by Katie Navarra
No stranger to cattle, Robert Bentley of Argyle, NY, was an avid team penning and sorting competitor until two years ago. At the Washington County Fair his children entered poultry in the fair and met several other youth competing with their beef cattle. “My daughter, Brianna, the younger of our children, got to be friends with another girl who was a member of the Jr. Beef Club,” he explained.
His children, Brian (17) and Brianna (13) showed an interest in the local 4-H club, the Washington County Jr. Beef Club and soon became members, eager to learn the skills needed to raise, care for and prepare beef cattle for the show ring.
Realizing his team penning and sorting days were on hold, Robert converted the 10 acres of pasture on his farm, known as Misfit Acres, from horse paddocks into grazing pastures for the show quality, registered Hereford beef cattle that arrived.
Two short years later, the herd totals 10 cattle, two of which went to Junior National Hereford Expo Event held in Harrisburg, PA, July 5-12.
“Jr. Nationals was awesome,” he said after the event. Brianna finished in the top 30 percent of her showmanship class, which totaled 135 kids and Brian placed in the top 40 percent out of 185 exhibitors.
“Both heifers that they showed were excellent. They finished right in the middle of their classes, which is better than I expected being this was our first Jr. Nationals,” he added, “especially since one heifer in my daughter’s class was recently purchased for $110,000 and trust me ours are nowhere near that valuable.”
With a successful trip to Jr. Nationals under their belt, the Bentley family is already awaiting next year’s event. Robert attributes the family’s quick success to their willingness to follow the advice of seasoned farm owners.
Following the guidance of experienced beef farms and learning the trends in breeding cattle, the family has been able to purchase cattle with good bloodlines and sound conformation. “We’ve been fortunate that we got really nice cattle from MM Cattle Company,” he said.
The first crop of heifers purchased from MM Cattle Company proved a good buy. One of the heifers placed Reserve Grand Champion at the Washington County Fair the first year out for the family. “We were really excited that for our first year out we did so well,” he added.
The early 2014 show season has proven to be a successful one as well. Earlier this spring one heifer finished Grand Champion at a show in Springfield, MA.
Aside from the thrill of winning, the Bentley family is most pleased with the unexpected lessons that have come from raising cattle. “It’s taught the kids that hard work pays off and the more time you put in, the better broke the cows will be,” he said.
Both Brian and Brianna spend time each day teaching the cows to lead and set up on command. They’ve also learned how important it is to start early with the calves. “Our first heifer was not halter broke. The heifer weighed 600 pounds and took turns with all four of us in the family,” he laughed, “now we start working with the calves at two days old.”
Despite working a full time, Robert sees his family’s involvement in showing beef cattle as an important part of raising his children. “I am a firm believer in spending time with your kids, especially in their teenage years and the beef cattle allows us do that,” he concluded.
by Katie Navarra