Saturday, February 21, 2015

Marketing the Steer

The reason for all of this: feeding the steer, brushing it, washing it, walking it, is all for one major reason-- the market. Every year in March, the Central Florida Fair Grounds host a Livestock show, complete with rabbits, chickens, pigs, heifers, sheep, and steers. Kids spend about five days out of the week at the fair grounds with their steer, participating in Skillathon, showing in their animal, and finally, selling the steer in the market.

Every participant is required to provide his own buyers. The steer goes to the highest bidder, and prices usually go higher than market price. However, any money over market price when buying a steer is a tax deduction because it is considered a donation to 4-H.  The most common way to find buyers is by sending out letters.  This blog is intended to compliment the buyer letters I sent out by allowing me to show potential buyers more of the process of raising a steer.  It also allows the buyers to see more pictures of George.

 If someone doesn't have the money to buy, but would still like to support a participant, they can do what is called an "add-on." An add-on is when you give a certain amount per pound that you would like to add on to the amount the student gets paid for the steer.   Whether a person buys a whole steer, or just contributes add-on money, buyers can feel satisfied that they have contributed to the development of a young person and to the agriculture industry.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Demonstration Time: The Ruminant Digestive System!

A demonstration is something every 4-H'er is required to do. The student is required to take one topic from skill-a-thon (a test every student is required to take at the fair) and do a presentation on that topic.

This year, I chose to do the digestive system. The board I made had pipes running to each section of the system. When it came time for my presentation, I put colored water into the pipe so I could show the "food" traveling through out the system.

The digestive system of cows is much different from pigs or horses, because cows do not have acid in their stomachs to digest food.  Instead, the food takes a round about path through different parts of the stomach for rumination, back up to the mouth (as a cud)  for further chewing, and then back again so that the grass or grain can be broken down enough for nutrients to be available when the food travels to the intestines. 

When cows and other ruminants are fed grain, as George is, it is very important to make sure they also get plenty of roughage, like grass or hay, to prevent too much gas from building up in their stomachs and causing diarrhea or bloat.  

While I was preparing my presentation, I got to get some hands-on expertise with my topic.  George and our bull Norman both had some mild bloating.  It was not severe, but because bloat can kill an animal if it's not treated, we had to act fast.  Fortunately, their case was mild enough that we were able to ease their symptoms by just walking them around for a few hours and giving them plenty of hay.  My dad was pretty nervous.  (We have a LOT of money invested in those two animals!)  Once we heard George and Norman passing the gas as they walked, I am sure my dad felt as relieved as they must have felt!