Our county fair was held at the end of February. This year's fair was especially enjoyable for my entire family as my niece had her first steer. She had chosen an Angus-cross calf from the ranch late last summer.

The calf was so docile she named him “Baby.” Like most young competitors, she brushed him until his hair sparkled and had him so gentle that she could sit on him. Besides a great disposition, Baby had very good muscle structure. He finished out very well, with very even fat cover. I thought he lacked a little in frame size and conformation but fed out very well.

All of us aunts, uncles, grandparents and great-grandparents were thrilled when Baby very unexpectedly won reserve grand champion. We all were thrilled not only that my niece had done well but that a calf from our operation had done well, too. This was a first-time happening; neither my brother nor I had ever placed this high in all of our years of showing.

I was so proud when the judge said that Baby was competitive because he was finished properly and would produce a good product for the consumer. The judge actually mentioned red meat production and consumer preference in his reasons.

It was good to hear market language and industry terminology used. It was great to know the animals had been evaluated on finish and quality rather than appearance, proving that our ranch program is working.

My family was a bit surprised, too. We don't raise our calves for show. Our calves are produced solely with the end product of quality beef in mind, not show ring appeal.

It was even more pleasing to know that both the grand and reserve champion calves were locally bred. This is very rare in our area. Most of the club calves for our fair are purchased out of state.

I'm a big supporter of showing locally bred calves and enjoy supplying calves to our local 4-H and FFA kids, kids who are unable to travel and/or afford other calves. We don't market our calves as grand champion prospects but simply quality calves that are accessible and affordable. We're proud to help stimulate and promote interest in the cattle industry with these young people.

I hope what we experienced at our small county fair is an epidemic across the U.S. I hope our cattle industry is starting to expect one product — a heavy-muscled calf that will produce Choice beef, no matter what breed or color he is.

Mary Anne Cruse, brother Wes, their parents and grandmother operate Ru-Mar Inc., a large commercial cow/calf operation in South Florida. Her e-mail address is mccruse@msn.com.