Heifers, steers shine in the fair spotlight

Noel Lyn Smith

FARMINGTON — La Plata resident Maggie Hadden controlled her 18-month-old steer with ease while a judge examined the animal during the heifer and steer show today at the San Juan County Fair.

Matt Denetclaw, of Shiprock, prepares his brother's steer for the market steer show on Thursday at the San Juan County Fair.

In the end, the Angus Maine cross won first place in the Class 3 category. Shortly after exiting the competition ring, Hadden was flooded with hugs from family members and friends.

Hadden, a La Plata Blue Ribbon 4-H Club member, cried while holding a blue box that held a first-place buckle.

"I feel great. This is my first win," the 10-year-old said.

Cliff Hadden said Maggie is his youngest daughter and was following her sisters' footsteps into steer competition, but this was the first first-place finish for the family.

"I can't explain it. It's awesome. We've been trying for, this is our 11th year out here," he said.

This year's show had one class of heifers and six classes of steers, which were divided by weight. The animals were judged on traits such as structure, balance and muscle.

In addition to the competition, a maximum of 25 steers will be sold on Saturday.

Fair Board President Bob Echols, who was supervising the show, said exhibitors are San Juan County residents who range in age from 9 to 19. They are also Future Farmers of America or 4-H Club members, and participate in caring for and raising the animals.

Savannah Napie, 16, of Bloomfield, shows her steer on Thursday at the San Juan County Fair.

"We're very fortunate because we have a very active program here in San Juan County," Echols said.

While it takes money to purchase animals and to buy necessities such as feed, the exhibitors have a "good investment" in the end, he said.

Cabree Mullins, 15, of Aztec, won first place and was named grand champion in the heifer show for a 15-month-old Chianina named Gretchen.

"I like the feel of winning and knowing that all my hard work paid off," said Mullins, who is a Levi and Calico 4-H Club member.

Gretchen, named after a character from the movie, "Mean Girls," is on a winning streak this season. Her next competition will be the New Mexico State Fair in Albuquerque.

When asked what traits make Gretchen a winner, Mullins paused, then said, "Her attractiveness and how she's built and what she can bring to the herd. …She's the best one I've raised so far."

Throughout the show, the sounds of moos and blow dryers could be heard as exhibitors put the finishing touches on the animals.

A heifer gets shown on Thursday at the San Juan County Fair.

Savannah Napie, 16, was preparing to show her 17-month-old steer in the Class 2 competition. She said the preparation included washing, brushing and blow drying the steer’s hair. Added techniques were applying mousse and other products to enhance the appearance of the animals' legs.

"If the judge is looking for a muscular calf, they will look at the hip and the ribs. Then again, it's for show," Napie said.

The Pioneer Kids 4-H Club and Bloomfield Future Farmers of America member said she was a "little nervous" about the competition, but she did not show it, especially when her steer finished second.

Jerry Napie, Savannah's father, said his daughter shows steers raised by the family in Blanco Canyon.

Although competition in the county is fierce, Napie said, he is confident Savannah will do well in each show.

Another father, Milford Denetclaw, of Shiprock, said steer shows are a "family affair."

"We're all in it. We all get dirty," he said while standing near a table that held various spray cans used to enhance the appearance of the three steers his family entered.

One of the steers, a Hereford weighing 1,332 pounds, stood under LED lights while being prepped for showtime.

“It’s glamour time for them,” Denetclaw said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.