On the day of the 4-H sale, the barns and pens on the Central Alberta Agricultural Society grounds were bustling with activity.
Under the blue-skied morning, 4-H members from Lacombe and District groomed their pampered pets to perfection by using the correct brush stroke, spraying a special coating from a bottle that looks like hairspray to get that perfectly shiny coat to sit the right way and blowing the calf with what looks like a vacuum to fluff up the hair just so.
This is the life of a pampered cow — a 4-H steer that’s ready to go to the sales ring and find a new home.
Each 4-H member has looked after their calf steadily for the past seven months, feeding it, caring for it, ensuring it is getting large enough, muscular enough and has enough muscle definition to bring in a high return in the sale.
Some of the cows have become friends of the family. Some are projects that year after year, help generate money for school. But most are a true labour of love.
It’s on achievement day, on May 11th, at the Lacombe and District 4-H Beef Show and Sale, that all this hard work, care, attention and dedication has finally paid off.
The three area clubs, Central Lacombe Beef Club, Nebraska Beef Club and East Lacombe Beef Club, converge for the annual sale for some friendly competition and the chance to win with their hooved-foot companions, the coveted title, the supreme champion steer.
As they groomed their steers in the barn adjacent to the sales pavilion, it is evident 4-H is a multi-age program, from parents helping their kids, to senior 4-H members helping junior members.
From the East Lacombe Beef Club, the oldest 4-H beef club in Alberta, Emilee Oro, 19, was quick to help junior Alexzander Williams groom his steer, Blizzard.
“I really like showing the cattle,” she said of why she sticks with 4-H. “I’m still learning and it’s nice to bring young kids back into it and see them grow throughout the year.”
Williams, 11, said that he’s been feeding his steer, that weighed in at 1,080 lbs. in the morning, lots of barley and was looking forward to see what type of price he would get.
For 4-H member Julie Sharp, 13, who’s been a member for five years, it’s her passion for showing cows that keeps her engaged with the club. Her brother Michael Sharp, 11, a junior member, said he enjoys making money and meeting new people. He fed his steer Joey an oats barley mix, a beef supplement and some pure choice hay, which he hopes is the winning feed mix.
Cathy Sharp, one of the 4-H East Lacombe leaders, said the process for the show begins in October. “We get an initial weigh-in on the calf and then the members take the calves home and start working on them,” said Cathy.
Each member, with dedication and passion, works with their calves on tying so they can eventually lead them around the ring. Slowly, the calves become more gentle and at the point of achievement day, most are approachable and very quiet.
“They get a lot of pampering and a lot of love,” explained Cathy. “The kids put a lot of hard work into it. They look forward to achievement day every year.”
She added although this was the end of the year for the clubs, all of the members make fast friends.
“It turns into memories right through to last their lifetimes,” said Sharp. “A lot of people you meet in 4-H, you meet again along the way in life. A lot of these kids will end up as leaders in the community and follow through with other community activities and often times put their kids through 4-H again.”
Sharp added the club focuses on projects, but also runs many activities throughout the year, building up a team of youngsters ages 11 to 21.
The 4-H beef clubs are truly multi-generational, with many grandparents watching the sale and the judging of their grandkids, reminiscing of when they were in 4-H years ago.
Later on in the evening, 4-H members, parents and community members flocked into the historic sales pavilion, which was built in the 1930s. Slowly one-by-one each of the 46 steers were auctioned off for an average price of $3.20 per pound.
The sale money from each steer goes directly back into the pocket of each 4-H club member.
“They put that in their bank accounts,” said Cathy. “They will pay for feed. They pay for probably next year’s calf. There are show supplies to buy, equipment and they may take a portion of that money and invest it back in.”
The winners from this year’s show were: Supreme Champion Steer Award, Meg Crawford; Reserve Champion Home Grown Steer Award, Harley Ebeling; Supreme Champion Female Award, Peyton Bresee; Reserve Champion Female Award, Kale Chessor.
The Grand Champion Team Grooming Award went to Mikaela Ackermann, Ashlynn Duffy, Peyton Bresee and Cody Melnychuk.
The Junior Live Judging Award went to Olivia Graves of Central Lacombe. Julie Sharp of East Lacombe received the Intermediate Live Judging Award and Emilee Oro of East Lacombe received the Senior Live Judging Award.
Earlier in the season, from the Central Lacombe Beef Club, David MacTaggart received the provincial award for public speaking.
He spoke on Alberta’s global connection. He will be attending the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto in the fall as a representative for Alberta in the national competition.