4H & Cattle Culture: All-American Flair at the Gray County Fair
by Gwyn Jantz
The Gray County Fair is right around the corner, and I am pumped. The fair is always a fun time for me. I love all the animals and seeing friends. Good times such as yard and card games and very intense cops and robbers are played. I think I played around 20 rounds of goldfish. I love fair!
4H Starts at Home
The reason I started 4-H is that my family is a group of 4-H lovers. I saw my cousins working their goats, and I gave it a shot. The next year I was in the show ring. The show ring is the reason why I have a love for agriculture. My sister and I spend a lot of time together because of 4-H.
Sloane has chickens. Way too many chickens. We also both have two show steers. Alfalfa, Don, Stump, and Hank. Stump and Hank are mine. We raise calves nine months out of the year. We have also shown goats in past years, but we both “retired” this year. Goats are too stubborn for us!
4H Teaches Life Skills
I am an 8th-year member of the Sky High 4-H club. I serve as the club’s Treasurer. I have been in charge of this role for two years and still have not mastered it. I have learned a lot from this role. I can write a check, transfer money to a bank account and keep track of bank statements. I will do these things all my life, and I am glad I can figure this out now before the real world. I do not think writing a check or balancing a bank statement will ever be taught in a classroom.
This makes 4-H helpful. Hands-on learning is more fun for me. I remember the info because it is memories, not just a sentence from a textbook.
“Making the best better” was on one of my favorite 4-H t-shirts. The slogan makes sense in the 4-H environment. Everyone wants the best, but in 4-H, you get better. You learn how to work and plan. A schedule is made to make the best livestock you have even better.
When not talking about the actual art program in 4-H, livestock showing is an art. If I show my steer correctly, I know he will look twice as good as being in the feedlot. Even before I enter the ring, my boy looks like a prince. Hair is shampooed and conditioned. Hair is blow-dried. Gloss or leave-in conditioner is added to make him slick and shiny. We even have a groomer for him! Which is basically like a barber but for cows.
Get in the Ring – Showmanship in 4H
Part of showing livestock at the county fair is showmanship. Showmanship is like table manners times ten. This part of livestock showing is when you are in the ring. You are being critiqued instead of your animal. The goal is to show confidence, intensity, and skill. Make it look easy. Judges always mention that you can tell when a showman has put the hours in with an animal. This is so true, and you for sure can tell.
There are so many steps to be taken while in the ring, but with practice, they can be clockwork. An easy explanation of the process of showing calves is you walk your calves in a circle with other showmen. You then set up side by side or head to tail.
Each judge has a different style of how they want. Usually, you will do 2-3 circles and set up both ways. When setting up, you are coming to a stop; Then, the goal is to have the left back foot of the calve forward, front feet side by side, and head high. It feels like a marathon in your brain. Also, while doing all these steps with your calves, you can’t forget about the judge. Eye contact with the judge is a big deal. You also have to be aware of where he is. You never want to adjust your calves’ feet while the judge is looking at the calves. An often made mistake is being in the way of the judge’s sight. Yes, it is a lot, but you get the hang of it.
4H – Better. Together.
My sister Sloane and I are very competitive in 4-H. “Making the best better” sometimes means we will do better than each other. I like everything to be done a certain way with my calves. My poor girl Sloane kind of gets the bad end of the stick. I just get an itch when she does not blow the calves how I want or if the feed bucket does not have the perfect amount. She still wants to succeed just as much as I do. I aim to win or succeed. That does not mean grand champion, but I have goals.
Sloane, on the other hand, does not function the same. She simply loves agriculture. She could talk for hours and hours about her animals. Five minutes ago, Sloane called asking when I would be home to wet down the calves because of the heat. We have kind of become a well-oiled machine.
4H for the Future
I know the time spent together preparing for the county fair will translate to work at MJE as we get older. But, of course, that’s if my mom doesn’t drive us crazy by then! Just kidding… sort of.
A large group of educated youth is being built every year. I have fun in agriculture, and I love it. I would recommend attending your local county fair to everyone of all ages. 4-H is building families, friends, and another generation of lovers for the workforce.
Meet Gwyn Jantz
Gwyn Jantz is a hard-working summer intern for MJE, LLC, and the daughter of Heather Jantz & Aaron Albers. A lifelong lover of all things #Ag, Gwyn spends her time devoted to the many animals on her farm. When she’s not busy with livestock, she attends school and plays sports at South Gray High School, where she will a sophomore this fall.