Sounds of laughter and mooing cows filled the alleyway outside Teague Arena in Montgomery as young cattlemen gathered to compete in the Alabama Junior Beef Expo Friday.
More than 150 competitors entered the ring with their steers or heifers to compete in showmanship classes sponsored by the Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation and Alabama Farmers Federation. The event was part of the Southeastern Livestock Expo.
Ashlyn Ruf of Athens in Limestone County washed and groomed her calf to perfection before leading the heifer, Cruella de Vil, into the ring. Taking third place in her class, Ruf said she would have been happier with a better performance, but the 17-year-old is looking forward to competing in the commercial heifer class Saturday.
“I love showing calves, and I’ve made friends from all over the state,” said the four-year show veteran. “Showing calves isn’t for everyone; it takes a lot of dedication. My calves always come first. If a friend wants me to go out to eat or something, I know I have to take care of my calves before I go. They’re my first priority because they depend on me.”
Learning that kind of responsibility and dedication is the greatest reward from showing livestock, said Federation President Jimmy Parnell.
“How the young person and the calf do in the show ring is the result of countless hours of work at home,” Parnell said. “All that work pays off when they do well here. Showing calves isn’t something you can rush through at the last minute and be successful.”
Ruf, who is the daughter of David and Allison Ruf, knows all too well the dedication it takes. She recently won the prestigious State FFA Beef Proficiency Award, which requires extensive record-keeping on feed, care, expenses and prize money.
When she’s not showing, Ruf also enjoys livestock judging and is considering joining the collegiate team at Auburn University or Mississippi State University after she graduates from Ardmore High School. She currently competes with her county 4-H and FFA teams. The past two years, she was a member of the Alabama 4-H All-Star Livestock Judging Team and competed in national judging contests in Indiana.
Ruf and other young showmen competed in classes based on age. A champion and reserve was selected from among class winners in each age division.
Champion Senior Showman was Reagan Murphree of Oneonta in Blount County. Reserve Champion Senior Showman was Chelsea Langley of Camp Hill in Chambers County.
Champion Intermediate Showman was Emma Merriman of Gadsden in Etowah County. Reserve Champion Showman was Jewel Thompson of Opelika in Lee County.
Champion Junior Showman was Dow Boyd of Dothan in Coffee County. Reserve Champion Showman was Phenix Griffin of Troy in Pike County.
All images courtesy of Alabama Farmers Federation.