Raised on ranching | VailDaily.com

Raised on ranching

Geraldine Haldner

If his two 4-H livestock projects – a Hamp Cross pig and a Gelbvie steer – don’t win him Grand Champion honors at this year’s 4-H livestock competition, he has one more chance at next year’s Eagle County Fair & Rodeo.After that, the 17-year-old Eagle Valley High School senior will be 18 years old and done with 4-H – but likely not with ranching and raising livestock.Wood says he will treasure what he learned in a decade of participating in 4-H, a national program run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that aims to instill good values in children going into the fields of ranching and farming.Wood has raised everything from sheep to steers on his grandfather’s ranch near Gypsum, and regardless of purple ribbons he says he has enjoyed the experience.But a purple ribbon would be nice, he admits.”That could be my goal,” says the soft-spoken, contemporary cowboy, whose dapper straw hat is oddly off-set by mirrored sunglasses, all topped with a sly, slightly crooked smile.”I think 4-H was a really good experience for me. Learning about the agricultural business. It’s things you can use for life if you can get a good job in agriculture,” he says, lounging in the shady confines of the still-empty livestock barn, where he will drop off his pig and his steer today and cross his fingers until Friday, when both animals have been weighed and prodded and the judges have made their choices.”I’ve never won a Grand Champion title,” he says with another smile, not sounding too distraught about it. “I would like one. I guess this is my my year; otherwise I’ll only have one more chance.”Ribbon or not, Wood, along with about 100 other 4-H participants, will fare well in the fair’s Junior Livestock Auction on Saturday, when local individuals and businesses pull out their wallets and bid on livestock projects.The money – designated for college funds – is always good, and much better than what you could get on any feed lot, Wood says.”You got to have money to have a ranch to be a rancher,” he tells his friend, 17-year-old Joe Estes, who is desperately trying to get his characterization of Wood as a “Red Neck” in this story – and has just told his best friend since sixth grade that he is going to be a rancher, regardless of Wood’s undecided college plans.”People who bid on our beef and hogs are really, really good about giving us much more than they are worth,” Wood says, adding that instead of getting maybe a dollar a pound, local 4-H supporters are known to contribute as much as $4 per pound to young aspiring ranchers around here.After being in Wood’s care since November, when the calf weighed about 500 pounds, his young steer tips the scale at 1,200 pounds.Meanwhile his pig, which he has fed and cared for since May, “will be well over” the 120-pound minimum. She is a good, healthy and well-behaved hog, he says.Wood, who like to rope in his spare time and “isn’t really good at anything in school,” admits to liking history more than anything else. He says he will look back at his career with 4-H with fondness.”I learned a lot about what raising an animal entails. I learned a lot about the business side of ranching. This will be beneficial for me no matter what I end up doing.”

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