Some area children will get out of bed early next week, but not to go to school.
Many will rise at 4 a.m. to get their animals ready for the Heart of Texas Fair and Livestock Show in Waco, which starts Friday.
Youngsters from Bell and Coryell counties have nearly 50 livestock entries in the event and will go head to head showing goat, cattle, sheep and swine.
Stuart Lastovica, 11, of the Holland 4-H Club, has his hands full showing two Angus heifers and four steers.
“My sister was a very big help to me. Watching her was how I learned so much about showing,” said Lastovica, who spends about 15 hours a week working with the livestock. “My favorite one is Big Red. Selling my animals at the end is very hard because I love them.”
Lastovica has showed livestock for four years. His Angus steers won grand champion and reserve grand champion at last year’s Heart of Texas Fair, earning $1,550 in college scholarships.
For the Morelands, participating in livestock shows pulls them together as a family. Sisters McKenzie, 11, and Kallyn, 8, are members of the Gatesville 4-H Club.
Both girls will show Brahma heifers, which tower over the petite elementary-school students.
“When I go into the ring, I get excited. But when other kids let their cows get loose, I get scared,” said Kallyn, who is showing for the first time this year. “I keep my heifer, Bailey, calm by scratching her with my stick.”
McKenzie is in her second year of showing livestock. The sixth-grader will show two heifers, including her favorite, Berry, which has won several championships.
“Sometimes I am nervous and sometimes I am confident when I go into the show ring,” said McKenzie, who wants to be a veterinarian. “Sometimes I have to go against my friends. I don’t want to beat them and hurt their feelings. I also don’t want to get my foot stepped on.”
Preparing an animal to be “show-ready” requires an investment of time and money.
“You’ve got to get up early and take care of your animals before and after school,” said Shane Martin, Coryell County 4-H extension agent. “They need grooming, vaccines, show preparation and more. Show animals are not your normal pet that you can spend a couple of hours playing with and then put it outside.”
Showing livestock is not an inexpensive hobby.
“Showing livestock is not cheap,” Martin said. “But it can be relatively inexpensive when you use it as a learning experience and have fun with it.”
The cost of a lamb or goat can run $250 to $1,000, approximately $1,200 to $1,500 for a heifer or steer, and swine cost $300 to $700 each.
In addition to the purchase price of the animal, costs are incurred for association fees to get the animals registered and for show equipment. Show equipment ranges from $200 to thousands of dollars depending on its quality and where it is purchased.
“You can also out work the cost meaning that if a 4-H member spends more time with his animal getting it ready for the show ring, he can still take home the champion trophy without having to pay a lot of money for it. It is time versus money,” Martin said.