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East Texas Ag News: Jacob Thornton competes in commercial heifer show at Angelina County Fair

Jacob will have his heifers and record book judged along with his interview on Friday, March...
Jacob will have his heifers and record book judged along with his interview on Friday, March 25th at the Angelina County Fair.(Cary Sims)
Published: Mar. 3, 2022 at 4:21 PM CST
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LUFKIN, Texas (KTRE) - There are three kinds of cattle competition at our county fair: steers, beef heifers, and the commercial beef heifer division. Commercial heifers are a pen of two heifers from quality commercial cattle and cross-bred cattle.

Jacob Thornton is a senior at Hudson high school and the son of Ty and Julie Thornton. He has two sisters and one brother. Unique to the Thornton family, all four siblings have participated in the Angelina County Fair for several years.

Jacob credits his dad and older sister, Lauren, with getting him started at the county fair. He says his favorite part of the county fair is, “spending time with friends and family and of course those rib-eye sandwiches!”

He did confess, “the hardest part of getting ready for the fair is preparing and finalizing my record book for my heifer project.”

His father Ty affirmed, “Jacob has always been a hard worker, but his involvement in the county fair over the years has certainly produced in him a strong work ethic.  The hard work that goes into having projects at the fair requires so much more than just feeding animals for a few months. He has learned real-life skills like personal responsibility, planning and preparation, keeping and organizing records, communicating, and negotiating, and financial planning and analysis. His involvement in the county fair has certainly helped to prepare him for life ahead as an adult.”

His mom, Julie Thornton, says, “I think a lot of folks view the fair as just kids and their farm animals. Animal projects are certainly a big part of it, but it’s about so much more. Jacob and our other children have always enjoyed participating in the food show, in which they not only have to prepare food, but they have to present it to judges and be able to answer questions and discuss nutrition facts, for example.”

His mother adds, “Older kids have opportunity to develop real-life skills by working on and presenting shop projects like tractor implements and trailers. There are opportunities to enter arts and crafts projects, photography, public speaking and even barbecue cooking. And besides all that, the fair provides a fun-filled week to be around great kids, great parents and volunteers, and great support from the community. The whole event feels like a family affair.”

His father says “obviously, we wish for him to do well in all his competitions. To be able to sell his projects in the auction is a great way to help him financially as he prepares to start his college career. But more than that, we want him to be happy with the outcomes, knowing he did the best he could. We want him to have nothing but great memories of these experiences, and for him to love it so much that he’ll want to continue the tradition with his own family one day.”

Exhibitors usually select their heifers for the commercial division each fall. These heifers will be ear-tagged for proof of ownership in early December. Each heifer must be between 14 and 20 months of age and may be open or bred at the time of the show. They must be reasonably gentle (not halter broken) and should be ready to breed in the spring.

Unique to this competition, there is a 100-point scoring system that is as follows: up to 70 points to the heifers, up to 15 points towards a record book, and up to 15 points from an interview with the judge.

Jacob explains, “my biggest goal this year for the fair is being able not only to be successful with my projects but to win the senior interview with my commercial heifers. To do this, the winner has to show the judge that they have exceptional knowledge of the cattle industry as well as nutrition and finances.”

During the interview, judges’ questions can cover quite a few topics such as their heifer’s breeding, the total cost of the project, weight gained, and cost per pound of gain.

All expenses related to the commercial heifers are to be shown on an expense sheet. These expenses are to include the initial cost of the heifers, feed, hay, vet costs, pasture rent or pen rent, winter pasture, concentrates, minerals and salts. Exhibitors calculate an expense for hauling each time they haul their heifers.

The heifers themselves are evaluated on several factors. First, the pair of heifers should be uniform in appearance with proper body condition. Their muscularity needs to be adequate and the potential to reproduce should be obvious. Judges will next look for breed types that are adaptable to our climate and environmental conditions. Lastly, their structural (skeletal) soundness is evaluated.

“Jacob Thornton is an outstanding young man, trustworthy, dependable with a strong work ethic who helps serve and lead the Hudson FFA as our vice president,” said Ted Eddins, Jacob’s Ag Science Instructor at Hudson High.  Eddins says “Jacob has been very active in the Hudson FFA Chapter his senior year competing in multiple activities including hay judging, wildlife management, Hudson BBQ Team, forestry, radio broadcasting, along with his Angelina County Fair commercial heifers. You’ll also find he has entries in yeast rolls and a team member on three pieces of equipment: a 14-foot utility trailer, 3-point pasture spray rig, and a 1969 David Brown 780 tractor.”

Jacob wraps it up with, “what I hope most is that I, and others like me, will gain an appreciation for our community. The men and women who help the kids with their project often times have no return at all. Donations are given out of the kindness of their hearts. Although I hope we learn responsibility and independence, I hope also we learn to be thankful and giving of our own time and resources when we are in a leadership position.”

Jacob will have his heifers and record book judged along with his interview on Friday, March 25th at the Angelina County Fair. The commercial heifer division is sponsored by Heritage Land Bank.

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