You might think a 12-year-old would be a little intimidated by a 1,300-pound animal.
That’s not the case with Thomas Karnopp of Oakland.
With some friendly direction from his dad, David, the boy was washing the crossbred market steer on Friday morning. Skies were overcast and temperatures hadn’t reached the 80s as Thomas got ready for the beef show at the Fremont 4-H Expo.
For the 88th straight year, youths from nine area counties are taking part in the annual event at Christensen Field in Fremont. Kids from 4-H clubs in those counties are participating in a host of livestock and other competitions.
Thomas said he wasn’t nervous as he prepared to lead the big animal around the show ring.
“I know he’s really tame – like a dog,” Thomas said.
Yet the steer wasn’t always so docile.
“He was wild at first,” Thomas said.
The steer — who Thomas named Buster — didn’t like the halter that the boy tried to put on it.
But Thomas didn’t give up.
“He kept working with him every day and petting him and now he’s his best friend,” David Karnopp said. “He comes out and gives it (Buster) a big hug and he’ll lie on it.”
Thomas is a fourth-generation participant in 4-H and its animal shows. So is his 14-year-old sister, Anna, who was set to show a breeding heifer and market steer.
Like so many other 4-H’ers, Thomas has spent hours working with his animal to get it ready to show in Fremont and elsewhere.
Thomas will show Buster at the Burt County Fair in Oakland and then, in September, at a show in Norfolk. Cargill Meat Solutions in Schuyler buys cattle at the Norfolk show.
Saying goodbye to Buster won’t be easy for Thomas, but he knows farmers raise livestock and crops for food.
“You’ve got to feed the world,” David Karnopp said.
Kids who show livestock come to understand the life cycle. They get an animal in the spring and work with it throughout the summer before that animal goes to market.
“Throughout 4-H, they get to see what the 4-H project is,” Karnopp said. “They get to know the animal and then they know where the end point is for that animal is as well — as far as going to slaughter and putting the product on the table in other people’s homes and feeding other people.”
Kids remember the animals.
“The really neat thing is they don’t ever forget that animal,” Karnopp said. “We’ll sit down at the dinner table in the middle of the wintertime and talk about the animal that we showed two or three years ago and how much fun that animal was.”
Then the next year, they get another animal.
“They’ll talk about how similar it is to the one they showed last year or how much he acts like one he showed in the past,” Karnopp said. “So even though we only handle that animal one year, we always have that memory of working with that animal and always remember how much they meant to us. It’s almost like they’re part of our family.”