Start-A-Steer idea designed to boost fair totals

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The number of youths showing steers at the Madison County Fair is slowly dwindling. Expense is the culprit, says Bill McDonald, who has come up with a possible solution.

“Almost all other projects, you have to have by May 1. To take a steer, you’re required to have them by Jan. 1. They can eat up to 25 pounds of feed a day, which can get pretty expensive over the long run,” said McDonald, who serves as secretary of the Junior Fair Livestock Sale Committee and 4-H beef key leader for Madison County.

To lessen the expense and maximize the return, McDonald proposed a new project category for this year’s fair—Start-A-Steer.

Youths who participate in the two-year project will start by buying a feeder calf, which costs less than a steer. They will show the animal as a feeder calf at this year’s fair and participate in the livestock sale at the end of the week. They will collect premiums on the animal, but not the market price because they will hold onto the animal and show it at next year’s fair as a steer.

“My hope is that they will take the premium money they earn the first year and invest it into the animal for a bigger return the next year,” McDonald said.

He noted that feeder calves usually bring $400 to $600 gross at market while steers bring $1,000 to $1,300 gross at market.

While first-year Start-A-Steers will actually be feeder calves, the youths who participate in Start-A-Steer will be judged separately from the normal feeder calf category. Their project requirements also are a little different.

Whereas a feeder calf must weigh 350 to 899 pounds at fair time, the weight parameters for start-a-steers is 200 to 450 pounds. The difference is due to the fact that start-a-steers must be born after Jan. 1 of the current fair year; such is not the case for feeder calves. McDonald recommends that youths participating in start-a-steer purchase calves born between Feb. 15 and April 15 for the best chance to hit the weight allowance by fair time in July. Participants must have their start-a-steer calf no later than June 15.

Another difference in the rules for the new project is that, prior to the premium livestock sale the first year, participants must sign a letter of intent to bring the feeder back as a steer the second year.

McDonald said he hopes the new project sparks an increase in the number of steers that end up at the fair. The highest number he remembers seeing in recent years is 13.

McDonald was raised on a livestock farm with 276 head of cows and over 200 sows in Bainbridge, Ohio. He now has six cows, six calves and some sows on his farm in Madison County. In addition to serving on the livestock sales committee and as 4-H beef key leader, he is an advisor for the Green Range 4-H Club.

For details about Start-A-Steer, call Bill McDonald at 740-837-0364.

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