A trainer led her steer to its chute to be primped and prodded for the Centre County Grange Encampment and Fair’s junior cattle show Sunday morning.
The trainer was 11-year-old Kylie Simpson, and the black steer, Fred, weighed about 12 times as much as her — 1,210 pounds.
A brief battle of wills ensued, one that Simpson won with ease, as the steer pulled away about halfway into the chute.
Simpson pulled back, got the Fred all the way in and patted him on the side.
Even at such a severe size disadvantage, she fed, cleaned and trained Fred and two other steers with her 14-year- old brother, Tyler, every day for 10 months for the Grange Fair.
“It’s not always easy for her, but she’s fearless,” said Kylie’s mother, Audra, of Port Matilda. “The older they get, the more they do. He does a lot of the heavier stuff, and she’s does a lot of the nitty, gritty stuff.”
The Simpsons said the work it takes to show beef cattle is strenuous, an hour-a-day responsibility at minimum that will culminate Wednesday when they sell. They spent all of Sunday prepping for the show.
“We got up here at 4:30 a.m, took them out into the show ring for walks, washed them, dried them, fed them, cleaned their pen and basically baby-sat them all day,” Tyler Simpson said.
With all of the laborious work junior show contestants put into raising their steer, there was no consensus on the most difficult part of the job.
Emilie Campbell, of Pennsylvania Furnace, said she worked with her steer for five to six hours a day, but picking out a young steer to raise is hard.
Campbell placed first overall in the lightweight division.
“There are things you have to think about when you’re picking them out,” Campbell, 20, said.
“Judges look at their structure, so when you buy you have to particularly look at their structure. And then you have to monitor their weight and walk them.”
Mackenzie Stine, of Julian, worked with her first-place steer, Boss Hog, for at least 90 minutes a day.
She said the first few weeks of raising a steer are difficult.
“It’s rewarding after all of the hard work you put in to get first place, but he wasn’t easy at the start,” Stine, who placed first in the light mediumweight division, said. “It takes them a few weeks to get comfortable with you, so it’s a little scary at first. He’s done really well, though. It all paid off.”
Some junior showmen, like Bellefonte’s C.J. Lauck, help pay for the steer they raise.
“It’s tough, because I have to feed them,” Lauck, 13, said of his two steer and two pigs. “The steer eat a bag of feed in two weeks, and one bag is $18. The first year my dad got me started, but I buy their feed now. If it were easy, a lot of other people would do it.”
Cheyenne Swartz, 17, said it was her first year raising steer, and it was tougher than raising the dairy cattle, which she did for 10 years. Despite it being her first year, she placed first overall in the middleweight division.
“It’s a lot different,” Swartz, of Centre Hall, said. “We don’t use the stick for dairy cattle, and you spend a lot more time with beef cattle.”
Swartz said she had to learn to use a stick to improve her five-month-old, 1,275-pound steer’s posture, and she walked him for at least 30 minutes a day to make him strong for the show.
“You don’t want them to be close together,” Swartz said. “You also don’t want them to be to far apart, so you have to get their feet somewhere in the middle to show their muscle.”
Each junior show contestant agreed, though, that it will be tough to sell their steer Wednesday.
“We get attached to them, so it’s hard to let them go,” Kylie Simpson said.