NORTH LAWRENCE, Ohio — After a day at school, Addy Brenner, 16, goes straight to the barn. Her two market steers, Kolby, a Simmental, and Stetson, a Shorthorn, are waiting for her.
She scoops feed from a bag into a bucket — 2.5% of the steers’ body weights, which, in mid-February, is about 15 pounds of feed each. Stetson greets her at the gate to his pen when she brings his food in.
Next, she drops two flakes of hay over the wooden fences into each pen. The steers, focused on their feed, don’t acknowledge the forage.
Brenner fills two buckets with water from a spigot on the opposite side of the barn, then hauls the buckets back over to refill the steers’ water buckets.
Brenner doesn’t even miss a beat when asked what it takes to have a successful 4-H project.
“Hard work and dedication,” she says.
The work is daily. Brenner’s dad, Blake Brenner, helps her out by taking care of the morning chores while she goes to school. Then, after school, she takes care of her afternoon chores.
Brenner just finished her basketball season at Tuslaw High School, which means that she can now focus on her 4-H projects for the 2020 Stark County Fair. She was recently voted in as a co-president for her 4-H club, the Tusci Barnyard Hi-Steppers.
In addition to her market projects, her five brood cows are all set to calve over the next several months. Once her cows calve, Brenner will raise the calves to be sold as market steers for the 2021 fair. She is also planning to get pygmy goats to show at the fair this year.
Brenner is deliberate about how she feeds her market steers. The Shorthorn gets Umbarger Cattle Blaster. The Simmental gets a ration that the Brenners have mixed at a local feed mill.
“I feed the Shorthorn a more expensive feed because of his genetics,” Brenner explained.
Her Shorthorn steer has better genetics for showing, so by investing in higher-quality feed for him, she hopes that she can make him the best show steer possible by fair time.
Brenner does not give her steers any medicated feeds, so she does not have to worry about withdrawal times, but she is still keeping receipts and other records for her project book.
She recently went to a quality assurance clinic, a requirement for all 4-H’ers who are showing terminal or partly-terminal market animals. The clinic covered good practices for raising market animals and why these practices are important.
The hard work still isn’t a guarantee of success. Brenner knows that after last year. She got her steer for the 2019 fair the previous October, in 2018, and walked him every day to get him ready for the fair. But when show day rolled around, her steer wasn’t having it.
“I hit the show ring and I walked one lap … he broke my show stick; he broke the sole of my boot; he stepped on it and ripped it. It was bad,” Brenner said.
The steer got away from her. Committee members helped catch him, and she tried to bring him back into the show ring, but he got loose again. It took three committee members to bring the steer back to his stall.
“I was disappointed, because, I mean, I worked a long time with him, and up till that day he was fine,” Brenner said. She always brings her steers to the show ring the night before the show so they can get used to the area. Her steer was fine the night before, and he was fine when she took him into the sale ring later that week. But show day just wasn’t her day.
This year, it could be.
Once the steers are done eating, Brenner walks each of them for about 30 minutes, up and down the long driveway outside the barn. Stetson resists having his halter put on at first, but gives in with persistence and patience. They both have gotten easier to work with over time.
After walking her steers, Brenner ties them in their pens for about an hour so that they get used to standing for longer periods of time.
On show day, she said, sometimes the steers have to be tied while they wait for their shows, and if they aren’t used to standing, they may just lay down and get their fur dirty. Plus, the standing and walking helps them build muscle.
The steers have already gained significant weight since the Stark County Fair’s steer weigh-in in December. In December, Stetson was 560 pounds, while Kolby was 575 pounds. As of Feb. 26, Stetson was 860 pounds, and Kolby was 830 pounds. Both steers are right on track, gaining similar rates to Brenner’s previous projects.
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