NEWTON — As Jacob Lidy led one of his Hereford heifers through the Jasper County Beef Show, years of farm work and education in cattle development were represented .
The recent Newton High School graduate spent four years under the tutelage of NHS agriculture teacher and FFA Cattle Judging Coach Travis Tarr, who also coached Jacob's older brothers, John and James.
Lidy was involved with cattle judging all four years of high school, which requires a participant to describe the positive and negative features of an animal.
“It has been good for all my boys,” said Karen Lidy, who noted her oldest son is now an agriculture teacher in Arcola.
Gaining the knowledge to identify marketable traits for a heifer or steer is quite technical. For steers — the male cow that is most often slaughtered for beef products — Tarr said an ideal animal has a balance of certain physical traits.
“A quality steer is graded on yield and quality of muscle down the top and quarter of the animal,” said Tarr. “You also look at the correct fat on the top of the animal and the ribs. You want some fat, but not so much that it is cut off and thrown away. That is a waste of food for the consumer and feed for the animal.”
A quality ribeye steak, which comes from the back strap of cow, can be identified in an animal with a full appearance along the spine, said Tarr. With higher-than-average beef prices, Tarr said an ideal steer weighs approximately 1,350 pounds.
Tarr said those involved in 4-H, FFA and the Jasper County Beef Show put a good amount of work into developing a quality animal.
“A lot of kids live on a farm and raise the animal from birth,” said Tarr. “First, they have to break the calf to be led with a halter. Then they have to feed the animal and prep it for a show.”