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HAVE A COW, MAN
Competitive cattle

Washington County Winter Youth Show teaches farming, life skills

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ABINGDON, Va. — Dressed in a pink plaid shirt and jeans, nine-year-old Carley Thomas posed for a photograph holding a pink show ribbon and a pink show stick. The petite brunette loves the frills of being a girl, but when it comes to showing cattle, she knows how to catch the attention of judges.

Carley recently won reserve champion for her heifer and junior showmanship champion at the Washington County Winter Youth Show at the Washington County Fairgrounds in Abingdon. The youth showed her steer named Bones, and three heifers, Alley, Dreama and Celeste, all of which she and her brother Colt care for each morning before attending Rhea Valley Elementary and again before bedtime.

The ribbon for grand champion heifer was won by Carlee Taylor, a student at Patrick Henry High School. Eight-year-old Colt Thomas showed the grand champion steer, and Nicole Eisert, a student at Patrick Henry High School, was awarded the winner of reserve champion steer.

The winter show held this month featured 12 calves — three steers and nine heifers — shown by eight children. Other youth who participated in the winter show are Grant Grubb, Payton Williams and Isaac Scyphers.

The youngest exhibitor was Hannah Scyphers, who is five. The oldest exhibitor is 17-year-old Nicole Eisert.

Judy Thomas, whose grandchildren are Carley and Colt Thomas, said the children spend a lot of their time caring for the livestock. “I think it helps them learn how to manage their time. They also have to help measure the feed so they’re learning some math skills, too.”

Sarah agreed her children are learning a lot about responsibility. “One of the greatest benefits of the event is teaching children how to be responsible. They have to feed and take care of the animals every day. On show day, they learn showmanship skills,” she said.

Connected to the Farm

It’s safe to say none of these children stumbled upon this hobby by chance. Carley started showing cattle as early as age two. Her father and mother, Chad and Kelly Thomas of Meadowview, showed cattle when they were young, and have encouraged their children to learn the skills.

“We’ve always wanted our children to be part of the livestock showing industry and to be connected to the farm,” said Kelly. “Our kids are the fourth generation to be raised on our family farm in Washington County. As show participants they are forming friendships and relationships that will last them into their adulthood.”

The couple partnered with farm friends Aaron and Sarah Scyphers, also of Meadowview, to bring the open shows back to Washington County.

Sarah explained it has been about 10 years since local youth had the opportunity to participate in a winter steer and heifer show.

“The shows stopped when the number of young participants began to dwindle during that time. It’s interesting that many of the participants now are the children of exhibitors years ago,” she said.

“We want to make sure our kids have the same local opportunities that were here in the past. And getting other kids in the community involved is another benefit of offering the open shows.

“The kids were only getting to show their livestock one time at the Bristol Steer and Heifer Show in May. It’s an expensive endeavor to show only steers in one event,” Scyphers said.

Last spring, the couples put together their first heifer open show in Abingdon.

“Then we decided we wanted to do a winter show,” said Sarah. “That way the steers and heifers could be shown more times — one in winter, one in April, and again at the Bristol show.”

Sarah said planning the heifer and steer shows involves seeking sponsorship, a location for the event, lining up a judge and advertising the event.

While their show in the spring is financed by businesses, the winter show operates with $10 registration fees paid by each participant. Donations also were requested from spectators at the show this month. Sarah said the money was divided equally among the youth, each receiving $20 as prize money.

Washington Farmers Cooperative sponsored the December event. Dr. Dan Eversole, associate professor and director of Beef Cattle Programs at Virginia Tech, served as the judge of the event.

The Washington County Fairgrounds donated the use of the building.

Carolyn R. Wilson is a freelance writer in Glade Spring, Virginia. Contact her at news@washconews.com.

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