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It’s a Royal affair for 4-H

After months of preparation and plenty of hands-on experience, four Woolwich members of the Waterloo 4-H Club are ready to show off their hard work at The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.

Nakia and Micah Playford from Elmira will be showing in the Junior Beef Heifer Show, while Emily Strenzke and Jayden Hipel from Maryhill will be showing in the Canadian 4-H Dairy Classic.

Micah Playford  of Elmira puts on the finishing touches on Tootsie. [Photos by Whitney Neilson, The Observer]
Micah Playford of Elmira puts on the finishing touches on Tootsie. [Photos by Whitney Neilson, The Observer]
This will be Nakia’s first year showing at the Royal. The 11-year-old has competed at shows in Wellesley and New Hamburg this year, winning once.

Her heifer is named Ashley, but they call her Ash. She’s almost a year old.

“We started with a cow. Her mom was going to a slaughterhouse and she dropped a calf and they left the calf in the manure pit to die and my mom and dad came over and they rescued her. This is actually her baby,” Nakia said.

She’s been washing, drying and clipping Ash’s hair to prepare. She’s also spent lots of time practicing leading and showing the animal.

Nakia Playford of Elmira is ready to show Ash to Royal Agricultural Winter Fair judges.
Nakia Playford of Elmira is ready to show Ash to Royal Agricultural Winter Fair judges.

“The judge will come by and touch the calf. Then you’ve got to take the comb out and fix her hair because you don’t want it messy. It needs to be nice and presented,” Nakia explained.

She’s learned lots over the past year about how to properly care for an animal and the precision required at fairs. Her goal is to do her best while having fun at the Royal.

“I’m excited about her going to her first time at a big fair with lots of opportunities to do well. She is stubborn but she’s like her mom, you have to stand right beside her, but once you get her going, she won’t stop. She loves doing it,” Nakia said.

Older brother Micah is heading to the Royal for his third time. He’s taking two-year-old Tootsie. He didn’t go last year because the heifer he had then wouldn’t have done very well. He’s excited to be returning.

“I really enjoy going, it’s the highlight of the year for me,” Micah said.

When he competed in the Royal he didn’t have a great looking cow, confirmation-wise. So he didn’t place well in that, but placed well in showmanship because she was tame and he presented her well. On Monday night he and his sister were busy doing their final clippings of their animals to make them look as perfect as possible.

ayden Hipel of Maryhill will be showing his heifer, Merry, in the Canadian 4-H Dairy Classic.
ayden Hipel of Maryhill will be showing his heifer, Merry, in the Canadian 4-H Dairy Classic.

“I’d like to try and do a little bit better in confirmation. That’s pretty much what we’re doing now is clipping and setting up and making her look like a visually appealing cow. I think with this cow I have a chance on that. She looks a little nicer,” Micah noted.

He’s been on the farm every day leading Tootsie in circles and making sure she steps her feet right so she’s ready for the Royal. He enjoys the actual show, but equally the preparation process. And he says 4-H has taught him some valuable skills.

“You learn to work as a team, number one. You also learn how the animal’s going to respond to you. It’s just a learning experience. Part of it is learning how to learn. Part of it’s just having an experience under your belt,” Micah said.

Emily Strenzke turned 22 this year, so this is her last year participating with 4-H. Her heifer, Kacey, is just over a year old. Strenzke has been competing for many years.

Throughout the year she goes to shows in Cambridge, Elora, Stratford and Rockton, getting the heifer accustomed to a show atmosphere.

She’s been walking and washing Kacey a great deal too. Kacey will get a final haircut on show day, but Strenzke explains you want them to have lots of hair to cover up any faults. Washing them helps their hair grow.

“You have to really prepare them for feed too, feed them properly. Getting on a routine of eating foods that will fill them up and make them look good on show day. A normal heifer diet is a little different from a show cow diet,” Strenzke said.

She’d like to make it through her heat at the Royal and go into the final round to finish off her final year of 4-H.

“That’s the initial goal for everyone is to make the cuts for showmanship and confirmation,” Strenzke said.

She recommends 4-H as a good way to meet people in the industry and says she’s also made friends through her years in 4-H. She’s had the opportunity to show other people’s animals too after they saw her at other fairs.

“It’s a really good way to meet new people and if you were to join a 4-H program you’d learn a lot of hands-on experience,” Strenzke said.

This will be Jayden Hipel’s second time at the Royal. The 18-year-old said it’s just an accomplishment to even be able to go. His heifer’s name is Merry.

“I’ve always grown up on the farm scene and I’ve been doing this type of thing since I was probably five or six years old. I’ve always worked hard at it and this is usually my goal every year is to make it to the Royal,” Hipel said.

Typically he goes to shows in New Hamburg, Cambridge, Elora and Roxton. He says his main objective is to have fun and his favourite part is watching his fellow 4-H Club members compete. He’s been working towards the Royal since this spring.

“I usually start fairly early around March to get in as much work as I can. I usually do it every day and that usually works best for me getting her best prepared for the upcoming season,” Hipel said.

He expects to do better this time around because he’s older and has more experience. He also has fared well at other shows this year.

“I think there’ll be a little higher expectations this year than the last time I went,” Hipel said.

He’s unsure if he’ll return to the Royal after this year, but encourages other youth to look into what 4-H has to offer.

“You have to have patience, hard work, determination. You always have to keep calm because there’s times when you can get very frustrated because it’s a long process. It’s always worth it in the end,” Hipel said.

The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair runs Nov. 4-13 at Exhibition Place in Toronto.

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