Jake Maxwell’s last competition was a memorable one.
The Strawberry Crest senior took grand champion honors in the steer show at this year’s Florida Strawberry Festival, along with winning the heavyweight division.
Maxwell got involved with showing cows from his older brother, Brett, and has been showing steers since his freshman year. His last competition was his first win.
“This has been a part of my life ever since I was little, so it was a great feeling to win in my last time competing,” he said.
His winning cow, Wooly, weighed in at 1,285 pounds. Wooly was bred in 2010 and born September 2011. Maxwell has raised Wooly ever since and said the process has been long — but rewarding.
“You have to keep the hair in good shape and make sure you’re feeding the steer the right amount of feed,” he said. “We feed them every morning and night and wash them every two days.”
Just like with a sport, it helps to have a coach to help prepare competitors for the shows. For Maxwell, that came from his father, Scott, and Michael Paul, one of the owners of the cattle and property that started his family’s cattle operation.
Maxwell said his last competition was the best, not only because he won but also because of the experience he took away.
“My dad told me the night before the show that he just wanted me to go out and have fun,” Maxwell said. “That’s what I did, and I think that kept the calf calm in the ring.”
In addition to winning the top two awards, Maxwell took third in the showmanship competition, where competitors themselves are judged by their poise, their work with the cow and their answers a series of judges’ questions.
“The showmanship award has become pretty popular the last few years,” said steer show chairman Jon Poppell.
Maxwell said some of his best friends came from his competing in steer shows.
Maxwell plans to use the money he made from competing for college. He plans to attend Florida College, in Temple Terrace, before transferring to the University of Florida, where he plans to major in agronomy and horticulture.
“I will miss the fellowship of it,” Maxwell said about the steer shows. “Every single one of my friends shows cows with me. It is really just a great group of kids in here and a bunch of great people that I’m going to miss. Showing a cow is big part of it, but you can’t beat the people that you’re with.”
Contact Matt Mauney at firstname.lastname@example.org.
AFTER THE SHOW
There is a lot of build-up to the annual swine and steer show competitions at the Florida Strawberry Festival, but plenty more happens after the awards are given out and the crowds head home.
The pigs and cows raised by competitors are sold after the competitions, with the money going to the young people who care for the animals leading up to the shows.
“They can use the money in any way they want,” said Jon Poppell, the chair of the steer show and former chair of the swine show at the festival.
Most use the money to fund their college education.
The steer shows have become a year-round project for local youth, and competitors are already in the process of acquiring another steer to raise for next year’s show. Then comes the day-to-day process of caring for the animals, making sure they are fed the proper amounts and groomed up to the high standards of the show judges.
“It’s a long and busy process,” Poppell said. “The kids spend a lot of time caring for their animals.”
The swine show competitors will purchase their pigs in October or November, according to Poppell.
The grand champion pig at this year’s live auction sold for $18 per pound. No pig or steer can be sold for more than the grand champion. Each year, the auctions put about $500,000 in the pockets of the young competitors.
In April, a banquet will be held, during which competitors will receive Herdsman Awards for their accomplishments in the competitions and with area FFA groups.
Overall Grand Champion:: Jake Maxwell, Strawberry Crest
Reserve Grand Champion: Justin Stallard, Durant FFA
Division 1 Grand Champion: Kennedy Dean, Durant FFA
Division 1 Reserve Champion: Abigail Jett, Strawberry Crest
Division 2 Grand Champion: Justin Stallard, Durant FFA
Division 2 Reserve Champion: Haley Smith, Durant FFA
Division 3 Grand Champion: Jake Maxwell, Strawberry Crest
Division 3 Reserve Champion: Mylie Feaster, Durant FFA
Grand Champion: Ashlyn Gude, Turkey Creek FFA
Reserve Champion: Jayce Ware, Country Folks 4-H