By Marlee Moore
Wake up at 5 a.m. Head to the barn to wash, groom and work steers and heifers. Hit the books at school. Return home, feed and walk cattle. Eat. Sleep. Repeat.
It’s a cycle of hard work and dedication that pays off for youth like Chelsea Langley of Chambers County, who showed cattle at the 2019 Junior Beef Expo (JBE) in Montgomery March 14-16.
“It’s late nights and early mornings,” said Langley, 18. “I really love showing cattle because it’s taught me a lot of responsibility and how to manage my time.”
For the second year, the Alabama Farmers Federation coordinated the expo, which included a showmanship contest, Market Show and Heifer Show. About 180 youth exhibitedover 350 head of cattle during JBE, held annually in conjunction with the Southeastern Livestock Expo Rodeo.
“We are recognizing a year’s worth of work from young people that don’t get a lot of attention. They’re doing things right,” said Federation President Jimmy Parnell. “These kids are working and focused on these projects. That’s a big deal in my mind.”
Langley, whose crossbred and Charolais steers were reserve grand champion and third overall in the Market Show, said seeing the next generation of livestock showmen enter the ring is rewarding.
“Seeing them makes me happy because they’re learning about the beef industry and learning everything they can about agriculture,” said the high school senior, who noted consumers benefit from calf shows, too. “What people see when they go to a steakhouse is what we raise. It’s homegrown beef, and it takes a lot of work. There really is a good outcome of showing cattle.”
Langley’s commercial heifer was reserve champion in its division and fifth place overall.
For Parnell, JBE is an investment in the future leaders of Alabama’s $70 billion agriculture industry.
“A little time, effort and expense in these young people now will affect Alabama for many years to come — particularly Alabama agriculture,” he said.
More than $80,000 in prize money was awarded during the contest. JBE supreme grand champions were Harmon Butler of Dale County, whose crossbred steer won the Market Show, and Ashlyn Ruf of Limestone County, whose Chianina calf won the Heifer Show.