Members of 4-H and FFA members dedicate months of time, money, effort and heart to their show steers in preparation for stock show season. Upon the arrival of shows, a flurry of fitting and travel ensues. Generally, a show concludes in one of two ways. Either the steer makes the county sale, or he doesn’t. In which case, the student and their family can either harvest the animal for their own use or find an avenue of sale, which is rarely profitable. Either way, the relationship between the individual and the animal, after such intensity and dedication, seems to come to a dull end. What if there was a way for those students to be profitable, informed and rewarded in the absence of a show sale?
The Junior Beef Excellence Program has existed in southern Oklahoma, in some format, since 1968 with the intent to reward junior cattlemen and women for the carcass merit of their show steers. The Noble Research Institute began sponsoring the program in 1988, and the current, expanded program structure has existed since 1996.
Since then, the program has remained fluid to necessary changes as the industry transforms and advances, but it has maintained the goal of rewarding young stockmen and women in the show industry for proper management and above-average genetic selection of livestock. Participants get paid for how their steer grades on the rail. They also receive all carcass information (provided by the harvest facility) for their steers. Additional prize checks (totaling $9,650) are awarded to the 10 students with steers whose carcasses were most valuable to the supply chain.
We’ve recently made some changes to the program, including the addition of counties. Oklahoma residents of Atoka, Bryan, Carter, Coal, Garvin, Grady, Jefferson, Johnston, Love, Marshall, McClain, Murray, Pontotoc and Stephens counties are now eligible to participate in the program.
Additionally, the record-keeping portion of the program used to be an optional addition but will now be required. Participants must submit adequate records for their steer(s) and participate in the interview process in order to receive a carcass merit check. Records may be documented using the Junior Beef Excellence Program web application, a Word or Excel document, or other easily decipherable and accessible methods. This requirement is intended to better prepare young cattlemen and women to be intentional and thoughtful in their methods and management as they navigate not only the beef industry but their future careers.
The intent of the Junior Beef Excellence Program has always been, and remains, to educate and reward young students for their involvement in, and responsibility to, the beef industry they serve. It is important for these participants to understand the impacts of their management and stewardship, not only in the show ring but also down the line at the consumer’s family table. As program director, I am looking forward to another year of participation and interaction with these young cattlemen and women as I watch them represent us all so well.