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Ready for the Show
Yuma youth learns by raising 4H animals
Blake Lackey, 12, has raised animals with the Yuma Valley Achievers since he was 9 and is currently the youngest in his 4-H group to showcase steer.
Lackey, a student at Woodard Junior High School, is raising two steers in preparation for the Arizona National Livestock Show and the Yuma County Fair, plus about eight other shows across the state. He is also purchasing a pig in December to showcase at the fair.
He became interested in working with steers after spending time at his cousin's house working with their calves.
“I went over there and they let me walk them around and I've liked it ever since then,” he said.
He spends about two hours a day with his steers, feeding, training, walking, rinsing and washing them, in addition to blow-drying them to train their coat for competition. At competitions he is judged on showmanship, how he handles his animal, how the animal is groomed and on how he markets them.
“4-H helps me with responsibility because I have to take care of them every day and all that. And it's fun, you meet new friends,” Blake said.
The purchase of his steers, Bullet and Heinz, put him back a total of about $3,400 this year, and he said that and the cost of raising the animals ends up being more than he makes selling them.
“You really don't make any money doing this,” said Blake. “When I sell them, I turn around and with the money that I get from fair, I buy another one and the rest of the money goes to feed and stuff.”
He said his steers are fed a total of about 100 pounds of feed per week, and that number will only increase as they continue to grow.
Of the two steers, both of which are about 9 months old, Heinz weighs about 785 pounds and Bullet is at about 1,040 pounds. He purchased Heinz in Texas with his family, and a breeder brought Bullet to their home from Iowa in June.
Blake said that to find the animals for purchase, he and his dad Steve troll the Internet looking for sales on steers, and when they find one, they call the breeder, and ask them to send pictures of the calves they have available.
“They have to be a certain age and a certain weight,” he said.
Heinz is on track to reach the target weight to show at the Yuma County Fair in the spring, he said. Bullet is quickly surpassing the weight allowed at fair, so he will be shown at the Arizona National Livestock Show in December.
Blake said when he first receives the steers, they require a lot of training and then they get easier to manage. Every year, he said, it's difficult to give his animals away because he gets attached to them.
“I expected that would happen, though,” he said. Blake added that he didn't cry last year, but that was partly because his steer was mean and liked to head-butt him.
His mother Michelle said that Blake was bound to be involved with animals because mostly all of their immediate and extended family have been involved in 4-H in some capacity.
“It was one of those things that he was born and raised into — we've always had animals at our house. And he was a fair baby. When he was born, he was born on a Thursday and I had him out there at the fair on Sunday,” Michelle said.
While showing steer is normally extremely expensive, she explained that they were lucky enough to have a cousin who used to show steers with her sons and has all the equipment and a trailer for them to borrow.
“It was kind of easier than most people that just start up, it's usually more expensive but since we had family it helped a lot,” she said.
Danette Jordan, his cousin and steer coach, added, “Showing steer is quite the production.”
Jordan said that with all the traveling he does to show the animals, he sometimes has to miss school, so part of the deal is that he has to keep his grades up to continue participating.
“A lot of times it's not 100 percent Blake — his family will help out to make sure he can finish all his homework.”
Blake hopes to participate in basketball and football this school year, and he is a part of the Advancement Via Individual Placement (AVID) program at school.
Michelle said being in 4-H has helped Blake increase his leadership skills.
“Now he does better speaking in front of crowds because when they're at a show, the judge can ask him questions about his animal or about steers in general, so I think that's really helped him grow, because he used to be pretty quiet.”
Blake is currently first in junior beef showmanship. During his first year showing animals, he was reserve champion market at the fair for swine, his second year he had a steer and a market swine and the third year a swine and market steer and heifer.