Big Valley youth takes top prize in the 4-H Project Steer Challenge

Proceeds from the sale of the calves goes back to the kids who raised them for the last few months

Weston Fahey receives his trophy for Grand Champion of the 2019-2020 Stettler District 4-H project steer. He raised a calf starting in the fall, as part of the yearly 4-H program. Presenting the awards are Big Valley Beef Club Leader Raelene Sobschyshyn and daughter Shelby.                                photo submitted

Weston Fahey receives his trophy for Grand Champion of the 2019-2020 Stettler District 4-H project steer. He raised a calf starting in the fall, as part of the yearly 4-H program. Presenting the awards are Big Valley Beef Club Leader Raelene Sobschyshyn and daughter Shelby. photo submitted

By Kevin J. Sabo

For the Independent

After months of hard work, the youth in the Stettler District 4-H program have finished their calf projects for the year.

Unfortunately, due to current world situations, the year finished with none of the usual fanfare. The show portion of the junior cattle competition was canceled, as was the wind-up supper that usually followed it. However, the steers still got judged, and a Big Valley Beef Club youth, 10-year-old Weston Fahey, was awarded ‘Grand Champion’ for his steer ‘Meatball’.

“He did a good job this year,” said mom Carly Fahey.

“We changed his feeding program a bit this year, (which) seemed to work out pretty well.”

As members of 4-H, the youth took on the responsibility of raising a steer from start to finish. Taking on the steer in September or October, the calf, which weighs in around 500 to 600 lbs, is weighed in, and the youth begin working with the animal, feeding it and eventually halter breaking it, all in preparation for the big show usually held the Monday and Tuesday after the May long weekend.

“He (Weston) would go out morning and night and feed him morning and night, even if it was minus thirty out,” said Carly.

With limitations on public gatherings in effect across the world, 4-H Alberta suspended activities across the province, which resulted in the cancellation of the show and wind-up dinner. The district did still decide to judge the steers and hold the annual sale, making some social distancing protocols for the event.

Each club member was given a day and time to drop of their steer at the Stettler Auction Mart, minimizing interaction between families, and then on Tuesday, May 19th each animal was lined up and judged. While entries would typically be based on a mix of showmanship, record keeping and animal quality this year the entries were just based on the animal.

“It was a lot different this year than most years,” said Crystal Rairdon, one of the owners of the Stettler Auction Mart.

“Judging for the show was just in the pen, (with) the calves tied up. No kids were around.”

After the judging, winners were notified.

“A lot of things had to align for us to win this show. We’re over the moon for sure,” said Carly.

The accompanying cattle sale was different this year as well.

Always held the Tuesday night after the long weekend, this year the steers were brought into a makeshift sales pen by the families. The animal was led around the pen and videotaped by Rairdon, and then during the auction the videos were placed on the Stettler Auction Mart web site.

Very few people were actually in attendance to bid live at the auction mart.

All 59 steers that were part of the competition were sold for slaughter.

“A couple days after the sale they went to different butchers around the area,” said Rairdon.

“It was a little tricky this year finding butcher spots for all of them due to the Cargill shutdown. Prices were good this year, our average was up. It was a really good sale.”

Proceeds from the sale of the calves goes back to the kids who raised them for the last few months.

Meanwhile, Alberta 4-H has suspended activities across the province until at least Sept. 30th.

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