BASHAW, Alta. — When Jacey Massey makes that final circuit in the show ring before slapping the supreme champion, she wears a serious face because she understands everyone is nervous and excited about the prospect of winning.
No stranger to cattle shows, the 14-year-old from Strathmore, Alta., was the youngest of five judges at the Canadian National Junior All Breeds show in Bashaw held Aug. 17-20.
Not only was Massey judging the merits of the cattle, she was also facing friends she has made over the years since she started showing Simmentals as a five-year-old.
“It was cool, but it was hard be-cause I show against these competitors,” she said.
She stood in the circle with a clipboard analyzing 16 cattle of all breeds that were all champions in their own classifications from other junior shows held this summer.
This event places a heavy emphasis on learning, including the skills required for livestock evaluation.
Massey was the top junior judge from this competition and that earned her a berth.
This summer, she received extra training when she attended a four-day judging school at Kansas State University, where she learned to assess hogs, horses, sheep and beef cattle.
It has given her a taste for judging, and while she enjoys showing cattle, she would like to do more judging. She also likes seeing commercial and purebred cattle compete together.
“In a large open show, it is purebred driven, but I wish they had commercial females so you could hold them up against the purebred female genetics and make them better,” she said.
This year, a Simmental-Angus cross heifer shown by Bailey Wauters of Wrentham, Alta., was named supreme champion.
The show is open to anyone younger than 21 but many of these youngsters have participated in purebred junior events and 4-H regional shows.
They converge in central Alberta to learn more about agriculture, marketing, communication, judging and the beef industry.
The show grew this year to 55 entries from children younger than nine and 85 competitors between nine and 21.
Drought and the BSE trade issue affected shows of this type, but there has been a rebound in participation, said long-time volunteer Janet Kerr.
“We are seeing a resurgence not just in our show, but other shows are seeing the same thing,” she said.
A wide range of prizes is up for grabs with the top being a $2,500 cash award for the supreme animal.
The competition is strong, but the main goal is to encourage youngsters to stay committed to agriculture.
The animals must be owned by the young people showing them to be eligible.
“Over the 31 years we have been running this production, what we have found is when the kids own them they are more committed,” Kerr said.
Commercial and purebreds are entered and compete against each other. Many children who have done well at this event have gone on to win big at other shows, such as Edmonton’s Farmfair and Canadian Western Agribition in Regina, said Kerr.