By: Jayson Hill, Brazos High School Ag Science Teacher
Most of the people in the cattle industry know an Ag Teacher. They more than likely met one when their children were in FFA. I have often pondered the thought, how many people actually know what an Ag Teacher does on a daily basis. Here is my story.
My wife and I have been married for four years, this past December. We have no kids of our own, but we have approximately 150 kids that we see each day in the classroom. I have been teaching for 7 years, while my wife has been teaching for 3 years. We have taught together for the last three years.
Winter time in Texas means somewhat colder weather, unless you are at a livestock show, then the weather is usually wet and or cold. Major Livestock Show Season, for us at least, starts with the Fort Worth Stock Show in late January and ends with the Star of Texas Fair and Rodeo in March. In between those two shows, we stop at the San Antonio Livestock Show and the Houston Livestock Show. This time of year, for me and my wife, is very busy and we are often like to ships passing in the night, spending more time away from each other than we do together. Yes, that is right; we spend more time with our students this time of year than we do with each other.
Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo
Thursday, January 20, 2011
We had planned to leave town by 9:30am, but as always, we were running late. We left town at 9:45am. I was hauling two heifers to Fort Worth for my students. One family was coming up later that afternoon, as soon as they got their vehicle out of the repair shop, the other family, Gary, Deanna, and Cody Witzkoski, were going to be following me to Fort Worth. We drove to Waco and had lunch at a Whataburger. The temperature was steadily dropping and by the time we reached Waco the temperature was already at 36 degrees. It was 60 degrees when we left the house that morning. We arrived at the staging line around 2:45 and waited for 1 ½ hours in the now 34 degree weather. Needless to say, we left the truck running to stay warm. Cody thought it would be a good idea to climb in the back of the truck and “take a nap”. Not sure how much napping he got done, I figured if he was crazy enough to try and sleep in the back of the truck that he was crazy enough to take care of himself. While waiting in line, I took the time to visit with Gary. I enjoy the down times that allow me to visit with the parents. It took us nearly an hour to get everything unloaded and set up. As soon as we got to the cattle barn, I had Cody wash both heifers so we could get the stalls set up. I sent Deanna to get bedding straw and shavings from the feed store. We finally got the heifers fed and in the tie outs around 7:45pm. As we walked out the truck, I was thankful that we were no longer waiting in the staging line. It was not too long of a day, but the traveling wore me out.
Friday, January 21, 2011
Today started off very cold, 20 degrees to be exact. Like normal, I was the first one to arrive at our stalls. I went to check on our heifers at the tie-outs. Why Fort Worth Stock Show officials feel the need to stall you in Cattle Barn 4 and then put you in tie outs at Barn 1, I will never know. Heifers were still laid up in the three foot of straw my kids laid down for the night before. We finished hanging up our stall decorations, not my number one priority but our kids like it and so do their moms, so we do it. I will continue to do stall decorations as long as someone else decides how to decorate. At 12 noon they began the Heifer Sift. We got both of ours through no problem. It never fails though, that I have that last minute thought of “are the tattoos correct?” even after I have checked them a hundred times. One of my students failed to get their heifer clipped before heading to Fort Worth, even though I asked them if I needed to clip the heifer at the beginning of January. They told me someone else was going to do it, and of course they did not. Had I known earlier, I would have planned on having it done before we left. The kid let me know he needed me to clip his heifer on Tuesday before we were to leave on Thursday. I guess they forgot that I had to get work together for my classes while I was gone, gather tools for the Area Tractor Tech Contest that was happening on Friday, get clothes from the cleaners, practice with my tractor tech team, and then go home and pack for the trip. So needless to say, we clipped her today. The student wants to learn how to clip a heifer so badly, that he wants to try and clip his heifer the day before the show. Being the “teacher” that I am, I handed the student the clippers. Let’s just say that I am not very hopeful of his ability to clip heifers. He butchered the face of his heifer; luckily it was the left side. While clipping his heifer, I heard numerous announcements from the show officials about not having trim chutes on the concrete or asphalt, about not building pens in the cattle barns, about not using the sheep and goat barn wash racks, and numerous other things. It seems that they must have recorded those announcements one time, and then played them back over the PA over and over again. Throughout the day, my students, their parents, and I spent the day catching up with old friends and making new ones. I truly believe that the people I have met and gotten to know in the cattle barns are some of the best people on earth.
