By Matt B. Walen
One of the hardest parts of the 4-H market beef learning processes for Hinghams Mike Jurenka isnt saying good-bye to his year-long project at the annual sale.
Saying good-bye has never been a big thing for me, because we raise cattle, the 17-year-old Blue Sky senior said. The hardest part is picking an animal at the beginning. You dont know how well they will eat. You kind of know what the temperament of the animal will be but you dont know what it will be like later.
The 1999 Great Northern Fair slated for Aug. 11-15 will be Jurenkas ninth in 4-H and his sixth straight year competing in the market beef class. Jurenka received a blue ribbon for his steer last year.
Jurenka and his family raise Simmental cattle north of Hingham on the Prairie J ranch and farm operation. Jurenka said he gets his market beef from the family herd.
The first step in competing in the market beef event is the toughest, Jurenka said. Selecting a new steer in December can make or break a 4-H members whole project, he said.
Once a good looking steer is selected, the 4-H member needs to take the critter to the weigh in and have the steer ear tagged, he said.
Jurenkas steer doesnt have a name but has a blue ear tag No. 52.
When the steer is entered in the books, the 4-H member takes the critter home and begins the training that will have the steer ready for the next years fair.
The first thing you have to do is tie the steer up with the halter so it will get used to it, he said. Then you get the steer used to the rope and show stick. The more you work with the steer, the more it becomes familiar with you.
In the showing, the judge may ask you to walk your steer to a different area in line and will want to see how the 4-H member handles his or her steer, Jurenka said.
The feed for the steer is an important part of the equation, Jurenka said.
I start feeding my steer corn and a pellet mix, He said. At the end, I switch to a feeding mix from McIntosh Seeds. I feed my steer twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening.
You feed and work them all the way to the fair.
The 4-H members will bring their show steers to the fair Thursday and get them weighed in, Jurenka said. The senior, junior and market showmanship classes are Friday morning with the sale Sunday, he said.
Jurenka said he washes his steer really good the night before hauling it to the fair. One more washing of the steer is given before the Friday showing, he said.
The critter has to be watered every couple of hours while at the fair and a good supply of hay is fed in the morning and at night, Jurenka said. Fresh wood chips are stocked in the pens to keep the area fairly clean, he said.
Its kind of a hit-and-miss deal year in and year out, he said. Theres a lot of hard work in getting the steer to be led around and getting it tamed. And then there is the daily feedings.
The carcass evaluation is later and all of the steers in the county are ranked, Jurenka said.
The sale and carcass portions of the fair are all part of the business of raising cattle, Jurenka said.
Jurenka has been in 4-H for nine years and is a member of the Northern Lights club. His father, Tom, is the groups leader.
Besides market beef, Jurenka said he will take projects in woodworking and leadership to the county fair.
Jurenka said he really enjoys being in 4-H because it helps the members learn valuable life skills.
You learn from the different projects and each is a little different, he said. We also learn different life skills, communication and relating with others. I meet new friends and know a lot of people from all over the state.
Jurenka recently attended the 54th Montana 4-H Congress held on the campus of Montana State University in Bozeman and was elected president of the 1999-2000 Ambassadors State Officers team.
Some responsibilities Jurenka and the other four state office holders have include representing youth on adult committees and conducting workshops at various 4-H events like State Leaders Forum, Fall Planning for Ambassadors and Congress.
I also have to represent 4-H around the state at different events throughout the year, he said.
The process of being selected as the state president is no small task. Jurenka and six other 4-Hers from across Montana had to serve as an ambassador the previous year, submit an application before the Congress convention and complete an interview at the precongress.
The end result for Jurenka he impressed the selection committee of adults and 4-H peers and was named the new president for the coming year.
Jurenka said his first duty as the new president will be representing 4-H at the annual Jolly Roger Angus golf tournament in Great Falls on Oct. 6.
In past years, the officers have had to go to the Legislature if the Extension Service needed representation, he said. We wont have to go this year, so we will just plan for the Fall Planning for Ambassadors and Congress.
Jurenka, who is also the new senior ambassador for Hill County, competed in the speech contest and was one of the finalists. He also was a state award winner in leadership and won the right to attend the National 4-H Congress in Atlanta in November.
The National 4-H Congress will be a great learning experience, Jurenka said. He and Jennifer Vaughn of the Blue Horizon 4-H club will attend the five-day convention in Atlanta.
Jurenka said he may attend college at Montana State University in Bozeman following graduation from Blue Sky High. He said he plans on studying to become a certified public accountant because accounting comes easy to him.
Besides 4-H, Jurenka said he is active in the Montana Teen Institute which helps younger kids learn how to deal with peer pressure and the dangers of alcohol and drugs.
Jurenka was also a member of last years State Class C Speech and Drama championship team. He competed in the memorized public address and qualified for the state tournament in Laurel.
But Jurenka said he has been concentrating on 4-H this month, especially now since the 4-H Congress is completed.
I look forward to the fair because it is always a fun time, I get together with the other kids in the county and we show off what we have been doing for the past year, Jurenka said.