Slap his butt and call him the best: Rodeo Austin crowns a Champion
Under a deep clear blue Texas sky, in the shadow of the Texas State Capitol, 12 steers lined up for the most nerve-wracking moment in their young owner's lives. Whether the steers cared at all is debatable although more than one contestant will tell you that the mood of your animal can be the difference between winning and losing an event like this.
The event is the 2012 Rodeo Austin Grand Champion Junior Market steer selection and it means more than just a good steak. It means serious money for the winners.
17-year-old Shaylan Edwards, a junior at Burnet High School (and incidentally, Burnet High School's "Barney the Bulldog" mascot), watched the judge slap her steer, Chuy, on the rump, transforming him from an AOB Black (all other breeds) Champion into the 2012 Grand Champion Steer. That slap earned Shaylan a sweet $25,000 (that's the auction cap for the winner) which she says she'll use for her college education. She hopes to attend Angelo State University to study Ag Communications and Ag Marketing.
"I'm excited and I can't even fathom it right now," Edwards exclaimed. "All that hard work has finally paid off."
"It's more important to remember we are developing the youth of Texas. In 10 to 15 years, these kids will be the leaders of our communities, perhaps even working in that Capitol building."
It is hard work. These are not your ordinary beef-on-the-hoof steers. These are show steers. The Edwards family, Shaylan's Dad is also the Ag teacher at Burnet High, bought Chuy for $1500 last year. They got a great deal. Show calves for as much as $30,000 when they're babies. "Taking care of these cattle is like taking care of humans. They're just big babies," explained Edwards. "They need to be looked after and fed twice a day, you need to keep their stalls cleaned up, they get bathed everyday."
The first (and last) time this event was held at the Capitol was 1940. The Austin Baby Beef Show began a tradition that continues through today. It was Steer judging that started what is now The Star of Texas Fair and Rodeo (STFR) which celebrates it's 75th Anniversary this year. After 1940 the show moved around a lot finally settling at the Travis County Expo Center.
"We thought it fitting to return to our roots," explained Rodeo Austin CEO Bucky Lamb. "The city, county and the state all worked to help us pull this off. They are tremendous supporters of our mission to educate the youth of Texas through our livestock auction and celebrate our Texas agricultural heritage."
This year over 400 steers were judged across two days culminating in today's finals. Steer judge Chris Mullinix of Eldorado, Kansas talked a little about the cattle — "As a food animal resource, these are the best of the best" — but he spoke most eloquently about the kids. "It's more important to remember we are developing the youth of Texas. In 10 to 15 years, these kids will be the leaders of our communities, perhaps even working in that Capitol building. This event develops their leadership abilities."
Mullinix went on to choose the 2012 Reserve Grand Champion. Carl, the AOB Other Color Breed Champion, owned by 13 year-old Ryne Hutton of Kendall County 4-H took that honor. Hutton could go home with a cool $20,000 if the auction goes that high.
All of the Livestock finalists will be sold at auction Friday morning at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum. It's a high dollar affair that last year brought in and distributed over $800,000 to the kids.
This is the end for the road for both Chuy and Carl. The STFR Livestock show is a terminal show for all placing livestock, meaning they'll will go to slaughter after being auctioned off tomorrow. No doubt delivering a fine steak on the plate. "It'll be hard saying goodbye," said Edwards.
This isn't the end for Shayla Edwards though. She has one more year of eligibility and her next show calf is already in the barn at home.