All in the family
WORTHINGTON — Taking a stroll through the beef barn on the Nobles County Fairgrounds, visitors may notice a bit of a trend in the 4-H family names posted on exhibitor cards stapled above the baby beef calves and the massive market steers.
There’s a Baumhoefner, son and grandson of former 4-H beef exhibitors; the Wagner and Ahlschlager cousins who are children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of former 4-H’ers; a Bullerman who is a third-generation 4-H beef exhibitor; three Bickett youths, a Rogers brother and sister, and a Schaefer girl who represent their family’s second generation of 4-H beef project exhibitors; and finally, a Soderholm who, in his final year as a 4-H’er, followed in the footsteps of three older siblings, parents, aunts and uncles to show beef at the Nobles County Fair.
All of these youths — as well as several other first-generation 4-H beef exhibitors — will take center stage inside Olson Arena on the Nobles County Fairgrounds this morning as they show their animals and vie for purple ribbons and the opportunity to advance to the Minnesota State Fair.
Yet, less than 24 hours before the show, not a one mentioned purple ribbons and state fair trips as the reasons they show beef animals. To them, it’s the camaraderie, friendships and fun that come along with being at the fair for five straight days that make the beef project so appealing. They look after each other’s animals, handle the pooper scooper without complaint, make sure there is ample food and water and put forth the best impression possible to the visiting public.
Deron Soderholm is perhaps the most experienced beef exhibitor at the fair this year. At age 19 and in his final year as a 4-H’er with the Elk Tip Toppers club, he has shown beef every year since the third grade, and gone on to compete in regional and state shows in Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota and Nebraska. He has four animals to lead through the show ring today.
“My family was always part of it (the 4-H beef show) and my dad and his family were,” Soderholm said. “It was just something I’ve always enjoyed and my friends always did it. I’ve had a lot of opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise.”
Four Wagner siblings — Mackenzie, Mitchell, Marshall and Madeline — along with Brynn Bullerman have a combined 13 head of cattle to show today, making for an early start to their day.
“We’re here by 5 a.m.,” said Mackenzie Wagner. “It takes a while to get them all ready to go.”
On Thursday, they shampooed all of the animals to save some time before today’s 8 a.m. show start. Now, it is just a matter of keeping them clean and then spiffing them up before they enter the ring.
Members of the Grand Prairie Rockets 4-H Club, the Wagners show beef owned by Tom and Trish Bullerman. In the early years, however, Mackenzie said they showed what they had on their farm.
“My first year I started off with sheep — my parents thought that would be a really easy project for me,” she said. “After the first year, I decided to show beef animals because that’s what we have on our farm — it was more convenient for us.”
It was also more convenient because her mom, Melanie (Harberts) Wagner, showed beef cattle in Nobles County 4-H.
“(Beef exhibiting) has completely changed from then,” Mackenzie said. “People back then (showed) just what you had on the farm. Now you put a lot of money into a calf if you want to do good.”
Mackenzie has shown beef cattle for nine years, while brother Mitchell is an eight-year beef exhibitor, Marshall is in his fourth year and Madeline, at age 9, is in her first year in the 4-H program.
“We all kind of work together,” Marshall said.
“It’s fun and I like to show,” added Madeline. “I just like cows.”
Brynn Bullerman started showing beef cattle when she was in the second grade at the Minnesota State Fair’s open beef show.
“Once I was old enough to come here, I started showing beef here and also tried goats,” said the 11-year-old. “I enjoy beef a lot more than I enjoy goats. Beef are a little easier to handle and don’t act up as much as goats do.”
The Bickett siblings, who lease cattle from their uncle, Shane Rose, will also be working together this morning and throughout the beef show. Emmett, 12, broke his foot Sunday night while trying to catch his brother’s runaway beef steer. As a result, 14-year-old Kendrick will be showing not only his three cattle, but Emmett’s three as well.
As the oldest, Kendrick said he started showing beef in 4-H because “it was a family thing and I just carried on the family tradition.”
The Bicketts, members of the Elk Tip Toppers club, are fourth-generation 4-H members and second-generation beef exhibitors.
The youngest in the family, 9-year-old Karissa, has shown a beef calf in each of the past three years as a Cloverbud (pre-4-H member), but this is her first year in the regular 4-H program. She hopes to mark the occasion by leading her calf, Hero, into the show ring all by herself. Hero, by the way, earned his name because he was born with a bent tendon and, after wearing a cast for a while, is now able to walk normally.
Landon Rogers will show three beef animals today, while his sister Shawna is showing a prospect steer and a spring calf. All of the animals they brought came from their own Black Angus and Angus-cross beef herd. Landon and his older brother, Logan, own 22 head of heifers in a cow-calf operation.
“We work with what we have,” said Landon, in his sixth year as a 4-H beef exhibitor. His dad showed beef in 4-H, while his grandpa showed pigs.
“I enjoy seeing friends and showing cattle,” he added.
For 11-year-old Shawna, showing the calves is the most fun.
“It’s just easier,” she said. “I just like showing baby ones because they’re so cute.”
While the younger beef exhibitors like Shawna Rogers and Madison Schaefer, age 10, are each showing calves, they will also be relying on their dads for a little help in getting their animals ready for the show ring.
“We wash him and blow dry him and clip him,” Schaefer said of the pre-show work.
For Rylan Baumhoefner and Ben Ahlschlager, both seasoned 4-H beef show exhibitors, they know more of the responsibility will fall on them to get their animals ready for the show ring. As such, Baumhoefner said he’ll be in by 6:30 this morning to get his two cattle ready for the show.
Ahlschlager has a little less work to do with his three steers because he is showing in the dairy steer division.
“They’re a little easier to tame — they’re easier to halter break and you don’t have to clip as much,” the 15-year-old Ahlschlager said. “They’re just a little easier to manage … and get ready to show.”