Over the last 35 years the Crossfield Madden 4H Beef Club has helped local kids prepare for their futures in the beef industry by teaching about the basics of animal husbandry and the business side of beef.
“We are a club that is specifically based around beef,” confirmed Reanna Hagel, leader of the Crossfield Madden 4H Beef Club. “Being that the local (agricultural) area tends to be heavily concentrated around the beef industry, we are developing kids that are learning more about the beef industry and developing their leadership skills.”
The club generally has about 15 members in its regular ages 9+ program, said Hagel, but this year it will also be offering a 4H “Cleaver” program for kids 6 to 8-years-old.
“It’s going to be our first year (for Cleavers),” she said. “We are going to give it a try with a few smaller kids.”
According to Hagel, fall is always an exciting time to kick off the new 4H year.
“The beginning of our year is exciting in a lot of ways,” she confirmed. “Fall is the time when all the cattle come home off of pasture, and you get to take a look at all of the calves and ‘the crop’ looks like for those in the cattle industry.”
The first task of any 4H Beef Club member, explained Hagel, is to select the best animal from among those returning from pasture to hand raise and feed over the next seven months.
“So for the 4H members, this (time of year) is when they get a chance to go out and take a look, do some selection, and take their best guess as to what is going to be that winning steer or heifer down the road,” she said.
4H Beef Club members will then take courses on grooming, feeding and taking care of the health of the animals as they push toward the club’s annual beef shows in the spring. They will also learn about marketing and presentation.
The goal is for members to put their best foot forward as their steers or heifers compete head-to-head in several regional shows, including the Crossfield Madden 4H Club’s own Achievement Day show during May long weekend.
“In order to finish the year, and call your year complete, your project must be shown at Achievement Day,” Hagel explained.
But, according to Hagel, the most exciting event of the year for her members is the big, 4H multi-club show which generally takes place at the end of May. Not only do Crossfield Madden Beef Club members compete against one another for the coveted “Best in Show” ribbon, they also compete with other 4H beef clubs in the region. After the show, the 4H clubs collectively host a livestock auction, and the money from the sales for the animals goes right into the pockets of the kids who raised them.
“At the end of it all, they try to market and sell that animals as premium beef,” explained Hagel. “Their profit at the end is what they get to keep. The animals get judged on the quality of their animal, the confirmation, we call it, and the kids also get judged on their showmanship abilities and their grooming abilities.”
These are valuable skills to learn for these future ranchers and beef industry workers, said Hagel.
“All of those things are skills they can take forward and apply to a lot of areas of life– preparation and organization,” she said. “Showmanship also has a lot to do with communication skills and personal presence.”
Outside of teaching these tricks of the trade, Hagel said the Crossfield Madden 4H Beef Club also teaches its young members to get involved with and give back to their communities.
“We try to, anytime we have the chance, take part in as many of the community development events we can as a club or as extra help,” confirmed Hagel. “We help clean up and set up for the Crossfield Farmers’ Markets. If we can, we will do set up or clean up for community fundraisers in Madden and Crossfield. We will do snow angel activities (to help shovel) in winter. We do really try to encourage community involvement among our members.”
Hagel said these types of community involvement initiatives are always important in any population centre, but are crucially important to the overall survival and quality of life in smaller rural communities, in particular.
“One of the challenges we have in smaller communities and in rural areas is everyone is really busy, and everyone is trying to do the best they can on their own farms or in their own businesses and families,” she said. “But in order for our rural and smaller communities to stay healthy, we need community involvement. I think fostering that community involvement in youth helps to create sustainable agricultural communities.”
While the Crossfield Madden 4H Club is geared around beef, Hagel said her chapter works closely with other 4H chapters in the area which have a diversity of focuses highlighting other aspects of rural agriculture, sports such as archery, or artisan activities like welding, and often her members are involved in more than one 4H club to explore all the different interests they might have.
“If somebody is really interested in 4H, but they just don’t have the means to have a beef project, we are definitely well-connected to the other clubs in our district,” she said. “If someone is really interested in 4H, we have lots of friends we can get folks connected with.”
Crossfield Madden 4H Beef Club’s parent night is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 19 for those who want to come out and ask questions, and its first full members’ meeting is tentatively scheduled for Oct.17.
For more information on the Crossfield Madden 4H Beef Club and 4H in general email [email protected], or call or text Reanna Hagel at 403-589-4190.