On a cold, 10° morning with snow coming down on the Maryland State Fairgrounds 4-H’ers, their parents, leaders and their steer wait for their steer’s turn to be weighed and tagged. While many youths are sleeping in on this bitterly cold morning, our 4-H’ers are up well before daybreak. Besides the regular feeding of their animals in the morning today, they will need to put the halters on their steer and get them on the trailers. Shares Shelby Sheats a Parkton 4-H Club member. This work is no easy task for many. The steer simply does not want to get on and go for a ride. Most of the steer range from 450 to close to 850 lbs. This job takes strength and perseverance in helping the animal to cooperate.
The purpose of ear tagging according to Rachel Preston, another Parkton 4-H Club member, is for identification. The tag helps the owner keep track of all health records and proper weight of gain. When the steers are brought in, they are weighed and then again at show time in July. It is necessary for the 4-H’er to properly feed their animal so that it grows at the proper amount over the next six months.
The 4-H market steer project allows 4-H members to feed, fit and show a beef animal. Depending on the starting age and weight, most steers will be full -fed for five months or longer. The steer should reach the desired USDA Choice carcass grade at a weight of 100 to 1000 pounds at about 15 to 18 months of age. The weight and age at which steers reach the choice grade will vary due to breed, frame size and management of the steer.
After the steer has completed its growth cycle, the 4-H’er can exhibit and market their steer at one of the several market steer shows held each summer. The market steer project helps the 4-H youth obtain a sense of responsibility. The project encourages decision-making, a trait that is beneficial throughout life. Participation in this project allows the 4-H’er to conduct financial transactions on a larger scale than the average youth. The project also will help them develop healthy skills in competition. Finally, the market steer project is designed to instill a love for cattle in 4-H youth and an appreciation for their significant role in agriculture and society.
On this frigid morning in January, Danielle Ryndak, from the 4-H Dairy Goat and Liberty Clubs, is bringing her very first steer to be tagged and weighed. She is excited to take on this new and challenging project. And while today’s adventures are coming to an end, it is only the beginning for our 4-H’ers. From now and until show time on July 13-15, there will be feeding both before school and after. Cleaning of the barns, working with their animals so that they are ready to be handled in the ring. Checking them for health problems and addressing them as they arise and making sure they have time to exercise and graze.
If you would like to see how well these and many other 4-H’ers have worked with their animals this year, please join us July 13-15 at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium.