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Family shares connection through showing animals (w/video)

By Jessica Rodrigo
Feb. 26, 2014 at 6 p.m.
Updated Feb. 26, 2014 at 8:27 p.m.

Dustin Hempel, 17, carries his little brother, Derek, 5, to keep him from climbing on the cow pens at the family's home. Dustin and his brother, Dylan, 15, have shown steers in the Victoria Livestock Show since they were 8 years old. The family expects Derek will want to do the same when he is old enough.

2014 is Dustin Hempel's year of the goat.

The 17-year-old Industrial senior was the 2013 grand champion steer winner at the Victoria Livestock Show, which was his second grand champion steer win in his Victoria stock show career. Because of his 2010 and 2013 wins, he was barred from competing in the steer division as a senior.

He expressed a little disappointment in not showing a steer during his final year, but he's moved on to showing a goat.

"You take what you get and be happy," Dustin said.

His goat, Leroy, has given all his family members a learning experience to remember. They were used to raising steers and heifers for show, but with Leroy, they're each learning through other methods.

They devised a way to exercise the goat on a treadmill to build the muscles on its hindquarters.

"He's not the smartest animal," Dustin said. "They're almost like a cow."

Dustin and his brother, Dylan, 15, groom and feed their animals - three heifers, a steer, a calf and Leroy - every day and maintain the pens.

"I haven't named my steer," Dylan said shyly. "I just call him steer."

This isn't unfamiliar territory for the Hempel family. The brothers have been showing for about 10 years.

Their mother, Susan Hempel, remembers when her dad showed herfords.

"We gave them the choice of either sports or showing," she said.

It was too hard to do both, said their dad, Darrell Hempel.

The presence of steers and heifers doesn't scare the boys in the least, he said. Even 5-year-old Derek isn't scared of them.

"He's so used to them," their father said.

For many of the exhibitors, raising animals is something passed on from generation to generation, said Peter McGuill, Victoria County extension agent. It's not uncommon for a student to learn how to raise an animal from a parent or grandparent who may have also showed in a county stock show.

"There's a lot of tradition when it comes to showing animals," McGuill said.

The Victoria Livestock Show also serves as a way for people to learn what happens in production agriculture.

Students and families have a chance to see what the animals are judged on and what they're like before they're slaughtered.

"Even if it's for a day - that might be their only opportunity to ever be around livestock and to understand that is where their food is coming from," McGuill said.

The percentage of the population that is removed from agriculture is far greater today than it was in the 1950s and 1960s. He said about 40 percent of the area may have been involved in agriculture then compared to about 1 percent nowadays.

"There is absolutely nothing else that can prepare these kids for real life more than a livestock project," McGuill said.

He's always proud of the students who show animals at the stock show.

Dylan, an Industrial freshman, is showing a commercial heifer and a market steer.

"I'm just hoping to do well with my steer," Dylan said.



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