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Small wonders await visitors to Expo, Berkeley Youth Fair

August 03, 1999

The crowds may come for the excitement of watching a man try to hold on with one hand as an animal that weighs as much as a small car attempts to throw him out of the saddle. But we hope they stay to look at the livestock being exhibited by local youngsters at Washington County's Ag Expo and the Berkeley County Youth Fair.

Not every animal is raised on the farm; youngsters from the suburbs produce some of the creatures on display. But whether it's a black angus steer or an exotic rabbit, the lessons learned by these young exhibitors are the same.

The first is that to win a prize requires months of work, which starts with research on breeds and the purchase of an animal. The second is that, like children, young livestock don't thrive without daily care. In addition to feeding and watering, that means cleaning out their pens, grooming them and monitoring them for signs of disease or injury.

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Then there's the record-keeping, because unless you know how much it costs to raise an animal, you don't know what price you've got to get to make a profit when it's sold.

Then comes the final lesson, which sometimes isn't learned without a tear or two: Livestock is a commodity, and for farm families, staying on the land isn't possible unless there's a profit. Feeder cattle go to market when they're ready for slaughter and dairy cows are taken out of the herd when their milk production falls below acceptable levels.

If you think about it, the qualities young exhibitors need to win the blue ribbon are the same ones employers say they need: The desire to show up every day, attention to detail and the ability to calculate profit and loss.

Whether you're an employer looking for future stars for your particular enterprise or just someone looking for family entertainment, come out to Ag Expo or Berkeley's Youth Fair, both of which run though Friday, August 6. What you'll see isn't accompanied by sirens or flashing lights, but if you prefer small and subtle wonders, the sight of an 11-year-old boy controlling a 900-pound steer just might make your whole trip worthwhile.

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