Wyatt Slade's Charolais walked out of the arena with the Grand Champion market beef award while Ty Montgomery's red Angus took the reserve spot.

By Gale Rose

grose@pratttribune.com

Back when Wyatt Slade showed bucket calves at the Pratt County Fair, he won the competition a couple of times. Then he hit a long dry spell and didn't get back on the wining side until Friday when he took the top prize and had the Grand Champion Beef Steer.

Taking home the Reserve Grand Champion in his last year in the beef program was Ty Montgomery.

Slade's Charolais was part of the All Other Breeds class with only four entries but his steer was a step above the rest and he earned the purple ribbon for Grand Champion.

Slade has been a member of the Southwest 4-H Club for nine years and has been showing livestock for eight years.

His reason for being in the beef program is simple. He enjoys showing steers. He works with them for a long time to prepare them for the fair and they become friends. Slade said its better to show with a friend than someone whose not your friend.

Slade likes to use a phrase from his mother who said "The only thing that matters at the end of the day is if the cow likes you or not."

Slade kept busy at the fair showing three of the four beef entries. He got started with beef when he was little. He kept one calf that he eventually showed again as a heifer and then kept it another year to show as a cow/calf pair. So he was pretty much hooked on showing beef.

It takes a lot of hard work to get a steer ready for the fair. While he does a lot of the work, Slade has also had help from his dad, the Montgomery and Smith families, Bill Legleiter of the Rockin' L Ranch and Ryan Briener.

His experience in 4-H has taught him to be responsible, work hard and have fun. One of his biggest challenges with showing beef is getting them to be cooperate. Slade admits steers can be cranky, especially on hot days. They go where they want to go.

He has learned a lot in the beef program. One thing he likes the best is the memories he has made and is going to make.

Being in 4-H teaches a lot of life lessons and practical lessons like how to care for cattle and get them ready for market. It also teaches patience and that can be kind of hard, Slade said.

Slade started working with his steer in October. During the winter, he just spent time petting the steer and letting it get used to him so they are comfortable in the arena.

"That helps a whole bunch," Slade said.

When it warmed up, the training got more intense. He worked to get the steer set up as fast as possible. He also got the steer used to being tied up like it would be at the fair plus playing a loud speaker so it wouldn't be startled to hear it in the show arena.

"It just takes a lot of work and dedication," Slade said.

Slade will be a junior in high school this fall and plans on showing cattle again next year.

"There's nothing I'd rather be doing than showing cattle," Slade said.

Beside cattle, Slade is also in shooting sports, arts and crafts, food and nutrition, leadership and citizenship.

While Slade has won his first grand champion, reserve grand champion Ty Montgomery is very familiar with the winners circle having won a number of awards in the beef program. Montgomery has been a member of the Glendale Reapers 4-H Club for 11 years and has been showing beef 11 years as well.

He was very pleased with his winning beef today and thought he showed very well. Montgomery has one more year of eligibility left but because of the demands of college, he has decided he will not be involved next year.

His time in 4-H has helped him develop friendships and have a love and respect for animals. But it's hard work. He has invested a lot of time in the program.

"You can't expect something for nothing," Montgomery said.

For Montgomery, being is 4-H is an opportunity to grow as a person and and meet new friends. He said it helps people become leaders in the community and better people in general. "I just enjoy it a lot," Montgomery said.

One of the hardest parts of being in 4-H is finding the time to get all his projects finished.

Montgomery said he got his steer in September 2016 and worked with it on weekends through the school year then it was every day when summer started. He taught the steer to lead and do the pattern they use in the arena so it would be ready to go on show day. He spends a lot of time doing basic care providing water and petting him and feeding him so he is comfortable working together.

He has had help from Jim Cooper, the McComb and Smith families who are always there for him and each other.

His experiences with other shows in Kansas as well as Oklahoma and Texas have provided him with lots of connections. Montgomery and the family dedication were a surprise at a show when they unloaded a lot of sheep and goats and cattle. People were flabbergasted, Montgomery said.

Cattle Judge Coffman Liggett was very pleased with the overall quality of the livestock in the beef competition. He said Slade's winning steer had the best combination of muscle and fat. The steer was attractive and structurally sound.

"It just stood out," Liggett said.

Liggett liked the quality of the Pratt County steers and it was a nice solid set of animals. He was impressed with the 4-H'ers and their work to get steers ready for the fair.

"It was a great group of kids. They did a nice job of setting up calves," Liggett said.

Liggett is from Durham. He was on the livestock judging team at Hutchinson Community College. He works on the family farm with a cow/calf operation and has worked with cattle, sheep and goats.

@GaleR_Tribune