Cam, also known as the Beast, kicked at the ground with his hind feet. He snorted and bellowed his displeasure at the indignity of having his rump shaved.
Cam, a Hereford steer, was getting ready to be shown at the Grays Harbor County Fair last week by Alex Marshall, 15, of Montesano.
The steer was placed inside a fitting chute and his head was tied to keep him still. He fussed as Ellen Hinderlie ran the clippers over his back, trimming the excess hair and giving Cam a sleeker look. While Hinderlie worked on the steer, Marshall scratched the steer’s belly with a show stick.
When the animal continued to fuss, Marshall petted Cam’s face.
Hinderlie, a veteran cattle exhibitor at the fair and former vice-president of the Grays Harbor Youth Livestock Auction, was on hand at the cattle barn on Wednesday, Aug. 10, helping 4-H kids, like Marshall.
Marshall was learning how shaving the steer’s hair a certain way can help shape the steer’s overall look. In 4-H and at home, Marshall has learned how much meat to bone and fat a steer should have to meet industry standards. He’s learned that his animals need different feed at different stages and he’s learned how to groom them.
Grooming a cow includes washing and brushing and sometimes even blow-drying and using hair (fur?) products.
Maintaining his animals, which at this year’s fair included a market cow, show cow, a pet cow and a turkey, means getting up early in the morning and ensuring everyone is watered and fed.
Halter-breaking and walking the steers also takes up time and lots of practice, Marshall said. “You just hope you can hold on sometimes,” he said.
What motivates Marshall is bonding with the animals and learning their personalities and different temperaments. For instance, his pet cow, Panda, is a softie, and curious children at the fair may approach him without hesitation. The Black Angus steer, said Marshall, is surly.
“I have to be really careful and watch the kids with this one,” Marshall said. “If you pet his belly, he could hit you with his tail. And that hurts. You have to watch his feet, too.”
Marshall has been in 4-H for three years, but has grown up around animals. His dad, Knox Marshall, said he always wanted to have a place where he could raise animals and now he does.
Knox and Jolie Marshall’s four children, Alex, Luke, Faith and Kennedy, all participate in 4-H.
“We’re not farmers but we raise cattle as a hobby,” said Knox Marshall. It’s not just cattle at the Marshall place, though.
“We’re probably a little over the top,” Knox Marshall said. There are pigs, ducks, turkeys, chickens, rabbits, geese, dogs, horses, and even one and a half cats. The half cat is a stray the family adopted as a barn cat said Alex Marshall.
Knox Marshall said his kids are self-sufficient in looking after their animals but since none of them drive, he will load and haul the hay.
Alex Marshall’s market steer last year was the grand champion and which sold for thousands of dollars. It was the same this year with the Black Angus. The money raised will go to a college fund, buying calves and possibly for hunting and fishing supplies.
When asked how he felt about spending so much time with the steer and have it go to market and ultimately, to processing, Marshall was stoic.
“It’s okay because I gave him the best life possible in the time we had together,” said Marshall.
Marshall, a sophomore at Montesano High School, is looking forward to school starting in the fall and especially football season.
At the fairgrounds on Saturday, he was already eyeing calves to purchase for next year’s fair. First, though, he’ll be taking his championship Hereford steer, Cam, to the Washington State Fair in Puyallup in September.