an animal and arrange for it to be butchered, she said, with some going in on one animal together.
"So they would take that and slaughter, then divide the meat between the three of them," she shared, adding the price comparison is the difference of $3-4,000.
While the average prices haven't been tallied yet, Gordon said it was a very successful show.
"The community is fabulous. None of this would be possible without Mike and Carla Fellner, who basically the three of us run the cattle part of the Weyburn Ag Society. They do the commercials, and they do the jackpot show, and they do lots of stuff with the 4-H Show because there is a lot more to it than what happens in the sale ring and the show ring."
She said the office staff of the Ag Society also do an immense amount of work for the big event. Also, volunteers helped ensure the 'photo booth' was always clean.
"I have a great committee and have great volunteers that help me with everything with the show," she noted. "I've got people who volunteer to do things as simple as making sure there's water for the judges and drinks. And in the sound booth, one person is announcing, and the other two people are keeping the placings because there's prize money for every class, and so there's a lot of that, and my committee, the leaders, are all fabulous. The members are wonderful. The judges were so blown away by the knowledge of the kids that are showing at Weyburn, and the quality of the cattle."
Weyburn's show, she added, was the biggest one of its kind in North America prior to COVID, and likely still is.