Maquoketa Valley FFA students Dylan Sands and Brooke Hogan.

Maquoketa Valley’s FFA program plays a big role for many of its members showing cattle on the yearly county fair circuit. Two MV students, Brooke Hogan and Dylan Sands, enjoy the process of raising cattle and showing their animals at the Delaware County Fair.

Hogan plays an active role in her family’s farming operation and still finds the time to show cattle at the fair each summer.

“I was born onto a dairy farm with a little beef operation on the side,” said Hogan. “My dad (Duane) has since sold our dairy cows and expanded our beef herd. This is a family farm operation my dad has started.

“There are around 50 head of cow-calf operations and around 100 feeder calf operations, we run. We also grow corn and alfalfa.”

Sands is a fair veteran with plenty of experience in the field.

“This will be my fifth year showing cattle,” he said. “Currently we only have two fair calves. We don’t have any stock cattle.

“I’ve always wanted to show cattle from when I was young. I was in fifth grade when I started showing cattle and that’s when I got seriously involved in showing,” Sands said. “My plans for this year are to go to a few open shows in the area and Delaware County.”

Preparations for the fair begin months ahead of the event, according to Hogan.

“There are many steps to raising cattle and preparing them for the county fair,” explained Hogan. “We usually calve them out of our own cows. We will buy calves if the markets are right.

“We leave our calves on the cows from the time they are born until they are about seven months old when we wean them from their mothers. We finish out the steers to market weight and we keep the better heifers of the group for replacement heifers.”

It’s a big decision choosing the calves for the fair season each year.

“I typically pick my show calves out of the group we wean off our cows. I will then weigh the market calves in December at the Manchester sale barn,” Hogan said. “I then put them in their own pen and feed them a food that helps with growth and production.”

Hogan and Sands plan on a busy spring and summer getting ready for the fair and appreciate the support of the Maquoketa Valley FFA program.

“I pick my show calves out around April because it’s easier to pick out the better replacement heifer because they are older and more mature,” Hogan said. “I’ll be showing market beef heifers, breeding heifers and my cow-calf pair at the Delaware County Fair this year.”

“My MV FFA program has helped me a lot in showing cattle. If I ever have a question about my show calves, I know I can go to them for tips and advice,” Sands said. “They also do a good job keeping me updated with important information related to showing or other events that I have to get signed up for.”

There’s plenty of uncertainty in the beef industry, according to Sands and Hogan.

“Raising cattle is certainly a lengthy process,” Sands said. “Beef cattle will usually get finished off anywhere from around 1,500 to 1,800 pounds. Once they are finished they will be sent off to a meat locker or a packing plant.

“I see cattle being less profitable with increased grain prices and meat lockers backed up multiple years from now. Packing plants are also beginning to price gouge which is hurting both the farmer and the consumer.”

“Current cattle trends are very touchy. The biggest trend is in market prices,” said Hogan. “The markets move very quickly and unexpectedly. It’s hard to have thoughts on the current trends. One day you like them and one day you don’t.”

That said, both Hogan and Sands plan on making a career in agriculture.

“As of right now, I’m planning to attend Northeast Iowa Community College to major in Agri-Marketing and minor in Ag Technology,” said Hogan.

Sands is also on board for the future in farming.

“When I get older I hope to start a beef cattle farm of my own,” he said.