A youth livestock project that is new to the Bedford County Fair — but not new to the dairy industry — is giving showmen another way to show off their animal handling skills this year.
The Fair has added the dairy feeder beef show to the Tuesday lineup, giving 4-H and FFA members a chance to see how well they know how to raise a dairy calf — strictly young steers — from nearly newborn to up to about seven months.
Dwayne Hay, youth development agent for the Bedford County Extension Office, said officials started talking in earnest about the new project a couple years ago.
It’s a livestock show that is already in place in neighboring counties’ fairs and is a significant part of the beef industry.
“Pennsylvania has a large dairy industry and there are usually an abundance of bull calves,” Hay said, because female calves are kept as crucial replacement animals.
“The dairy beef industry is a very big part of the dairy industry here in the northeast,” he said. Farmers often finish out — or fatten — animals as beef animals.
“Over the years, a number of people have been asking if we can do a dairy feeder beef project in 4-H,” Hay said.
Last year, officials let potential exhibitors know that dairy beef would be a new project in 2019. Youth were to purchase a calf between Dec. 15 and March 15, giving them time to raise a steer from a range of 350 pounds for the smallest lightweight, to 750 pounds maximum.
Hay said 19 animals from 13 or 14 exhibitors were tagged for the Fair. The interest surprised him, he said.
He sees it as a potentially a popular project. Calves are relatively inexpensive for youth.
The animals don’t have to be registered but they do have to be from a straight line of dairy breeds — Holsteins, Guernseys, Ayrshires, Jerseys, Brown Swiss, as examples.
Officials saw there was room for them because of a drop off in the number of dairy animals.
There was room in the barns and in the schedule.
“We could fit it in, and the time was right,” Hay said.
The animals will be shown Tuesday after the junior dairy show, which starts at 9 a.m.
The animals will be sold but not at the livestock auction Saturday.
Hay said the committee is working to secure a market bid for the animals. The won’t be sold at auction.
“We’re anxious to see how it goes,” Hay said. “I was surprised to have as many animals tagged as we did for the first year,” he said.