Cattle ‘steer’ in new direction for sisters

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After showing swine and small animals in the past at the Socorro County Fair, Dionne, 10, and her sister Brandy Vega, 12, are beefing up their entries for competition.

Photos by Eric Heinz— El Defensor Chieftain: Dionne Vega, 10, commands her heifer to follow her at the family’s ranching area Aug. 9.

This will be the first year the girls show steer, and they come from deep roots in their area and their family.

Their father, Carlos Vega, said he had been somewhat involved in 4-H projects as a child, working with weigh-ins, tagging the cattle and other miscellaneous chores.

“The difference between steers and swine is that we don’t get the pigs and the sheep until April or March,” Carlos said. “The steers are pretty much a year-round project for them, and they’ve noticed the difference.”

The girls are raising an Angus and a bald face steer. Since last year, they’ve become acquainted with the steer to a kinship. They are constantly taking care of the steer and maintaining them for the best possible result at the county competition.

Some of the details of preparing a steer that are rudimental for a good score include learning how to set the steer, how to brush it, clip its hooves, set it for presentation and more. It takes about a month for the steers to warm up to their new owners, Carlos said.

The finished products do not come cheap. Children are eligible to receive up to $1,350 of their auction fare, according to 4-H bylaws.

With the sheer size of the animals, the girls must try hard to command them. One of the steers weighs 1,280 pounds, which means he only gets plain feed and winter wheat, Brandy said. The bald face has been fed corn, barley and a type of finisher.

“We brush them, we wash them, take them for walks,” the girls said. “When you first get them, they’re tender-headed. They don’t want to be messed with at all.”

In order to keep the animals healthy, inoculations and other precautious measures are taken when they are first received.

“The (bald face) got bit by a June bug, so we just kept an eye on him to make sure he didn’t get grubs or anything,” Carlos said.

Dick Ritter of a nearby ranch was able to help the girls in their livestock project. The cattle came from Dale Armstrong’s ranch.

“Whenever we first got the bald face and the heifer, they were kind of raised on a ranch, so they didn’t have that much social contact,” Brandy said. “It’s something different.”

The girls’ mother, Amanda Vega, showed many lambs, pigs and steer when she participated in 4-H. She said she had some ideas of how to raise a formidable animal for when ribbons are awarded.

“The only thing that we didn’t show, me and my sister both, was small stock,” Amanda said. “You have to tend to your animals every day, build that relationship with them and work hard with them. You have to be outside with them every day. The more you’re out here with them, the better they’ll act with you.”

Both of the girls said they have aspirations of working in ranching and farming when they grow up.

The hardest part of the competition will be letting go, Dionne added.