by Sam Hodges
Memorial Day Weekend, Tim Smith of Smith Genetics hosted juniors and parents at Cow Camp at the Smith Genetics Ranch in Giddings, Texas. I had the privilege of attending this outstanding educational program and experiencing the fun-filled weekend. Friday afternoon through Saturday morning was designated as move-in time with camp starting at 9:00 a.m. Saturday morning.
The first class began at the show barn with a presentation by Michael Grahmann, sponsored by Purina. Mr. Grahmann went over heifer selection, halter breaking, and general tips for maintaining show cattle. This presentation was followed by wash rack etiquette with Rodney Finch, as well as hints about which soaps and shampoos to use, the fundamentals of washing, and how to properly dry cattle with a power blower. Mr. Finch then continued to conduct a demonstration for all campers, covering the basics to clipping, fitting, and maintaining hair.
Traditionally, all campers and participating adults attend class in one large group, meeting in the lab, the show barn, or the catch pens behind the lab. Due to an increase in campers, three classes were formed based on age breaks. Ages 15 and under were classified as Junior Campers, 16 to 21 were Senior Campers, and 22+ were Adult/Parent Campers. After the morning demonstrations by Mr. Grahmann and Mr. Finch, camp moved down the hill to the lab for breakout sessions. One group went into the lab for class with Ms. Lesli Garrett, winner of many TJSSA, AJSA National and Regional, and AJSR speech contests. Lesli taught campers how to improve their Sales Talk, Public Speaking, and Extemporaneous Speaking presentations. Another group met with Ms. Martha Garrett where she shared a wealth of information on building a scholarship resume, filling out applications and general ag scholarships. The Adult/Parent campers thoroughly enjoyed learning all of the tricks to this trade. Up at the show barn, the third group honed in on their showmanship skills with MR. Finch and Richard Foster III. Mr. Finch began by giving his infamous speech pertaining to show ring attire, jewelry, and "bling." The kids then grabbed a heifer, entered the ring, and received one-on-one training to further develop their style. After this rotation ended, everyone met at the show barn for a closing showmanship session. Taylor Rutledge and Caleb Rodenbeck were the showmanship champions in the evening showdown.
Classes began Sunday morning with Livestock Judging and Oral Reasons by Richard Foster III in the pens behind the lab. The Adult/Parent group opted to move this session to a pen with a lot of shade to try and beat the heat. Inside the lab, Mrs. Annette Hill educated campers on Meats Judging, including retail and wholesale cuts, yield grade, and quality, while Mr. Jayson Hill taught nutrition and feedstuffs. Jayson and Annette teach Ag at Brazos High School in Wallis, Texas and they are always a great addition to camp. After lunch, Jayson went over the Sire Summary and EPDs. In the other room, Tim Smith taught Cattlemen's Quiz definitions, genetics and inheritance, and Skill-A-Thon items.
Camp adjourned around 4:00 p.m. on Sunday afternoon after a mock Skill-A-Thon contest for all campers.
This year's camp was truly amazing. The parents were highly involved in classes and were eager to learn as much information as possible for the sole purpose of helping their children succeed. When asked what they wanted to learn from camp, the junior group said, “As much as we possibly can”, and they lived up to this goal, actively participating in all events. The depth and level of questions posed by the Senior group was stimulating, and they continue to raise the bar for the contests they will be participating in this summer. Good luck to all participants at State, Nationals, and Roundup and thank you to everyone who helped make Cow Camp the great success that it was!