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2017-01-12

Life lessons learned raising livestock for show

By Sandy Jennings BCC Staff Writer

Bandera County Stock Show Exhibitor, 4H member and 8th grade student Faith Rosas bought her first Dexter heifer when she was nine years old. Like a true cattle baron, Rosas turned the heifer into profit using the funds to invest in the first of her now growing herd of miniature Hereford cattle.
“I’ve been passionate about raising animals as long as I can remember,” Rosas said. “My mom is an animal Science major and helped me when I started buying my own cattle when I was nine.”
After school work, Rosas spends everyday taking care of her animals, which besides her cattle, includes goats and rabbits. After five years of caring for her Herefords, Rosas felt ready to take on the show ring and joined 4H.
“I’ve been halter-breaking heifers for so long, I was comfortable enough with handling a steer,” Rosas said.
Rosas’s 1,200 plus pound Hereford steer named Hercules is her first steer project and first time to ever participate in a livestock show. Rosas and Hercules will take the ring this Friday, Jan. 13 at 10 am, at the Bandera County Junior Livestock Show, held at the Ferguson Show Barn at Mansfield Park on January 11 through January 14.
The show will feature over 500 students, like Rosas, who have worked hard to raise and care for livestock while maintaining good grades in school and participating in other extracurricular activities. It a schedule that can be grueling and unforgiving of inclement weather.
“I get up early everyday and feed and brush Hercules and then feed all of my other animals before I can get ready for school,” Rosas said. “After school, I lead Hercules with his halter and walk him around the pasture for his mile walk. This helps build muscle in his front and hind quarters. I keep him tied with his halter from 30 minutes to an hour each day to build neck muscle.”
There are no days off for these young farmers. In fact, the rules and regulations of the Livestock Show clearly state,”Exhibitors must continuously own and personally feed and care for their animals throughout the entire feeding period, beginning with the species validation date through exhibition at all shows. The animal may not be out of the exhibitor’s care for a period exceeding 48 hours.”
This duration of time is longer for steer projects. Validation for a steer showing in the Bandera show was in June, but many exhibitors had their steers for months prior. Purchasing a steer for the show and the extensive feed bill over a nine month period can be costly.
“I used my savings to buy Hercules for $1,000, but my parents help me with the feed – he eats a lot,” Rosas said. “You really have to study and learn about what to feed your steer in order to produce the best meat. I use a mixture of different feed.”
The experience of raising Hercules for the livestock show has taught Rosas many lessons.
“I learned a lot of life lessons from raising Hercules, including perseverance and patience,” Rosas said. “When he was little and I was trying to halter-break him, he would just sit down when I tried to walk him. After a lot of work, he now leads easily on a halter and is very gentle.”
In the show arena on Friday, Rosas will lead Hercules on several trips around the ring, while keeping eye contact with the judge and answering questions the judge will trow at her.
“I was able to participate in a prospect show in Seguin earlier in the year and gained a little experience and it helped me get an idea of what goes on at the show,” Rosas said.
Rosas looks forward to the experience she will acquire this week, both in and out of the show ring.
“I want to go to Texas A&M University in the future and I know a lot of the people involved in the show are Aggies and I think it will be fun to get to talk to them about college and cattle,” Rosas said. “I hope to gain even more knowledge and information about raising cattle.”
One of the many things Rosas has learned from the experience is the necessity of a strong work ethic in the agriculture arena and in life in general.
“My work ethic definitely improved when I bought Hercules,” Rosas said. “You learn to discipline yourself. You learn that hard work pays off in the long run.”
Hercules, a Hereford, falls in the British Breed class and will compete against Angus, Polled Hereford, Shorthorn or Red Angus and other Hereford steers. The winner of this class will compete against the winners of the American Breed and European Breed classes for the overall Grand Champion steer.
Bandera County Junior Livestock Show is a premium show, allowing exhibitors to sale their steers and keep them in order to take their steers on to bigger shows. The money earned from the sale helps students, like Rosas, pay for their project and hopefully have enough left to reinvest in next year’s project. Hercules is registered for the San Antonio Stock Show next month, which is a terminal show, meaning animals are sold and taken to process. Parting with Hercules is something Rosas has prepared herself for with the maturity and logic of a true rancher.
“I’ve lived on our farm since I was 7 and I have learned that you have certain animals that are pets and certain animals that are for food. Cattle are made for meat and that’s why God gave them to us, but it’s really hard not to get attached to him (Hercules),” Rosas said. “This is my first time to do this, so I guess I’ll see how it goes.”
Besides her parents, Rosas credits Bandera County Extension Agent Michael Haynes and the Bandera 4H program for helping her with Hercules and helping her learn more about the business side of raising cattle for the beef market. Haynes, who traveled to many homes this week to check on students and their projects, made a house call to Hercules Wednesday morning to teach Rosas how to groom her steer for the show.
Through all her experiences and life lessons learned raising and preparing Hercules for the show, fourteen-year-old Rosas offered advice to future exhibitors.
“It’s a big commitment and takes a lot of time,” Rosas said. “Do your research and talk to people when you’re deciding on your animal. When you get your animal, spend a lot of time with it. It’s hard work, but worth it. I met a lot of cool people, had some great life experiences and acquired a unique set of skills.”