When it comes to grand champion steers at the Fort Worth Stock Show, European crossbreds are money in the bank.
Last year marked 32 in a row that a European crossbred steer was named grand champion — a huge payday for its junior exhibitor.
The 2014 winner, a robust steer named Here I Am, sold for $200,000 in the annual Sale of Champions on the final day of the show.
This year’s junior steer show began Thursday and concludes Friday with the naming of the grand champion.
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Because of their success and versatility, the crossbred steers are popular with the junior exhibitors.
“We tell our kids to … look at the ones with the best chance of winning,” said Greg Pruitt, head agriculture teacher at Midlothian High School.
Midlothian FFA students brought 13 steers to show this year, and 10 are European crossbreds.
This year, 3,042 junior-class steers are entered in the Stock Show, and only 270 will make the prestigious Sale of Champions on Saturday, the final day of the show.
Of that number, 120 will be purebreds (Angus, shorthorn, Herefords and polled Herefords), 30 will be American crossbreds, and 120 will be European crossbreds, often called exotics.
The Scurry County 4-H in Snyder brought 14 steers: 10 European crossbreds, a Hereford, two polled Herefords and an American cross.
“It’s more of a financial decision with our bunch,” said Greg Gruben, Scurry County extension agent, “and most of my bunch is just happy to make the sale.”
The odds are against making that sale, so a European crossbred is a good choice.
Judges prefer European mixes of breeds such as Chianina (Italy), Simmental (Switzerland), Maine-Anjou and Charolais (France) for their meaty frames.
“They’re big-framed, with a lot of muscle on those frames, and very flashy,” said Stefan Marchman, livestock show manager at the Stock Show. “You can look at those cattle from the top and see the filet mignons, the rib-eye steaks.”
Beef production in the U.S. began with rangy Mexican and longhorn cattle and gradually refined over the years. In the 1950s and ’60s, the purebred Angus, Hereford and shorthorn cattle were the gold standard. Then things changed.
“All of a sudden, Chianina, Limousin, Simmental and Charolais cattle started bringing in a lot of good genetics,” Marchman said.
The European cattle had more muscle, more weight and more beef production.
Today, the Euro crosses are the stars of the Stock Show.
“The sale here is probably the best sale in the state” as far as money for the youths, Scurry County’s Gruben said.
But he also considers it the most stressful.
“That’s because of the hair,” he said. “It’s a lot of work, and families are here at the barn at 4 a.m. working on grooming their animals.”
Shirley Jinkins, 817-390-7657
If you go
The 2015 Sale of Champions, which features the top junior steers, barrows, lambs and goats, begins at 9 a.m. Saturday in the West Arena.
Last year’s sale brought a record $3.3 million in prize money to the junior exhibitors.