The Austin County Fair Bucket Calf Project took part in the progress show held August 21, 2022, at the Austin County Fairgrounds. The Bucket Calf Project introduces young children, 4- 8 years old, to the care and responsibility of raising a calf. The raising of a calf is a family project, and the child works with their parents to bottle feed an orphaned calf sourced from local auction barns or ranchers. Through the program children learn to feed, halter break and show their calf.
In addition to raising the calf, the family attends monthly meetings starting in February of each year. Topics are shared that prepare them for choosing a calf, bringing the calf home, how to take care of a sick calf and lessons on showmanship.
The program initially started as a 4-H program and was transitioned to the Austin County Fair in 2017.
With the transition to the Austin County Fair, the committee introduced Mentors to the program. Mentors are high school aged youth in 4-H or FFA that work with the children in the program to help build their confidence in showmanship. The Mentors represent students from across Austin County – Bellville, Sealy, Brazos and Faith Academy.
In 2017, the program began with four Mentors that were instrumental in creating and building the Mentor program – Ben Klotz, Mackenzie Burke, Isaiah Madison and Elizabeth Eckelberg. Isaiah now serves as a Director for the Austin County Fair and both he and Elizabeth serve as committee members for the ACF Bucket Calf Program.
The program continues to grow every year. 2017 had 28 exhibitors and four Mentors. In 2022, that number has grown to 56 exhibitors registered and 33 Mentors.
At the Fair, the Bucket Calf Show is run like a real showmanship cattle show. The kids are divided into classes by their age and judged on their showmanship skills. (They do not judge the calf.) As each exhibitor enters the show ring, they are interviewed about their time raising their calf (this is the best part of the show as you never know what they will say). Top showman are pulled from each class and asked to return for the Showmanship Finals. In this round, a Grand Champion, Reserve Champion and third place winner are chosen. They receive the same buckles and banners that are awarded to all other livestock programs at the Fair. The program also awards a Congeniality award for the best interview.
The program hands out Senior awards and Top Mentor Awards to the Mentors that have gone above and beyond that year.
You can see the final program participants during the fair as the progress show was simply a warm-up to the participants with the big finale and culmination of all their time being shown during the fair.
(FYI: The name “Bucket Calf Project” was so named after the pail that hangs on fences and is used to nurse calves, aka calf bucket or calf pail.)
A special thank you to Tracie Eckelberg for providing us with all of the above information for this article. You can reach out to Tracie for more information on the Bucket Calf Project by contacting the Austin County Fair Association at ACFair@austincountyfair.com. You can also follow the Bucket Calf Project by going and “LIKE” their Facebook Page at: https://www.facebook.com/AustinCountyFairBucketCalf
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