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Steers take stage at Ag Expo

August 07, 2002|by Liz Boch

lizb@herald-mail.com

Young Ag Expo participants raise beef cattle for a number of reasons, but the most important is the flavor of the meat, several steer handlers said Tuesday at the Washington County Ag Expo.

"I like the way they look and taste," said Robert Bowman, 15, of Boonsboro. "My first year I was attached to my steer, but now I know what they're being raised for. You have to stay unattached."

Chris Thomas, 15, said taste depends on the breed of steer. Hereford and Angus breeds contain more fat while Charolais, Simmental and Limousin cattle produce lean beef.

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All breeds produce the same cuts of meat, but the beef may be less flavorful and take longer to cook if it comes from a leaner animal, said Thomas, of Boonsboro.

"Fat makes something taste better," he said.

Erinn Pollock, 15, of Boonsboro, said she raises beef steer because there is a wide range of breeds from which to choose.

"They're pretty. They're lazy and stubborn, but there's more variety in beef than dairy. You have a larger choice in what you want to show," Pollock said.

More variety means greater deliberation when deciding which steer to enter at Ag Expo.

Bowman said choosing a winning steer begins as soon as the calves are born, months before Ag Expo.

"We look for a good bone structure and that they walk straight. They have to be square," he said. "Sometimes they change, but most of the time you know what you've got when they're young."

Corey Hamby, 15, of Williamsport, entered two steers, one from out of state. She said a steer should be well-rounded so one characteristic does not draw the judge's focus away from studying the whole animal.

"We wanted a square frame," she said. "He looked boxy. If it had features that stood out nothing would blend in."

Hamby said her second steer was born on her 250-head beef farm and stood out from the other animals.

"He was really square and had a lot of fullness. The others had really high, long back legs or they weren't boxy enough," she said.

Although taste and aesthetics draw young handlers to showing beef steer, sometimes choosing to raise them comes from a desire to raise money.

Brittany Bowman, 12, of Boonsboro, hopes to attend the University of Maryland and uses her steer to help her reach that goal.

"I picked a short, thick one since it's my first show," she said. "You get a lot of money from them and it goes to my college fund."

The Washington County Ag Expo runs until Friday at the Washington County Agricultural Education Center off Sharpsburg Pike, 11 miles south of Hagerstown.

The overall grand champion beef steer was shown by Chris Thomas. The reserve champion beef steer was shown by Ashley Hose.

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