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Youth Cattle Working Contest 2008: Teams Compete and Learn

Livestock Update, May 2008

Drs. Dee Whittier and Mark Wahlberg, Virginia Cooperative Extension: VA Tech

The Virginia Youth Cattle Working Contest had its 2008 culmination at the championship contest held at the Virginia Beef Expo on April 19, 2008.  Statewide, 45 teams had competed at regional contests to qualify to compete at the event.  Twelve teams competed in Harrisonburg.  A Grayson county team representing both 4-H and FFA consisting of Jones Baker, Melissa Laws and Megan Spears emerged as the champions.

The second place team was a Grayson county 4-H team and consisted of Savannah Bourne, Ethan Higins and Ethan Osborne.  The third place team was yet another 4-H team from Grayson County consisting of Stephen Davis, Cory Golding and Phillip Adams.  Only three points of the possible one hundred divided the first 3 teams.  All of the Grayson teams were coached by Jimmy Osborne with son Mark Osborne assisting with the championship team.

Other teams competing in the state competition included another Grayson team, two teams from Orange, two teams from Highland as well as teams from Rockbridge, Russell, Galax and Pulaski.

The contest has grown in popularity in the ten years since its inception when all competition occurred at the Beef Expo.  Regional qualifying completion has become necessary to accommodate the numerous teams desiring to compete.  Competitors demonstrate their skills in processing young beef cattle for health and productivity and learn the concepts of Beef Quality Assurance.

Competitors in the event planned and then processed three stocker calves.  They first completed a Cattle Processing Plan providing information about the products that were used, how they are used, and where they are administered.  This document becomes a permanent health record for this group of cattle.  If the cattle are sold this document would accompany the cattle, so the new owner is aware of the details surrounding health products administered to the cattle.

Contestants then processed the calves.  Calves received two vaccinations, a dewormer, a growth promotant implant, insecticide ear tags and had an ear notch sample collected for BVD persistent infection analysis.  Scores were given by judges on the correctness of the procedures performed by contestants.

Contestants were also scored on their ability to handle the cattle.  Nice, smooth, quiet handling is being sought.  Points may be deducted for noisy or rough handling and errors in catching heads, moving cattle, etc.  Common errors that are made in handling cattle include: missing the head with the catch, failure to use squeeze on the chute, failure to use a bar behind calves, excessive roughness in moving cattle and failure to use crowd gate in putting cattle into the chute system.

Safety was also scored for the teams that competed.  Any action that seemed to put the handlers or cattle at risk resulted in a deduction for safety.  Common safety errors include: having the handler’s head too close to the calf’s head during tagging or implanting so the calf can swing their head up and strike the handler, dropping the tail gate on the calf, or attempting to inject in the neck in front of the head catch.

Time for completion of the processing is part of the contest as well.  To receive maximum score all calves needed to be processed in 8 minutes or less.  The emphasis is to encourage the efficient processing of calves but not to pressure such fast activity that errors occur and safety is jeopardized.

Judges for the state event were Dr. Allen Strecker from the Blue Ridge Animal Clinic in Lexington, VA; Ms. Bom Inman a graduating veterinarian from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine; and Mr. Charles Cox who is a beef herd manager with the Department of Corrections.

The contest is administered by Virginia Cooperative Extension, the Virginia Beef Expo and the Virginia Cattlemen’s Association.

Special thanks is extended to the following sponsors: the Virginia Cattle Industry Board, Mr. Hunter Moss, Schering-Plough Animal Health, Fort Dodge Animal Health, Intervet, Inc., Pfizer Animal Health, Bayer, VetLife, Priefert Chute Systems for providing facilities for state contest and Wayne Shifflet Livestock for supplying the cattle.

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