SHARYLAND—Sharyland High School Senior Kayla Marek admits her time with the Future Farmers of America program will be hard to let go of once she graduates this year. The many hours spent feeding, walking and grooming her livestock passed quickly, and she is saddened about leaving the animals she loves.
Multiple students in Hidalgo County competed in the South Texas Agricultural Roundup Livestock Show, which ran from Feb. 26-March 1, and are gearing up for the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show in Mercedes, which kicks off Friday, March 7.
Sharyland High School students have prepped animals year round for both shows.
Marek took grand champion for her market steer at the STAR show. Market stock is set for sale after the shows, while breeding stock can be used for reproducing.
The senior said after spending so much time with her livestock, a strong bond is built, even with the understanding at the end of the day the animals are sold. She added she has laid down with her steers and hogs in their pens, like many other competitors at the stock shows.
“With steers, you usually have them for nine months, depending on when you buy them,” Marek said. “They become your children, but in the end you have to let them go. At the STAR show you have to walk your steer onto the trailer, I walked him onto the trailer and thought I was fine, but then I just lost it.”
Marco A. Barrientes said breeding and raising livestock is not the only way a student can participate in the livestock shows. He explained contests cover Ag mechanics, woodwork, medical fabrication, taxidermy and wildlife photography.
“Sometimes you have kids that either can’t afford an animal or they don’t have facilities to keep them,” Barrientes said. “Keeping them at the ag farm is wonderful, but there are times they can’t pursue the project but they do have an opportunity to take a picture and send it to the stock show.”
With the cold weather fluctuating the last few weeks, the advisor said it has been more difficult to keep livestock’s coats clean and warm. Marek said the last few weeks have caused issues with her steer.
“When it’s cold, it can make their (steer) hair grown back faster…I have one steer who likes to go to the back corner of his pen,” Marek said. “He (steer) just stands there and pees which makes the ground wet, so he stands in mud all day. So we have to deal with hoof rot which is a fungus in between the toes…from the mud he stands in.”
The advisor said parents are a huge help within the program; Marek said her parents helped with feeding and walking her animals while she participated on the campus swim team and marching band.
Barrientes, one of four agriculture teachers/FFA advisors, said the process allows students to grow, understand responsibility and accept the ways of life. He added the program takes pride in not only raising blue ribbon animals but also blue ribbon students.
In fact, his own daughter is one of those students. Teah Barrientes said she has been showcasing livestock since the third grade. Now, as a junior she has learned a lot from her father, including a love for agriculture.
“I plan on going into an agriculture career…I don’t really think it’s challenging,” Teah Barrientes said. “It’s a lot of time and effort, but if you love what you are doing, it doesn’t seem like work.”
Reserve Champion Main Steer was the title Teah Barrientes received at the STAR Show, and she added she plans to show a market steer, hog and taxidermy project in Mercedes.
Both Marek and Teah Barrientes are ready for the RGV Livestock Show and are looking forward to the heat of the competition.
The Sharyland High School Ag advisors includes: Horacio “Lacho” Garza Jr, Joe C. Carter and William B. Wood. According to Marco A. Barrientes, more than 500 students participate in the FFA program, which makes it the fifth-largest FFA chapter in the state of Texas.
For more information on the livestock show results, visit www.progresstimes.net for final awards.