DES MOINES - A Webster County 4-H'er at the Iowa State Fair maintains his competitive edge while showing his market steer, but said that in the end it's having fun and the overall experience that means the most to him.
Josh Carlson, 16, will be a junior at Southeast Valley High School in Gowrie, and is a member of the Gowrie Groundbreakers 4-H Club in Webster County.
He said he's been showing cattle at the Iowa State Fair since he was in fifth grade.
The son of Jim and Jennifer Carlson, Josh was at the Iowa State Fair to compete in the showmanship class on Monday and to show his market steer, Ace, on Wednesday.
Carlson said he chose Ace from a group of four or five other calves.
"I liked the way he looked," said Carlson. "He had good structure, hair and walked pretty well."
Shortly after buying Ace, Carlson said he began working with him.
"I started petting him and walking him to get him used to us, then I worked on washing him and working on getting his hair to grow."
Carlson said he would rinse Ace in the morning and evening if he could and come spring he was placed into their cooler in their barn where Carlson said he spent a lot of time brushing him and giving him an ice bath to help encourage hair growth.
A nice coat of hair on a show animal such as Ace, Carlson said, gives him a good show presence.
"You have more to do with a steer with hair than one without it," he said.
Carlson has taken Ace around to several shows including ones in Des Moines, Sioux Falls, Algona, and Webster City in addition to the Webster County Fair, where he earned reserve grand champion honors.
The Iowa State Fair won't be Ace's last show, Carlson said. He'll compete at the Clay County Fair and Ak-Sar-Ben, as well.
Entering Ace into multiple shows, Carlson said, is a great learning experience and a good time.
"It's great practice and fun to see his (Ace's) progress," said Carlson.
Having fun is a large part to why Carlson puts in the effort towards preparing a steer for show and the responsibility earned is also big factor.
"It is fun and there's a big responsibility that comes with taking care of him," Carlson said. "It's mainly fun to see all of your hard work pay off.
"Ace has really improved since the beginning of the season," said Carlson.
It's becoming harder to compete at the show level against peers who have a large financial backing and the number of animals at the county level, for example, are dropping with the speculation that young 4-H'ers don't feel like they can compete.
Carlson advises to put those fears aside and, if a youth likes cattle and wants to show, then do so.
"To keep competitive you work with them, you wash them," said Carlson. "You work with them a lot and if you love to show, show them, but mainly go out there and have fun."
Carlson is involved in both 4-H and FFA and enjoys the experiences he has gained being a part of both.
"You do a lot of things with 4-H like going on trips," he said. "There's a whole bunch of neat experiences to be had with 4-H.
"With FFA there are those same kinds of experiences, but I like FFA because it is more ag-based."