Here’s the beef

Steers take center stage at Moffat County Fair

Michelle Balleck

Mary Martinez tilted a steer’s head back and emptied a bottle of Pepto-Bismol down its throat. The cow licked its lips, and she wiped away the few drops that spilled.

“He’s got diarrhea,” she said. “We don’t want him doing that in the ring.”

It takes years of experience to learn tricks like that, and as leader of the High Country Cactus Kickers 4-H Club, Martinez has got them. She was helping a friend get ready for the market beef show at the Moffat County Fair on Friday.

Her own kids showed steers for eight years, but decided to try swine this year.

“(Steers are) too expensive,” she said.

Jessie Moon, 18, thinks so too.

“All the money I get from the sale I put toward next year’s animal,” she said.

Usually, that means she comes out in the red. But she doesn’t mind.

She started taking steers eight years ago when her grandmother offered her one of the steers from her herd.

“So, I decided I’d try it,” Moon said.

“Then I really liked it so I stayed with it.”

She has been loving every minute since.

“There’s never a dull moment,” she said. “It keeps you busy.”

Steers keep youths occupied from November to August with breaking them or preparing them to walk with a halter.

Sometimes, at the weigh-in in February, Martinez sees kids get dragged behind their steers because they are not comfortable showing them yet.

“You’re trying to walk an 800- or 900-pound steer like a dog,” she said. “Mainly it’s when you’re breaking that they give you trouble.”

Then, in the days before show, 4-Hers rush around the barn trimming and bathing their animals. In the final hours, competitors spike the hair on the steers’ tails and apply touch-up spray to the hind legs “to build leg hair.”

This year’s show was judged by Michael Lackey of Powell, Wyo. The steers have to meet a minimum weight for the youths to be allowed to sell them at Saturday’s auction.

“You want them over 1,000 pounds to be able to make a profit,” Martinez said.

Besides the cost, steers have more differences from other livestock shown at the fair.

“It’s just that a steer’s a little bigger and you have them a little longer,” Martinez said.

But, even with all the work, 4-H leader and 4-Hers alike said the program is a great way to spend the summer.

“Fair’s the best time of the year,” Moon said.

Martinez could not agree more.

“It’s all about fun,” she said. “That’s what 4-H is all about. That’s what it has always been about, and that’s the way it should be.”

Michelle Perry can be reached at 824-7031 or

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