Boot camp highlights livestock show

It may not have been as intense as the army, but about 170 youth participated in a “boot camp” Saturday to learn about showing livestock.

The third annual Minnesota Junior Spring Classic livestock show was held Saturday and Sunday at the Mower County Fairgrounds. The show is early in the year before the full showing season kicks into high gear, and coordinator Paige Allen, 20, said the show is a good event for youth to learn about showing.

“The focus on education is what we’re really trying to get across to the youth,” she said. “We like to show, but it’s all about education, and it’s all about the kids.”

While the show started at 8 a.m. Saturday, the educational boot camp was held from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

Children as young as five participated in the boot camp, and some weren’t even showing animals. Allen said the boot camp is a growing attraction because it’s open to young children and even people who aren’t planning to show.

About 150 children and young adults showed about 250 head of cattle Sunday. Allen said about 170 people attend the boot camp on Saturday. Most of the participants were from Minnesota and a few people came from Iowa.

Hunter Aggen, 11, of Harmony, had two head of Simmental cattle at the show Sunday. Hunter typically goes to about seven to 10 shows a year. He said the Minnesota Spring Junior Classic is a show that focuses more on youth.

“It’s a good experience to have for everyone,” he said.

Todd Caldwell, who judged Sunday’s show, hosted a trimming and fitting demonstration to help teach the participants how to care for their animals.

Sydney Zehnder, 11, said she takes a lot of the fitting and grooming practices she learns at the boot camp and passes them along to her dad to incorporate in their farm.

Sydney, who lives in Stanchfield, Minn., attends a number of shows across, Iowa, Minnesota and as far as Denver. She said she’s been showing since she was 5-years-old.

Sydney said she likes the Austin show because she can get her heifers ready and comfortable for summer shows. She said she plans on showing about three animals over the summer, including a red angus heifer and a charlotte heifer.

However, she said it was hard for her to focus Saturday because her heifer was acting up.

“Sometimes it takes a lot of work, but it all pays off in the end,” she said.

Matt Janssen taught a session about nutrition and proper feeding habits for cattle.

A new session was added this year on showmanship. The participants were split into small groups to learn about holding cattle and proper showing techniques.

Tom McConnell’s 12-year-old daughter Bailey participated in the boot camp and showed Scottish highland cattle on Sunday.

“This is our first year actually showing, and she learned a lot,” he said

McConnell said he and his daughter started showing after friends asked them to help the breed become better known.

Bailey is showing in 4-H this year, and McConnell described the weekend show and boot camp as a good training event to prepare for 4-H events during the summer.

“They throw a lot at the kids, and the whole atmosphere is really youth (focused),” he said.

The participants were able to display some of the lessons they learned during the show on Sunday. Champions were selected for each breed, as was an overall grand champion. After the conclusion of the judging, there were also showmanship awards, which account for how well the participants show their animals.

Allen said the judges typically look for a good animal with a deep belly that walks smoothly, though she said it depends on the breed.

“It’s basically about the quality of the animal,” she said.

The judge will rank the animals in a breed, and Allen said he’ll then rank the animals, something that’s beneficial to those showing the animals.

“We focus the least on the judging,” Allen said. “It’s important, but it’s really about the youth. That’s what we really stress at this show. It’s about the kids.”

Allen, whose sister Heidi started planning the show three years ago, said she expects the show to continue growing each year.

“It takes a lot of planning, but it definitely pays off,” she said.

Allen is a sophomore studying business finance at Northwestern College, but she said she plans to continue to be involved in planning the show.

“At the end of the day, judging is important, but the most important thing is that we’re getting kids here and that they’re learning and having a good experience,” she said.