4-H combines work and fun for cattle producers

MONTMARTRE, Sask. — What started as a fun new activity to try has turned into a serious business for the Sebastian family.

The family of five now dedicates nearly every day to selecting, feeding and training their 4-H cattle. And as for the fun, they say that has only increased as they become more involved.

Their trial run in the Fillmore-Francis 4-H Club began in 2008 on a suggestion from farm friends to try it out.

Brian and Sarah Sebastian’s oldest son, Evan, was 10 years old at the time and was eager to join his farm buddies on a new adventure.

The mixed farmers had never been involved with 4-H, but they thought they’d try it for a year with five-year-old Emily and three-year-old Delaney in tow.

“That first year, we learned how to finish last in everything, and if there had been a place below last, we would have been in it,” Brian joked while explaining that he had never been in 4-H as a kid and had no idea what was involved with showing cattle.

“It was nerve racking to watch your kid go into a ring with a 1,200 pound animal,” said Sarah, who grew up on an acreage near Pilot Butte, Sask.

The family persevered through their first years in 4-H, thanks to mentorship by experienced club leader Levi Jackson and other 4-H parents. By the time Delaney had turned six, she too was showing cattle, as was Emily.

Being part of 4-H is now a passion for all five family members with 17-year-old Evan being senior showmanship champion at the Brandon fair in 2016, 12-year-old Emily winning the junior showmanship division in Brandon in 2016 and nine-year-old Delaney being reserved junior champion at the same event.

The list of awards for the Sebastian kids is long, but the highlight for all three is working together as a family.

The Sebastian’s are serious about weighing their steers and heifers on the first Saturday of every month, even if it falls on a holiday. They are also dedicated to sitting down with their 4-H record books on the first Sunday of every month to record the new data and adjust their upcoming month’s feed rations.

“It’s like a big family vacation when we go to shows,” said Evan.

The family’s annual show circuit includes Canadian Western Agribition in Regina, the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair in Brandon, the Yorkton Exhibition in Yorkton, Sask., the Weyburn Fair in Weyburn, Sask., and their 4-H club’s achievement day.

As the Sebastians grew more serious about showing cattle, they realized that their own herd of commercial beef cows could not compete with club calves. So in 2013, Evan bought his first club calf, launching the family into a breeding program that sees the siblings fighting over sire directories.

“For them, getting a new catalogue in the mail is better than the Christmas Wish Book,” said Brian.

The children will sneak the bull profile magazines under their pillows at night and take them to school so that they have first dibs on them, he added.

Sarah said she is thankful they took the step seven years ago to get involved when she looks back now at how far her three children have come in 4-H.

“4-H is something that we can do together as a family to be together with the kids and to see their confidence, decision-making skills and responsibility for their animals grow,” said Sarah.

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