Are you from San Antonio? How about Denver? Fort Worth? Houston?
If you answered yes, then you probably know what time of year January – March is. No, not the Polar Vortex months; although we are on track for that. No, we are in the midst of Stock Show and rodeo season! Only the best time of year if you ask me. Walking through the show barns, I am breathing it in. Two full nostrils full of an interesting mixture of a scent: cow patties, cedar shavings, usual rodeo food, and kids hopes and dreams. Oh it’s the smell of joy to me.
So are you wondering what the heck the picture is above? Or what the heck I meant by the title? Well here goes. Today was the 4th Beef Skillathon, through the SA Livestock Show & Rodeo. I am beyond proud of this event. I was there from day one when I worked as a student worker for Dr. Cleere. We, along with others, helped revive this event and bring it back to the competitive glory it deserves.
This skillathon is a competition for youth beef enthusiasts to show their stuff. There are three divisions based on 4-H/FFA rules: junior (ages 8-10), intermediate (11-13), and senior (14-19). Round 1 consists of a written test and then a series of tables with different exercises. All of the questions on the test and the information in the various exercise can be found here. After each of these is scored and totaled, the top five in each division will move on to the finals. For the juniors, finals consists of one more round of skill stations. However, for intermediates and seniors, another round of skill stations as well as a five-minute interview is involved.
After it is all said and done, 2-$10,000 scholarships were awarded to the two top seniors. Today, the 1st and 3rd place winners took home the scholarships since the young man in 2nd had won the scholarship the year prior.
It was another successful year! This event has grown into a well-organized competition that enabled kids to show the world what all they know. They are smarter than they let on, sometimes. When they can’t rely on parents, FFA coaches, and friends they find brilliance in themselves!
I, no longer work for Dr. Cleere (because I graduated and got a big-girl job!) but I always do my best to come out to these sort of events and help out where I can. I guess I really can’t get enough of it. But anyhow, today I helped judge the tattoo station in the finals.
If you are unfamiliar with the business, for the most part tattooing is limited to the purebred industry and for commercial females after receiving their brucellosis vaccine. Tattooing goes above and beyond when it comes to forms of identification.
Think about people. If someone is missing or wanted, tattoos are listed as a form of reliable identification. Most cattle will wear at least one ear tag in it’s life. It will also quite possibly lose more than one too! Therefore, tattooing animals is one sure-fire way to make sure you identify an animal correctly.
Ranchers are good, but if they have a herd of 1,000-head of solid black cattle a few of them will look and act the same.
When it was all said and done, I was extremely impressed with these 11-19-year-olds. They were composed, confident, yet most were humble enough to ask what they could do better next time.
Tattooing cattle may not seem like much to you. But it’s things like this, breed classification, EPD analysis, equipment identification, etc., that prove that the youth of America can and will use their brains. And lets face it, I am glad they are using it for such an vital industry!
At the end of the day, I had a table full of ears in front of me and ten kids who made finals looking to claim the top prize. I hope each of them went home with a sense of accomplishment knowing they are the future.
For more cool information make sure you check out your local 4-H/FFA chapters, nearest university that specializes in Agriculture (my favorite is Texas A&M of course!) and your state’s ag extension or cooperative.
And you should definitely visit one of the most useful sites on the web. RanchTV.org is a virtual video library, provided by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension covering beef cattle husbandry and low-stress handling.