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By Micah Drew
Pathfinder 

Steer Project Honors Memory

 

August 3, 2017

Micah Drew, Pathfinder

Dani Sexton sets up T-Bone in preparation for the Beef Showmanship at the Western Montana Country Fair in Missoula next week.

SEELEY LAKE – A thick white binder sat on the dining room table inside the Sexton's home down the road from Kozy Korner. The binder detailed four years of 4-H projects that Dani Sexton has worked on.

On one page, a set of photos show Sexton, decked out in sunglasses and a fake flower lei, kissing a steer-also wearing a lei and pink sunglasses-on the head.

The steer, T-Bone, is her latest 4-H project, one that started back in September when Sexton and her sister Gabby began looking for steers to purchase.

"I wanted to do a steer [this year] because my sister was doing it," said Sexton. "I also wanted to receive the scholarship from Mark [Teague], so I could keep his memory going."

The Mark Teague Memorial Scholarship Fund started last year with the sale of Teague's steer at the Western Montana Fair. Teague passed away in 2015 and was an active member in the Seeley Lake Trailblazer 4-H Club. Sexton, along with Missoula resident Sadie Smith, received $500 to help with the purchase of their steers.

"They were all friends," said Sexton's mom, Toni. "So it kind of went to the perfect person."

Sexton participated in a silent auction in Oct. 2 of last year. She became the proud owner of T-Bone.

"I have wanted to raise a steer most of my four years in 4-H," Sexton told the Pathfinder . "I was too [young] to raise a steer last year but this year I am old enough."

Even with an extra year under her belt, Sexton is still at a slight disadvantage when compared to T-Bone. Two days ago, during his last weigh-in, the steer was 1,249 pounds-more than 15 times her size. By the time she brings him to Missoula for the Western Montana Fair, she hopes he'll be more than 1,500 pounds.

Despite the contrast between the young middle schooler and her younger-but-larger companion, T-Bone responds to Sexton's commands-a key component to the coming showmanship at the fair.

"My steer, he gets used to other people," said Sexton. "But if you have to wash him, he only lets me do it."

Sexton has forged that relationship over months of walking, washing and caring for her steer. Feeding is one of the biggest components. T-Bone consumes around 24 pounds of grain a day, which keeps him on track to gain about three pounds of weight each day.

In her white 4-H binder, Sexton keeps track of every pound of grain she feeds T-Bone. She is required to have a record of feed costs from when she purchased the steer through the auction at the end of the fair.

The hardest part of raising a steer was halter breaking him according to Sexton.

"He wouldn't want to stand still," she said. "We just tied him to a post and let him work it out."

It took a few days.

Ultimately, Sexton hopes that T-Bone will be auctioned off for enough money to cover his original cost, nearly a year's worth of feed and have enough left to buy an even better steer for next year. She would ideally get at least $3 a pound.

Before the auction happens however, Sexton will show off T-Bone with the other steers at the fair.

"You want them to look as best as they can," said Sexton. "It's kind of stressful for me."

Before the showing starts in the evening, the steers have to be washed, blow dried and sprayed with hair spray and adhesive. Then it's a waiting game. There are about eight classes of steers, with up to ten steers in each class.

Micah Drew, Pathfinder

Dani Sexton leads her steer T-Bone around. Sexton has raised T-Bone since October.

Sexton will be judged along with T-Bone. Judges will question her on how the steer was raised, making sure she knows the anatomy and potential diseases a steer can get.

If all goes well, Sexton will walk away from the fair with enough money to raise another steer, a purple ribbon for her effort and the knowledge that she honored a friend by completing her project.

"We are excited to see the girls show their steers at the fair this year," wrote Teague's mother Sharon. "Of course it will be difficult to be at the fair without Mark. This would have been his senior year and his final year to compete with a steer. We will see all of his friends and watch them show and that will be nice. The scholarship is a way for his legacy to live on and for our family to do something nice for our 4-H community."

Applications for the 2018 Mark Teague Memorial Scholarship will be available through the Missoula County 4-H Office.

 

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