Cade Stratman was left speechless as his Division IV steer was named 4-H supreme champion market beef at the final drive in the Five Points Bank Arena at the Nebraska State Fair on Monday afternoon.
As the judge picked his steer as the champion, Stratman, 11, of West Point, cried tears of joy before making his way into the arms of his father, Doug, to share a hug in celebration of Cade’s win. The win was unique as it was his first time ever showing beef at the state fair.
Cade said he was selected for the championship drive around noon Monday — only four hours before its start. He said he wasn’t nervous going into it as he relaxed and played football with his friends beforehand.
Doug Stratman said showing livestock is generational as he showed pigs as a kid. He said his three children have all shown beef after they were talked into it by “a good neighbor friend.”
“When he first came over and asked if we wanted to show some beef, I looked at him and said, ‘I don’t know; I’m going to have to think about this,” Doug Stratman said. “ We went ahead with it, he got us a couple animals and from there, we just got hooked on it.”
Joy Stratman, Cade’s mother, said her 17-year-old daughter was the first to show cattle after wanting to show a market beef.
“We said, ‘If you can show us that you can have the responsibility, you can do that,’ and she did,” she said.
Kolton Rasmussen, 13, of Boone County, won the champion 4-H market heifer and overall champion beef in the FFA show with two different animals. He said be brought six animals to show at the state fair, with the aforementioned two being named champions.
Kolton said he has been showing cattle for six years, starting when he was 8 years old. Since he did not qualify for the 4-H shows due to his age, he said he showed in the open class shows for two years beforehand.
Once Kolton began showing cattle in 4-H shows, he made it to the final drive three of the last four years.
Kolton said there is a lot of work involved with showing cattle. He said he wakes up early every morning to care for his cattle, rinsing them twice a day and caring for their hair.
“He gets up every morning and gets the cattle in the barn before it gets hot,” said Kurtis Rasmussen, Kolton’s father. “The reason we want to get them in the barn before it gets hot is because we are trying to grow their hair so that we can fix any problems or anything you do not like about the animal. The hair is there so that we can clip it to make the animal look like it has a straighter back.”
Kolton Rasmussen said the reason he does this is he because he is trying to create “the perfect show calf.” Kurtis Rasmussen added this also teaches his son responsibility and commitment in caring for cattle.
Kurtis Rasmussen said he showed cattle for a number of years and it is satisfying to see Kolton and his other sons show at the state fair.
“The best about him (Kolton) showing is I enjoy seeing him show more than I did myself,” he said. “I like seeing him get better all the time. He has had some tough ones to show, it has been really challenging, but it has been fun to see.”
Dustin Coufal of Fairfield, Texas, judged market swine this year. He said has been judging livestock for 15 years and judged market sheep last year, his first time judging at the Nebraska State Fair.
“I am always trying to find what I consider the ‘ideal animal,’” Coufal said. “ It is three contests for me: a smartness contest, a beauty contest and an athletic contest. I try to marry those three together to find that one swine that rises to the top as the championship. They need to be athletic, stout and have some carcass merit in terms of muscularity and body composition. I look for ones that are well presented and look like champions.”
Coufal said swine judging is strictly visual. He said when competitors come into the ring, he watches how their pigs walk and makes his decision that way.
How does Coufal make his final determination? He said he tries to find the swine who exhibit the most traits and “go from there.”
“You don’t always find the one that is perfect,” Coufal said. “ I have a set of priorities and criteria. Some are high priorities and the pig that meets all of those priorities is how I make that selection.”
As he judges the swine, Coufal said he talks with every kid about what is good about their animal and what is not so good.
“I try to tell them why that animal may not have placed as high as they wanted it to,” he said. “I tell them the good and the bad. It is constructive because since they put a lot of time into these projects, I feel it is my job as a judge to give them a couple seconds of my time and tell them why we are placing them where they place.”