Liberty, Sam Jones said, can be moody.
“Very moody,” said the 12-year-old from Bradenton.
Liberty, who was born on the Fourth of July, is the heifer that Jones showed Friday evening at the Manatee County Fair’s Youth Dairy Show.
It was a good night for Jones and Liberty.
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“It’s undecided whether I get first or second,” he said before the evening final results were available.
It was Jones’ first time showing in the dairy show. Last year he showed a steer in the steer show.
There’s one big difference between the two. The steers are auctioned off at the show and are taken to slaughter shortly after. The animals in the dairy show are taken out to pasture where they live (it is hoped) long and contented lives.
The steers are auctioned off at the show, and are taken to slaughter shortly after. The animals in the dairy show are taken out to pasture
The kids know the fate of their steers before they get started raising them. Still, some of them have a hard time parting with them.
“Last year I was prepared for it,” Jones said. “But I was very attached to him.”
The kids he worked with last year, fellow students at Haile Middle School, had a much harder time parting with their animals.
So did Marisa Badour of Parrish. Her heifer, Amber, took third place in its class Friday night. Badour had shown steers in the past, but found it tough to work with the steer every day for months and then bring it to auction so it could be slaughtered.
“That’s why I do dairy now,” said the 15-year-old Palmetto High School student.
Jones’ mother, Jessica Jones, is the agriculture teacher at Haile. She said a lot of the nearly 200 students are city slickers who have never lived on a farm. They keep their animals on the grounds of the school’s agriculture program.
Those who enter the dairy show lease their cows for four months. They can be calves, heifers or cows.
“We have to break them, because they’re semi-wild when we get them,” Badour said.
The kids work with the animals every day — feeding, grooming and walking them until they’re ready for the fair.
Liberty actually showed twice at this year’s fair. On Tuesday, Sam Jones’ teammate, Emma Thompsen, showed her in a different competition that’s based more on how the kid handles the cow. Friday’s show was all about how the animal looks.
The kids work with the animals every day, feeding, grooming and walking them until they’re ready for the fair.
After the fair, all the calves, heifers and cows will go back to the farms they came from. Liberty is young enough that Jones may be able to lease her again next year and show her again. (The cattle are usually bred at 18 months, so Liberty will still be under the wire, still a heifer, next year.)
Badour’s heifer Amber won’t be available. But Badour could potentially visit her from time to time.
“I tried to find my cow (from last year) but I couldn’t find her,” she said.
Jones is already planning a career in agriculture. But meanwhile he’s found one of his passions in working with dairy cattle.
“I really like dairy,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot from it. It teaches you life skills. It teaches you responsibility. It teaches you about time management.”