The Story of a… Livestock Competitor
West Orange senior BRYCE CRAMER, 17, earns his fair share of awards showing off steers.
“My grandfather was a ranch manager, so I’ve grown up around this. And when my brother did it, I always helped him, so it really interested me. It kind of came naturally.”
The senior at West Orange High School has won numerous prizes since he started entering livestock in competitions at Orlando’s Central Florida Fair five years ago. His entry this year is a 1,025-pound steer named Matrix.
“I can’t consider him a pet because it’s raised as a market animal [for its meat]. It’s easy to think of them as pets, but in the end you have to know that he’s going to get bought. It’s difficult sometimes to not get attached.…You’re always going to have a bond with your animal.”
“Even if you like him, the biggest challenge is the steer’s temper. One day they’re perfect, and the next they can be giving you a hard time, pushing you into panels.”
Bryce, who is president of West Orange High’s FFA [Future Farmers of America] chapter, gets a new steer every year, purchased by the school. “They’re normally born in October and then I get them in May.’’
Matrix has gained 300 pounds on a high-protein diet since Bryce started working with him.
Bryce spends more than 14 hours a week caring for and training the steer. “You definitely have to work them out. You have to walk them. I let mine play sometimes. You know, let him run and let him graze.’’
Judges look for straight backs and a wide body, but “the main thing is fat coverage because the fat is the taste. You can’t really change the genetics of an animal. So you can walk him and exercise him, but the main thing you have to do is get the fat on him. Because if the judge comes up to feel the side of him and there’s no fat, he’s not going to go up in class….It’s difficult to get the fat right.”
“You have to get them to stand in place because sometimes it can take up to 45 minutes [to judge]. I train them so that during that time they’re not going crazy. It just takes a lot of work to get to that point.”
“All of my hard work is shown through the animal. People can tell how dedicated I’ve been to my project based on their behavior and appearance.”