Saturday, January 22, 2011
Today is show day number one. I am fortunate to have students that know the show day routine. They arrive early, wash, blow, and then feed. This allows me to arrive early, but does not require me to arrive at the crack of dawn. I really cannot do anything while they are doing all of that anyways. We had a Shorthorn that showed today. Unfortunately, the heifer has not been taken care of like she should. As an Ag Teacher, I check on the projects at home, I give suggestions, but at the end of the day it is not my project, it is not my time that the heifer requires, and it is not my money that needs to be spent for feed, hay, and medications. This has to be the most frustrating part of teaching. I try my best to put the kids on the best animals that they can afford, but I can do very little when the animal reaches the house. Our Shorthorn today was obviously 300 lbs or more underweight when comparing it to the others in the class. The student was upset when he was placed last in the class. This gave me the opportunity to drive home the point of consistency of feeding. I feel like this is the biggest mistake when feeding show animals. People are either switching feeds, do not feed the same amount daily, or do not feed at the same times each day. Consistency is very important, no matter the livestock project. After the Shorthorn show, I began working with a student of mine that was participating in the Superintendents Heifer Challenge. I quizzed him on the study material that was provided him, and then we worked on a sales talk for him. Unfortunately, my student did not score high enough to make it to the finals. I would highly suggest all seniors who qualify for the Superintendents Heifer Challenge to do so and I would like to thank the Fort Worth Heifer Show Superintendents, Devon Energy and the other sponsors for giving the students this wonderful opportunity.
Sunday, January 23, 2011
Today was an easy day. We did not have any cattle to show, so I did what I love to do and that is catch up with old friends and to make new ones. The cattle barn is the best place in the world to meet new friends because you already have something in common… cattle. I walked around the cattle barns, looked at cattle, and talked with some great Simbrah folks. I finally got the chance to wait in line for a Cowboy Burrito for lunch. It was worth it and I did not share. For dinner I ate at the Macaroni Grill with the Onstot and Witzkoski families. I am sure that my wife was jealous of me because I was in great company while she was at home by herself. Tomorrow will be a busy day of getting our Simbrah cattle ready for show and then loading up and driving home.
Monday, January 24, 2011
Today is Simbrah show day. I love it. Cody was in class 9. When we got to the exercise arena, one of the superintendents informed us that he was a single entry. Cody did not believe us, until he went into the ring. He thought we were pulling his leg, and most of the time he would be correct. We gladly took our blue ribbon and headed back in for the division drive. Unfortunately the division was packed with several good cattle. Cody was not selected for champion or reserve division champion. While my students were tearing down the stalls and getting ready to load, I stayed and watched the rest of the show. As soon as the show was over, I headed to the truck to go get our trailer. I arrived at the trailer lot at 3:45pm and sat in line until 6:45 pm. I think that this part of the Fort Worth Stock Show definitely needs improvement. Hog, Lamb, and Cattle trailers were all in the same line and were heading to different barns, why they could not separate them like San Antonio I will never know. My kids were back at the barn and told me that our barn had all kinds of open spots to park and load. When I arrived at the barn around 6:45pm, my two head were the last ones in Barn 4. We pulled out of the Stock Show grounds at 7pm, and settled in the for the 5 hour ride home. I dropped the calves off at the kid’s houses and told them to pick up their show boxes and tack at school on Tuesday. I got home at 12:45am. I had livestock judging practice at 7:30am the next morning. When I laid down my mind transferred out of livestock show mode and into Ag Mechanics mode. I began thinking of everything that we have to do to have them ready for the Ag Mechanics show in San Antonio on Feb 18-20. Hopefully we finish, as the students building the projects are both seniors and will not have a chance to show these projects again. The stress level is rising- Livestock Shows, Ag Mechanics projects, judging teams, and I cannot forget about the wife! Thank goodness she understands me and my crazy life.