LOVINGTON — A Eunice youth took top honors Thursday in the annual Market Beef Show at the Lea County Fair while a Hobbs girl earned her a reserve champion banner on her first time in the show ring.
Jaylee Porter, 14, of Eunice, was named grand champion with her steer, Gunsmoke, while Lilly Spearman, 9, of Hobbs and her steer, Duncan, brought home reserve grand honors. Jaylee is no stranger to the show ring, earning her first grand championship at the Lea County Fair and Rodeo Steer Show last year.
A member of the Monument 4-H Club, Jaylee said she was excited when show judge Colt Keffer of Windsor, Colo., shook her hand at the end of the grand drive Thursday. But the win came as something of a surprise.
“I didn’t know I was going to win it,” Jaylee said. “I thought the steer three in front of me was going to win it.”
Joining 4-H and showing livestock has been a tradition in Jaylee’s family for generations, she said. Raised in a cattle-producing family, showing steers was Jaylee’s first choice when she followed the family legacy.
Preparing for a show depends on the type of show it is, Jaylee and her mom, Julie, told the News-Sun. In general, training includes getting the steer used to walking on a lead and getting him acclimated to being in the show ring.
Show day is almost spa day for Gunsmoke, who’s washed and blown dry before his coat is combed and trimmed to ready him for the ring. “It just depends on the kind of show it is,” Jaylee said.
With school scheduled to start Thursday in Eunice — Jaylee will be entering the ninth grade — she’s anxious for a brief break from working with Gunsmoke all summer to get him ready for the fair. But the routine isn’t completely over as Jaycee has plans to take Gunsmoke to the New Mexico State Fair in Albuquerque in September, she said.
And it wasn’t all fun and games, Jaylee said. She learned “showing is just showing a lot of responsibility and hard work.”
Mom, Julie, agreed: “Showing teaches them a lot of responsibility (and) leadership. (Jaylee learned) if you want something you have to work for it.”
While Jaylee may be a seasoned hand in the show ring, her closest competitor, Lilly Spearman of Hobbs, had no history at all before winning the reserve champion banner this week. A member of the High Lonesome 4-H Club, Lilly said she feels proud of herself for her accomplishment.
She was a little taken aback with the judge reached out to shake her hand in congratulations, Lilly said right after the show. Given a couple minutes to think about it, though, she definitely was pleased. She even knew what she wanted to do next to celebrate her win.
“I think it’s great,” Lilly said. “And I think I’m going to go to the carnival and have fun now.”
Lilly’s routine with Duncan, her March 2020 steer, wasn’t that much different from Jaycee’s, she said. But all the hard work paid off.
Selecting Duncan as a show steer to raise when he was a calf wasn’t difficult, she said. But he almost didn’t make the cut.
“There was one other calf we were looking at that we were going to buy,” Lilly said. “But my dad spotted Duncan and he thought Duncan was the better calf.”
Thursday marked Duncan’s second-to-last foray before a crowd. Come Saturday, he’ll go on the auction block in the annual Livestock Show, set for 9 a.m. at the Lea County Fairgrounds in Lovington. It will be a bittersweet day for Lilly, she said.
“It will be sad to see him go,” Lilly said. “I give him lots of love every day. I just don’t want to see him leave.”
Earlier, two exhibitors‚ Ranley Krueger from Tatum 4-H and Hudson Roberson with High Lonesome 4-H Club, competed in the ring in the 2021 breeding heifer show. Krueger earned grand champion and Roberson was named reserve champion for the show.
This was Keffer’s first time judging beef heifers and market beef at the Lea County Fair, he said. A seasoned judge, however, Keffer said the quality of both the livestock and the youth exhibiting them was on par with shows he’s judged around the country.
He looks for a few general, overall traits — muscularity, body shape and proportion, for example — when judging beef animals, Keefer said. That’s basically about the genetics of the critter, though, he said. But the youth showing the animal can also have an impact on how they do in the show.
Showmanship “plays a huge part,” Keffer said. “We had several cattle that came in today shown by younger exhibitors that, if they were shown by older exhibitors, there could have been a difference in the placings.”