GREENFIELD — For many 4-H’ers, their interest in livestock comes from a family tradition. Their parents or grandparents raised livestock.
But that’s not the case for 10-year-old Madison Fancher.
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Madison has shown cattle for two years, but her two heifers and a steer don’t live on her family’s property. Instead, she travels about a mile down the road from her home to Fout Family Farms five or six days a week to feed, water and groom the cows she shows at 4-H events and other cattle shows.
Some 80 head of cattle, washed, brushed and gleaming, paraded through the 4-H Show Arena on Tuesday during the Hancock County 4-H Fair Beef Show, most guided by 4-H’ers whose families have raised cattle for at least a generation beyond theirs.
But a few, like Madison, have learned to love spending time grooming and getting to know their steers and heifers all on their own.
It can be challenging to start showing livestock, cattle especially, if a 4-H’er doesn’t have a family legacy of raising the animals, said Jamie Lowes, whose daughter, Kaitlyn Lowes, a third-generation 4-H’er, showed several cattle on Tuesday.
For those with that livestock legacy, seeing the next generation enjoying the county fair traditions is touching — Lowes teared up a bit when trying to describe the feeling.
It’s hard to be involved in raising cattle if you don’t have a strong support system, Lowes said. It takes someone willing to identify and nourish the interest in caring for the large animals in a young person.
For Madison, that person was Dean Fout of Fout Family Farms. Fout was her sister’s eighth-grade basketball coach at Eastern Hancock Junior High, but when Madison wasn’t interested in playing basketball, Fout asked if she’d be interested in showing cattle, instead.
Their families are friends and neighbors near Charlottesville, Fout said. His son was finishing up his last year in 4-H two years ago when Madison got started, and the Country Kritters 4-H Club member found her place in the show ring. Her name is even on the Fout Family Farms sign hanging from the cattle stalls in the fairgrounds this week.
Madison travels to cattle shows around the region with the Fout family. She enjoys getting to see different places where cattle shows are held, she said.
It’s unusual, but not unheard of, for someone whose family doesn’t raise cattle to get into showing them, said Jamie Lowes.
Lily Haeberle, 12, a Sugar Creek 4-H club member, is another person who does just that. Her mom, Laura Haeberle, is the leader for the 4-H club, but the cattle she shows live on the Morristown farm of Debbie and Larry Waltz. Debbie Waltz works with Lily’s dad, Ben Haeberle, and when she did well in showmanship for alpacas, the Waltzes asked if she’d be interested in trying her hand at showing cattle.
“I love large animals, so I was really excited for the opportunity,” Lily said. “Working with them is a lot of fun. There’s a lot of maintenance involved, but I love it.”