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Harford youth show livestock, take prizes in event organized after Farm Fair was canceled because of coronavirus

Reese McNutt snagged a top prize for her nearly 2-year-old heifer, Dottie, at the Harford County Youth Livestock Show and Sale on Wednesday, the first day of an event aimed to rewarding local youths for their work with animals amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“I like being out there [in the show ring]; I like having fun, and even winning is really fun too,” said Reese, 9, of Bel Air after winning the champion Simmental heifer prize. The daughter of Brian and Susan McNutt has been raising the 1,350-pound Dottie since the animal was a few months old on Ady Acres, the Street farm owned by her grandparents, Teri and Tony McNutt.

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“Every day, I rinse my cows and work with their hair,” said Reese, who also walks with the cows and practices getting them to cooperate while in the show ring.

The event, which runs through Saturday at the Harford County Equestrian Center in Bel Air, was organized by members of Harford’s agricultural and business communities following the cancellation of this year’s Harford County Farm Fair. Fair organizers determined in May that they could not put on an event that draws thousands of people to the fairgrounds in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The fair is an opportunity for young members of 4-H and Future Farmers of America to show their livestock, arts and crafts, culinary and other projects to the public. Plus, the fair presents an opportunity for participants to sell livestock they have raised during the annual 4-H Livestock Sale. The auction, which typically takes place on the last night of the fair, is usually well attended and is a chance for youths to earn money they can save for college or put toward a livestock project for the next year’s fair.

The many adults who work with 4-Hers and FFA members did not want the kids to miss out on such opportunities this year, so they formed a committee and put on this week’s youth livestock events, which are not affiliated with the Farm Fair or 4-H and FFA.

Jackie and Shane Smithson, whose 10-year-old daughter, Isabelle, won several top prizes for her heifers, praised organizers for giving local youths the chance to still show and sell their livestock, meaning the time and effort the kids have put in with the animals over the past year has not gone to waste.

Jackie Smithson, whose family lives on Pond View Farm in White Hall, said it would have been “kind of crushing” for the youths if they could not compete this year.

“I know it was a lot of hard work for everybody, but we’re glad that they did it, very thankful,” she said.

Isabelle Smithson, a member of the Black Horse 4-H club, took home prizes such as reserve champion Simmental heifer and champion bred and owned purebred heifer, according to results from Wednesday’s show.

Isabelle’s 9-month-old Simmental cow, Sassenach, which weighs about 600 pounds, earned the bred and owned prize. Shane Smithson described Sassenach as the “baby” among the cattle the family brought to the show — his family raises Simmental beef cattle on their farm.

“She’s been a sweetheart, though,” Jackie Smithson noted. “We haven’t had her on the halter that long.”

Isabelle said she enjoys being able to spend time with her siblings and cousins while working with her cows. She noted that the work she had put into raising her cows had paid off by being able to show livestock this year.

Isabelle’s cousin, Ryan Trout, also showed Simmental cattle Wednesday, earning first in his class. Ryan, 13, of Pylesville, said it is a “privilege” to be able to show livestock this year.

“During the corona{virus], there’s not very much happening,” he said of life during the pandemic.

Ryan, who also is a member of the Black Horse 4-H club, is in his second year of showing livestock. He described the Simmental breed of cattle as easy to work with, based on his experience.

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“The ones that I work with, the majority of them are nice or have good attitudes,” he said.

An ‘absolute crime’ to not have show and sale

Many local businesses, farming families and elected and appointed county government leaders came together to sponsor and organize this week’s show and sale. Henry Holloway, owner of The Mill of Bel Air, said he is “ecstatic” that the event could take place — his business was listed among the “platinum” sponsors.

Holloway, who watched the cattle judging Wednesday, said the show and sale are “so important for our future farmers and agriculturalists.”

“It would have been an absolute crime not to have this,” he said.

Holloway described the exhibitors as “a good group of young people,” noting he saw a number of new faces this year, children who are in their first or second year as 4-H members. The annual show and sale are an opportunity for the youths to bring out animals that they have raised over many months, compete against their peers and show local farmers their ability to work with livestock.

“It would be awful for them not to be able to present their animals,” Holloway said.

Cattle breeders Gunner Crawford and Michael Kinna served as judges. Kinna discussed the advantages of heifers — female cattle that have not yet given birth to calves — for exhibitors who can bring the heifers back to their pasture after a show, develop their cattle program and earn more money.

“That’s the idea and the purpose behind it, is to buy animals like this from breeders like me and Gunner so that they can continue to raise livestock and do it the right way, and these young exhibitors can actually have their own calves and make their own money and start their own little programs,” Kinna told the audience.

Crawford said being a young livestock exhibitor is “something to be proud of . . . being able to bring out what you’ve produced and show it off to the world.”

He encouraged the youths to be “moving forward and trying to produce something better and better each year.”

Youths showed poultry and beef cattle Wednesday — there were 74 head of cattle and about 16 poultry entered, according to event co-chair Mike Doran.

“Quality is good, numbers are good,” he said of the livestock being shown, “We’re excited, we’re very pleased; it’s been a good turnout.”

Market sheep and goats, plus dairy cattle, will be shown on Thursday followed by rabbits and swine Friday.

The livestock auction is scheduled for Saturday afternoon. The events are not open to the general public, but people can follow along online at the Harford County Youth Livestock Show & Sale page on Facebook.

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