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Choosing show steers

Selecting the right animal increases your odds of getting the blue ribbon

Showing beef cattle is a popular project for kids in 4-H and FFA. David Kirkpatrick is a beef extension specialist at the University of Tennessee. He says when you're choosing a steer, the number one quality to pay attention to is disposition. If you can't handle it, it doesn't matter how good it looks. For beginners, he recommends the Hereford breed. They're docile cattle and easy to break to lead.

Kirkpatrick says there are physical characteristics that should also be evaluated. "You want to make sure that they're structurally sound, and their feet and legs are in good shape," Kirkpatrick says. "Then you probably need to evaluate the muscling. How wide they walk as you view them from behind is certainly another indicator of muscling, and thickness over the top. Probably another thing is to evaluate the frame size of these cattle."

Steers are usually purchased when they're 6-to-9 months old, and weigh from 500-to-700 pounds. They should finish out between 1,100 and 1,300 pounds at show time. How long this takes depends on the breed, frame size, and your management of the animal. Having enough time for the appropriate daily weight gain to meet the show standard is another consideration of the calf you choose. "There are some calculations you need to figure, what is an acceptable gain on this calf?" says Kirkpatrick. "If he weighs 700-pounds and I've got three months before I show him, you can't get 500-pounds on him that quick."
 
Kirkpatrick says there are good calves and bad calves in every breed. Some people only show purebreds, but crossbred animals are very popular because they combine the good traits of different breeds.

Find more tips for picking out the right show calves
 

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