Annual 4-H show goes virtual
By Beverly Bidney
Since the pandemic began, 99 kids in the Seminole Indian 4-H program have demonstrated they can weather just about any storm while raising their livestock for the annual show and sale.
“It’s been an interesting year,” said Kimberly Clement, Florida cooperative extension 4-H special projects coordinator. “We were working in uncharted grounds, but we had more animals this year.”
The 4-H year concluded March 26 with a very different kind of show, or shows. There was not one location and one time for all the 4-H’ers to compete; instead, virtual shows were held in Big Cypress, Brighton, Hollywood and Immokalee from March 22 to 26.
The 4-H’ers showed 44 swine, 29 steer and 15 heifers. The participants each occupied the ring alone while a video crew documented it. Kids walked their animals as if they were showing for a judge in the ring, but this time the cameras served as eyes for the judges.
Each 4-H’er led a hog, steer, and heifer or cow-calf pair through a very specific course in the ring so the videographers could display the animal from every possible angle. Kids were directed to move the animal in a variety of ways until the front, back and each side were successfully filmed.
A three-minute video of each 4-H’er with his or her animal was to be sent to the University of Florida judges, who would make a final determination of the winners in each class and select the grand champion, reserve champion and junior, intermediate and senior showmanship winners for swine, steer and heifer categories. The judges were Todd Thrift for cattle and Kyle Mendez for swine.
The kids seemed to take the changes in stride. Veteran 4-H’er Karlyne Urbina, 17, of Brighton, has been in the program since she was 4-years-old.
“This year not showing with other kids feels a little weird,” she said. “It was a different and a little harder.”
When she got in the ring with her 1,204-pound steer, she demonstrated confidence and control of the animal.
Before going into the ring, animals were weighed and an ultrasound scan was taken to measure the carcass content. Rebecca Weeks, of RW Livestock Ultrasound, showed the kids what she was doing and why as she moved the ultrasound scanner on the animal’s skin to see what was underneath.
For steer, Weeks measured the ribeye area, back fat and quality grade. For hogs, she measured the loin area and back fat. During the process, 4-H’ers learned about the grades of meat measured by the intermuscular fat, or marbling, as seen through the ultrasound.
“She made sure to take the time and explain the scientific knowledge of what the meat of their animal broke down to,” Clement said. “This was the best educational experience the kids have experienced this year.”
Seven hogs were shown March 22 at the 4-H barn in Immokalee. Kids and parents kept socially distanced from other competitors and left the grounds when they finished showing.
This was Ariel Concepcion’s first time raising a 278-pound hog, which she named Pumba. She enjoyed the process, but didn’t like it when she had to use the whip to make him move.
“I was afraid to hurt him,” said Ariel, 9, of Immokalee. “It took a lot of practice. I don’t like when I have to whack him, but my whip worked [in the ring]. I used it on the back of his neck to steer him.”
Homer Beltran has been in 4-H for three years, but this was the first year his hog made weight and he showed it in the ring. His mom, Anna Motlow, was pleased with how he did.
“He’s been taking care of his hog,” said Motlow, of Immokalee. “And he’s been learning responsibility and having accountability.”
The Brighton 4-H grounds were busy with shows for two days; steer and heifers were shown on March 25, hogs on March 26. Lindi Carter was the first in the ring to show her steer. It was her first time raising such a large animal. “Bubba” was a 992-pound Brahma-cross steer.
“He’s different than the other ones,” said Lindi, 10. “He was the only who was being calm. He was nervous so I sat down with him. I knew he was the one I needed because he just fit with me.”
Although Bubba didn’t make weight, Lindi exhibited him and he will go into the family pasture for the time being.
Brace Miller, 9, and Khoal Cochran, 11, demonstrated confidence in their abilities with steers and heifers. Brace raised a steer, while Khoal raised a steer and three heifers, including a cow-calf pair that was the Grand Champion Cow Calf in the show. He showed his steer in the Moore Haven youth livestock show on March 3.
“Nothing was too hard about it,” Brace said. “I even ride mine.”
Unlike previous years, there was no crowd to cheer the kids, but parents kept a close watch as their children made their way around the ring.
“As a parent, watching your kid participate with animals shows a form of love, care and respect,” said Justin Gopher, Creek Gopher’s father. “He’s been in 4-H for five years. He has a lot of care for all animals, dogs, horses, cows. He has a tender hand when it comes to his animals.”