4-H Junior Livestock judging is more than a bovine beauty contest. It brings out the best in contestants, animals | VailDaily.com

4-H Junior Livestock judging is more than a bovine beauty contest. It brings out the best in contestants, animals

EAGLE — Alyah Ahring and her Grand Champion angus steer saw eye to eye Friday, July 27.

Ahring, 9, was just tall enough to be looking her steer in the eye when judge Michael Semler smacked her steer where the rump roast will be and declared her steer the Grand Champion in this year's Junior Livestock Judging.

The steer judging winds up a week of livestock judging, as 4-H Club participants head into Saturday's Junior Livestock Auction.

Long line of 4-H families

Like most 4-H Clubers in the region, Alyah comes from a long line of 4-H family participants. Her mom and dad, John and Vaniel, have made it part of their lifestyles since they were her age, as has almost everyone in their extended family.

Livestock participants, especially beef contestants, start in October when they pick a calf. Sometimes they cull one from a herd of hundreds. In Alyah's case, she and her parents picked hers from two. When you know, you know.

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"Once you do it and keep doing it, you start to know what to look for," John said.

John and his wife Vaniel (Bair) may have been doing this for years, but this was Alyah's first time in the show ring.

What to judge for

Semler is not that many years old but has been showing and judging livestock for decades.

It's different from species to species, he said.

The untrained observer can look at a lineup of Angus steers and not be able to tell the difference. But for Semler, it's not just a bovine beauty contest.

He looks for balance and the most and highest quality.

"It's a matter of training your eye. The pieces look like they've been put together by an individual who cares what they were doing, not a committee," he said.

Vocation and avocation

It can be vocation as much as avocation. Kelby Kaufman was this year's Reserve Grand Champion — he finished second in beef. He is buying heifers and is building his own herd.

"Four-H is the largest youth development organization in the country," said Jenny Leonetti, Eagle County 4-H Club Youth Development Agent.

At the Junior Livestock Auction, local 4-H Club participants will sell their beef, sheep, swine, goat, poultry and rabbits to the highest bidder.

The auction is the culmination of thousands of hours of daily feeding, cleaning and handling their animals, as well as business and organizational skills they'll use the rest of their lives.

"Raising an animal for several months teaches kids responsibility, hard work, record keeping and dedication to seeing a project come to fruition," Leonetti said.

The money they earn goes to things such as next year's animals, college funds and savings accounts.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

If You Go …

What: 4-H Junior Livestock Auction

When: 1 p.m. Saturday, July 28.

Where: Eagle River Center, Eagle County Fairgrounds, Eagle.

Cost: Beginning at noon, there is a free barbecue for potential buyers and their families. It costs nothing to attend the auction.

More information: 97 percent of the money goes to the 4-H participant. The other 3 percent pays for the annual event. For more information, visit http://www.eaglecountyfairandrodeo.com.