Marshall County 4-H members participated in the Beef Builder Program this summer sponsored by Riverview Dairy. From left to right are Dane Hansen, Hunter Biel, Kaylee Biel, Baylee Bender, Connor Furman, and Tru Hagen.
4-H Program Promotes Beef, Ag
It’s called the Beef Builders Program, but in reality it is helping lay a solid foundation for life for area young people.
This is the second year for the program begun by Riverview Dairies. Riverview offers the program to 4-H youth in counties where it has sites which includes Marshall (Marshall Dairy near Veblen), Roberts, Grant, and Clark counties. This past year a total of 17 4-H’ers participated.
“We feel this is an opportunity to get more families and kids involved in 4-H, beef production and agriculture,” said Riverview public information director Kelly Brandlee. “Our goal is to get kids interested in animal ag specifically. There is just so much opportunity there, and hopefully when kids participate in the program they will realize they like working with animals.”
Participants get an opportunity to gain experience working with and showing smaller beef animals, they learn proper health care and cattle management without a large investment, they learn basic recordkeeping skills, and maybe most importantly, they get to have fun showing cattle.
Brandlee said the only requirement to participate is that youth need to be committed to caring for their animal, and the program is open to all ages.
Riverview provides 60-day-old calves to participants in the program at a lease cost of $75. The calves are steers and a cross between dairy breeds (either Jersey or Holstein) and the Limousin beef breed. The $75 is reinvested into a calf halter, lead rope, water bucket, show stick, and curry comb for each youngster. Feed is also provided. At the end of the program participants will have the option to buy their calf based on the current market or they can return it to Riverview.
The kids’ commitment is to care for the calf during the summer.
“The kids work with the calf all summer and someone from the dairy goes to the farm twice to help and to answer questions about raising a beef animal,” noted Brandlee. “They will also halter break their calf, learn to recognize illness, and feed them. As part of the program they also have to complete a display about beef and write a little story about their calf.”
Six youth from Marshall County participated this year, culminating with showing their calves at 4-H Achievement Days. As an additional incentive, the 4-H member showing the Grand Champion was able to keep the calf for free, the Reserve Champion could purchase the calf for half price, and the third place finisher could buy the animal for twothirds of the market price.
Tru Hagen was judged the Grand Champion, Connor Furman the Reserve Champion, and Baylee Bender placed third. Other county participants were Dane Hansen, Hunter Biel, and Kaylee Biel.
Hagen’s mother, Calee, had nothing but praise for Riverview and its efforts to promote beef and agriculture.
“I feel the dairy is doing such a great job of doing an outreach to kids who maybe don’t have a chance to have a calf,” said Hagen. “The fact that you only have to pay $75 for all that stuff makes it affordable, and it really helps the kids learn how to take care of a calf. All props to the dairy for an amazing program at an affordable price.”
Tru Hagen is just seven years old and had never shown a calf before, but his mom said the bug has bitten him hard.
“The kids have to raise the calf, not mom or dad,” said Calee. “Our son really took it to heart and that calf is like a puppy in the front yard. Kids really learn how to take care of another life, and my son is so proud. Pride in yourself and what you’re doing is a big thing.”
Brandlee said the Riverview has received plenty of positive feedback from the program.
“Sometimes getting into beef can be a little difficult unless your family is doing it,” explained Brandlee. “Hopefully this program can provide kids that opportunity that maybe don’t live on a beef farm as well as those that do. We want to do whatever we can to encourage all of them to continue being involved in agriculture.
“And the kids love it. You can really tell when you show up to check on the calf and see how excited they are. The program is a lot of work, and the kids have to put in a lot of time, but it’s great to see how they really care for their calves and put in the effort,” concluded Brandlee. “Maybe the program will help them see that they really like working with cattle, and they just might see that it’s an opportunity for them in the future.”