This week’s Brazos County Youth Livestock Show is something 4-H and FFA students have been waiting for since last year’s event was canceled due to COVID-19.
“It’s a great opportunity for our students to take the projects they raised all year or worked on and be able to actually exhibit them unlike last year,” College Station High School ag teacher Rodney Martine said of the event at the Brazos County Expo.
It is vital, he added, for the students to participate in the contests and see the outcome of their hard work.
“Just seeing the smiles on their faces, even though they don’t all win, they’re getting to do what they love,” he said.
Olivia King, a third grader at Houston Elementary School in Bryan, is in her first year of competition. She called her heifer, Duchess, her baby, saying they will fall asleep together sometimes. Her favorite part of the show is seeing her “show friends,” but it is a little nerve-wracking, she said, because she feels like a student at a new school.
Her dad, Brad, said he is glad his daughter is learning the importance of agriculture and life lessons at a young age through 4-H.
“They’re getting up at 5, 6 o’clock in the morning, going out to feed, getting home from school, doing school work, going back out to feed, bathing and brushing,” he said. “It’s teaching them a lot of responsibility.”
Jordan Priest, a senior at Still Creek Christian Academy, is used to the work involved in raising animals, having raised chickens for the past seven years. The show was a memorable return to the ring, as his broiler was named grand champion Thursday.
“It’s kind of like a dream come true, because I’ve been showing chickens for so many years,” he said. “Last year was kind of a disappointment because it kind of broke the streak of going to the show, but this year kind of made up for it.”
Tatum Bennett, a seventh grader at Wellborn Middle School, achieved her goal as well this year, earning a showmanship buckle for her chicken. She said it feels good to earn the recognition after her hours of work. Her goat did not do as well as she hoped, but she said she was glad to get to show her animals this year and that they will be included in Saturday’s premium auction, which will be at 2 p.m.
Garrett Kuhlmann said he is glad his son Fred, 9, is able to experience showing pigs. This is the first year in the Runtin’-N-Gruntin’ Brazos County 4-H Club for Fred, a third grader at KOR Education School in College Station.
“It’s a chance for him to do mature things and grow up at a very young age and learn what responsibility is,” Garrett Kuhlmann said.
Fred’s mom, Lisa Kuhlmann, said all the responsibility falls on him.
“In the freeze, he took hot water out to them every two hours, carrying with his little bucket because their water was frozen — everything was frozen — and they won’t drink it if it’s too cold,” she said. “… That was his responsibility; he did it. Those are the things that you don’t really think about.”
Fred’s parents help facilitate the care of his pigs Moony and Guapo, but it is up to Fred to make sure they have water, get fed and are taken care of.
“Until the last minute of their life, they have to be happy,” Fred said, noting that happiness is his responsibility.
Sean Gibson, a senior at A&M Consolidated High School, said his grand champion ag mechanics project — a hall tree — is the only ag mechanics project going to the premium auction.
“It feels like all of the hard work and time that I put into this project, it really culminated in an amazing way,” he said.
Gibson’s work on the project began before the coronavirus halted everything last year. Then, in the middle of the fall semester, he picked it up again.
Pablo Vargas, a senior at Bryan High School, said although the show is not entirely back to normal, he is glad to have it this year, saying it gives all the students a chance to show off their hard work. Last year, he was prepared to show his heifer, Wetta, and his steers. This year, though, he not only had Wetta, but also her calf, which was born March 21.
“When I couldn’t show, I was pretty devastated, but once she got pregnant, I was pretty excited for her,” he said.
After the initial relief he felt when he got confirmation that Wetta was pregnant, his stress ramped up as they traveled to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo for its private contests this month, not knowing when she would give birth. However, she ended up giving birth just in time for her bull calf to be part of this year’s BCYLS.
“It’s kind of like you’re speechless almost, because it’s a beautiful thing,” he said.