10/07/12 — Beef heifer show 'moooves' into the fair

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Beef heifer show 'moooves' into the fair

By John Joyce
Published in News on October 7, 2012 1:50 AM

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Caleb Heath, 11, displays his heifer, Madame, to Open Junior Beef Heifer competition judge Andy Burlingham at the Wayne Regional Agricultural Fair.

There were short horns and blue roan, Angus and cross breeds, all on display in the Open Junior Beef Heifer competition Friday at the Wayne Regional Agricultural Fair.

Russell Vinson and his grandson, Caleb Heath, 11, were the only team representing Wayne County in the event that drew participants, as well as spectators, from all over the state.

"It's a lot of work. You have to wash them every other day, rinse them on the in-between days, keep them fanned and indoors in the daytime and let them out at night, and they eat twice a day," said Vinson.

But he wasn't talking about his grandson and the other junior beef wranglers. Vinson was referring to Madame, his grandson's 1-year-old heifer.

The Seven Springs natives have raised cattle all their lives and Caleb is learning valuable lessons, both in the arena and outside it.

"The experience teaches them character, skills to interact with the other kids out here, and it gives them confidence," Vinson said.

Vinson thinks the Junior Open Circuit is a great experience for kids if their families have the means to support it. It is expensive, he warns, but the payoff is knowing where your children are, who they are with and what they are up too, "pretty much all the time."

Charles Lehay agrees. His daughter Grace, 13, and her 2-year-old heifer, Liberty, took part in the second show of their fourth event on this year's circuit.

"I love washing and drying them, it's the most fun," said Grace.

Of course, she went on to say that when the animals are uncooperative and everybody is staring, that part isn't as fun.

Guest judge Andy Burlingham had the heifer-handlers, ages 9 to 19 years, demonstrate their showmanship as they paraded and reset their cattle at his command.

At the end of each show he lined the contestants and cattle up in the order they placed and told the audience what he'd looked for and the questions he asked during the competition to determine the rankings.

"I'm looking for showmanship, the presentation and knowledge of the animal and industry, also what they know from the raising experience and how they set the cow's feet," said Burlington.

There were no real winners or losers in the competition. Instead there are points awarded over the course of eight shows and a winner is crowned after the final competition.

First place will take home a silver belt buckle, second place will earn the winner an embroidered jacket, and the rest who place will receive various monetary awards.