Long hours, hard work are part of bittersweet journey of raising market steers
They rise early and work late after school, washing, exercising, feeding and caring for their steers as they prepare them for the show ring. They learn responsibility and skills, the importance of agriculture and how to say goodbye to an animal they’ve spent months raising.
It’s tough work, physically and emotionally, but these four young Santa Fe students and their families say all the investment of time and effort is worth it.
Tyler Allaun and Rango
Tyler Allaun, a junior at Santa Fe High School, gets up at 5:30 a.m. on weekdays — a bit later on weekends — and heads over to the school’s agriculture barn to take care of his 1-year-old, 1,300-pound American Simbrah steer, Rango.
Rango is a handsome fellow with dark brown eyes, reddish skin, white underbelly and expressive face. He was 3 months old and a mere 550 pounds when Allaun got him to raise for market. Allaun will show Rango at the Galveston County Fair & Rodeo, which began March 29 and ends April 6.
“When I pull up to the ag barn, he hears my truck and knows it’s me,” Allaun, 17, said. “Walking toward his pen, he gets up, anxious for me to enter. I feed him and pet him for a few minutes before we start to work.”
The preliminary work involves haltering Rango, walking him to the show arena and working with the show stick, a slender rod with a small hook on the end used to get show stock in the best position for judging.
Next, he cleans Rango’s pen and washes and grooms the steer.
Allaun returns about 5 p.m. to repeat the process.
Allaun has shown pigs the past two years. This is his first time to raise a steer, he said.
“I’ve had Rango a lot longer than I had pigs, and we’ve grown close,” Allaun said. “He’s very intelligent, and does his best to please me. He’s a really good buddy.”
Though there’s the reality that Rango will go to market, their bond is strong, he said.
If Rango goes to auction, Allaun could win some nice prize money that will go toward college. He hopes to attend Texas A&M University at College Station, he said.
As for saying goodbye when the time comes, Allaun is preparing himself, he said.
“It’ll bring me down some when I have to part with him,” he said.
Katie Sefcik and Corona
Katie Sefcik started showing pigs at the Galveston County Fair’s Pee Wee Swine Show when she was 6 years old. Now 17, and a junior at Santa Fe High School, Sefcik has been showing steers for the past five years. Last year, her Charolais cross won Grand Champion and netted her $18,000.
This year, she’ll be showing another Charolais cross, named Corona, at the Galveston County Fair & Rodeo, and she showed an American Crossbred at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo this year.
Weighing 1,300 pounds, Corona is stocky with creamy, light brown skin, muscled loins and haunches and has a sweet disposition. Sefcik follows a schedule similar to Allaun’s, caring for Corona at John Scales’ barn in Santa Fe.
“I don’t go in the mornings due to school, but my dad and others feed for me, and I go out in the afternoons,” Sefcik said. “On weekends, I head out early to the barn, feed him, clean his pen, bathe him, walk him and practice with the show stick. I’m usually finished about 10:30 a.m., then go back at 2:30 p.m. and do it all again.”
She takes the grooming process seriously, giving Corona haircuts and blow-drying his hair.
Sefcik doesn’t mind the time commitment of caring for two steers every day, and she hopes she can pull off another win this year, she said.
“My odds are pretty good and I have my sights set high,” said Sefcik, who hopes to attend Baylor University. “Part of the money will go toward college and buying new calves for next year.”
She’ll shed a few tears when she has to say goodbye to Corona, she said.
“We all support each other in the program,” she said. “We’re all a big family.”
Arhianna Scales and Big Yellow
Arhianna Scales started out with Junior Future Farmers of America in third grade and has always raised and shown steers. She won $15,000 with a Grand Champion Charolais cross when she was in fifth grade.
Now, 14, and in eighth grade at Santa Fe Junior High, she’s grooming her exotic market breed, Big Yellow, to bring home another win.
“He’s blond and muscular with an easygoing personality,” she said.
She’ll also be showing Beaux, an American breed bull, in the breeding category.
Arhianna acquired Big Yellow when he was 6 months old and 650 pounds. He weighs 1,185 pounds and is still growing.
“Expectations of winning are always high, but it’s hard competition,” she said. “My parents just teach us to go out there and have fun. Winning is great, but I’m a good sport if I lose.”
Raising four steers at once can be hectic, she said. Arhianna participates in other shows, as well as the Galveston County Fair & Rodeo. Her routine involves afternoon trips to her uncle’s barn, where she feeds and cleans her animals, paying close attention to Big Yellow, training him to keep his head up high and getting him accustomed to the halter.
“I do get attached to some of my animals, especially the ones that are nice and sweet,” she said. “I bond with them and it can be hard to let go. Big Yellow is very chill and Beaux is really sweet.”
Mackensie Scales, Tucker and Bo
Mackensie Scales will be showing her 1,200-pound exotic market steer, Tucker, as well as her 186-pound Hampshire pig, Bo, who might tip the scales at 260 pounds by fair time. Tucker is solid white, stocky and full of curiosity, Mackensie said.
Mackensie, 10, is a fifth-grade student at Dan J. Kubacak Elementary in Santa Fe, and has been in Junior FFA since third grade.
“I take care of my animals similar to the way my older sister, Arhianna, does,” said Mackensie, who goes to Scales’ barn with her father every evening and on weekends.
Although Mackensie knows the pitfalls of raising a show animal, she’s realistic, she said.
“Since we get new animals each year that takes our minds off losing the other ones; we don’t like to talk about it much,” she said.
Mackensie thinks the odds of Tucker winning are good, she said.
“I look forward to the fair, and always want to win,” she said. “Plus, Tucker looks really good and Bo is cute, so I’m excited.”