Catch it, if you can

Bruised and battered, 4-H kids have a cow in county fair contest

Keanna Smith and Garrett Van Den Berg, both 13, were winners in the La Plata County Fair Catch-It contest and will raise and breed a female heifer to show in the 2014 fair. Enlarge photo

JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald

Keanna Smith and Garrett Van Den Berg, both 13, were winners in the La Plata County Fair Catch-It contest and will raise and breed a female heifer to show in the 2014 fair.

Facing a corral with three young steers, Nona Patcheck acknowledged she had never handled the head gear for livestock before.

Im stepping up with boldness, said Nona at the livestock pavilion of the La Plata County fairgrounds on Sunday as she vowed to flip one over.

Nona, 16, was the first of four competing 4-H youths to catch one of the three castrated male cows in the corral. These steer showed no interest in cooperating with the youths trying to put a halter on their heads and lead them into a trailer.

Weighing 300 to 400 pounds, the calves poked the fence looking for a weak spot. One calf busted loose and needed to be forced back in the pen.

Wearing helmets for their protection, the youths were not allowed to lasso or ride the calves, which often wiggled free from a headlock and fought back as best they could.

I got stepped on, and I got kicked a couple of times, Nona said. Im in a little bit of pain. I got kicked in the chest, so my chest really hurts, but thats OK. I got it, I did it.

Michael Semler, 16, president of the La Plata County 4-H Council, acknowledged that the Catch-It contest is tough.

Its hard to get them cornered, he said. You try to tackle something that outweighs you by 150 pounds. They have a lot more power and strength to push you around.

Because she caught one of the calves, Nona will be awarded a female heifer in November to raise and breed during the next two years. So by 2014, the 4-H kids can show the mother and baby cows.

Other Catch-It winners Sunday were Keanna Smith, 13, and Garrett Van Den Berg, 13. In a show of sportsmanship, the fourth contestant, Dillon Flowers, 15, helped Keanna steer the last remaining steer to the trailer.

There can be as many as four different competitions for cattle, goats, sheep and hogs, but participation was low this year so there was only enough interest for a cattle contest.

Megan Semler, the announcer of the event and sister of Michael, attributed the low interest to the difficulty in raising livestock.

The Catch-It program was started as a way to help kids start their own herd, Michael Semler said.

Because he caught a cow last year, Michael got to raise a heifer for the fair, taking first place in the first-year category this year.

He has no regrets.

It was fun, he said. I got beat up pretty good and dragged around a lot, but it was well worth it.

jhaug@durangoherald.com

Garrett Van Den Berg, 13, tries to halter a calf. Garrett, son of Brent and Shannon Van Den Berg, was one of the Catch-It winners. Enlarge photo

JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald

Garrett Van Den Berg, 13, tries to halter a calf. Garrett, son of Brent and Shannon Van Den Berg, was one of the Catch-It winners.

Sixteen-year-old Nona Patcheck keeps hold of a calf as she tries to place a halter over its head during the Catch-It contest Sunday, the last day of the La Plata County Fair. Three calves weighing almost 400 pounds were released into the arena in the pavilion, and then four teenagers tried to harness one to win a female heifer to raise as part of a 4-H project. Nona is the daughter of Renee and Robert Patcheck. Enlarge photo

JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald

Sixteen-year-old Nona Patcheck keeps hold of a calf as she tries to place a halter over its head during the Catch-It contest Sunday, the last day of the La Plata County Fair. Three calves weighing almost 400 pounds were released into the arena in the pavilion, and then four teenagers tried to harness one to win a female heifer to raise as part of a 4-H project. Nona is the daughter of Renee and Robert Patcheck.

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