Catch-A-Calf program steers local 4-H youth to beef industry
Local teenagers Dean VanWinkle and Mansor Elisha have attended the National Western Stock Show in the past, but only as spectators.
This year, they will show a market steer for the first time at one of the largest and most prestigious events of its kind.
The 16-day Stock Show attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors from across the U.S. and the world, offering Western-themed livestock shows, rodeos, and other entertainment. It opens today and runs through Jan. 26.
Elisha, 17, a senior at Central High School, and Van- Winkle, 15, a freshman at Fruita Monument High School, will participate thanks to their involvement in the long-running Catch-A-Calf program, nationalwestern.com/catch-a-calf.
The boys weighed their animals in Friday and will take part in interviews today and show their steers at 10 a.m. Sunday in the Stadium Arena at the National Western Complex.
“This is huge,” Elisha said. “I’ve been excited all week.”
The Catch-A-Calf program is open to 4-H youth to teach them more about the beef industry, the experience of showing cattle, communicating with sponsors and compiling record books.
Elisha and VanWinkle and other youth in the program were responsible for every facet of raising their steers except for the cost of the calves.
The pre-selected calves were purchased by sponsors and belong to the Stock Show but were entrusted to youth to raise and give back.
Elisha and VanWinkle received their calves in May, when the animals were about 8 months old and weighed less than 800 pounds.
They raised the steers in a healthy, humane way, trying to hit 1,250 to 1,350 pounds to meet the desire of prospective buyers by Friday.
The boys will receive market price for a pound of beef based on what their steer weighs.
Two winning steers will go to live auction.
VanWinkle and Elisha both said the program taught them invaluable lessons about healthy animal weight gain and the cost of putting a pound on a steer.
“I really enjoyed the program,” VanWinkle said. “It teaches you a lot more from an industry standpoint. It can be a good eye-opener. A lot of what I learned is about different feeding techniques.”
Youth are only eligible for the program once.
Elisha said the time commitment to raise and document his decisions took him from, among other things, wrestling practice, but he loved the program.
“I’m definitely raising my own meat when I get older,” he said.