WAPAKONETA — Bridget Oen said it’s compassion she’s learned through showing in the 4-H market and dairy competitions as a 4-H member —compassion for the cattle and taking care of them.
Born and raised on a dairy farm, the St. Marys teen said she was looking for something more exciting than the rabbits she’d shown the year before when she started showing cattle.
When she entered the ring to show a Jersey steer she’d had since it was born, she said she had to be calm not just for herself, but for the animal so that it would stay calm.
“You want to hide their flaws and accent their strong points,” Oen said.
In the dairy and market competitions Wednesday night at the Auglaize County Fair, the 4-H members vied for the top places among their peers as judges looked for cattle that were more square than round, with muscle and a little fat and good body posture.
What the judges can only infer from a few minutes in the show barn is a cow’s personality and the year of work that often goes into raising the animals.
Jenna Heitkamp, in her fifth year of showing, said Si, her cow this year, was raised by her since it was a calf.
“She’s really calm, and works well with me, eats a lot, and likes to eat grass,” Heitkamp said. “Since we’ve been here, with no grass, she’s been eating rocks.”
At only 16 months old, her animal has gone from a calf to a grown animal that is continuing the family legacy of showing in 4-H.
“I’ve always been a farm girl, so I like how hands on it is,” Heitkamp said. “My dad always showed, and we had a family farm.”
Alix Hamrick was also among family, as she brought her “big puppy dog” of a cow to the show.
Charger, she said, had charged her often as a calf to earn his nickname. She said she keeps coming back to the fair to keep family traditions going.
Paige Lehman, of New Knoxville, finishes the youth part of her 4-H career, as she turned 19 this year, and is set to go to college to be an accountant.
“It feels awesome, having all the eyes on you,” Lehman said. “The atmosphere is great.”
She said she’ll miss being able to show, and that there’s a lot of hard work, responsibility and family teamwork that happen in preparation for the fair. She thinks some of what she’s learned through shows will help her even in accounting.
“Just like, going all out, going all the way,” Lehman said. “Not doing it halfway, but giving 110 percent to everything you do.”