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Hard work pays off with State Fair honors

By Staff | Oct 5, 2009

Megan Linder proudly stands with Thomas, who was judged as being the 2009 Grand Champion Super Heavyweight Dairy Steer at the State Fair.

Once in a lifetime, if one is lucky, a dairy steer such as ‘Thomas’ enters into the life of a 4-H family.

This was the case in 2009 for the Don Linder family of rural Easton.

This past winter, Megan Linder began working with some of her father’s dairy steers in preparation for the Faribault County Fair. One of these steers was ‘Thomas.’

When she began preparing the steers for the fair, little did she nor her family know what awaited them. All they knew was for nine consecutive years their family had shown cattle at the State Fair.

The goal was for Megan to make it to the State Fair one last time before she could no longer participate in the 4-H program.

Megan with her family.

Since Megan would be a 4-H graduate at the end of the summer, her parents, Don and Nancy, knew this would probably be the last chance all five family members would be together at the State Fair. It would also be the last opportunity for the family to win the rights of using the fair’s livestock trailer for one year. Megan and her older brothers, Andrew and Ben, had dreamt of having the trailer ever since Megan was in the sixth grade and showed her first steer at the State Fair.

Unbeknownst to the family at the time, Thomas was to be the family’s realization of this dream.

Megan began breaking her steers for the Faribault County Fair in December 2008. Throughout the winter months she continued with the halter breaking and getting her 4-H dairy steers used to the show stick. This stick, she explains, helps with setting-up the animal or making them stand straight. She also spent many hours washing and grooming them.

“This year, we kept the steers in an egg room withthe air conditioner set at 65 degrees to enhance their hair growth,” says Megan. “By growing more hair, we are able to hide their physical flaws and accentuate their good features. It also makes them look big-boned and deep.”

She says she probably spent a minimum of three hours per day in June and July working with her steers so they would be ready for the county fair.

Once at the fair, she explains, the judges look for straightness in the back, how square the steer’s butt is, how they walk, amount of fat or finish and the amount of muscle they have on their body.

After a lot of hard work in preparing the steers for county fair competition, Megan came away a ribbon winner with Thomas.

“Two to three weeks before the State Fair, I took Thomas to the Freeborn County Dairy Steer contest and won the competition there,” she says. “After this, I knew Thomas was going to be a good steer and we had a good chance at winning at the State Fair.”

However, if a dairy steer weighs over 1,600 pounds, one can’t earn higher than a blue ribbon.

In order to keep Thomas under 1,600 pounds, Megan walked him a mile every day. Not only did the exercise help maintain his weight, but it also made him more muscular and improved his ability to lead well.

Anxious for Megan’s last opportunity to show a dairy steer at the State Fair, the entire family traveled to Falcon Heights giving each other five days of emotional support. The Linders say the fair has become a real family event for them.

As the 4-H livestock judging events began, the Linders again gazed longingly at the trailer. They were only one heartbeat away from possibly owning it…and that heartbeat belonged to Thomas.

“Thomas flowed and was showy in the ring,” says Megan, “but I had worked with him more than the others. He always acted and behaved better in the show ring than he did at home.”

Because Thomas and Megan appeared to flow as one unit, Megan was awarded the Champion Dairy Steer Senior Showmanship award. This was a first for not only Megan, but also for her family in their years of State Fair competition.

In the end, Thomas, the Easton-raised dairy steer, won the distinction of being the Grand Champion Super Heavyweight Dairy Steer and the Grand Champion Overall Dairy Steer. He also earned the usage rights of the trailer for the Linder family to use until next year’s State Fair.

Megan also met another family goal with Thomas. She made it into the Purple Ribbon competition. If one is part of this auction, the animal automatically goes to market.

Thomas, the grand champion, received a record bid of $9,300 at this auction. He remained on display until the fair ended on Labor Day.

The trailer is not only a daily reminder to Don and Nancy Linder of their three children’s trips to the State Fair, but it is also a testimony of their children’s journey toward adulthood.

Recalling Andrew, Ben and Megan’s childhoods, the Linders have Ray and Margaret Stevermer to thank for their childrens involvement in 4-H, since the couple were never members themselves.

Images of Andy and Ben showing pigs and sheep come to Don and Nancy’s mind. Then, Megan began as a Clover Bud in second grade and wanted to show bucket calves. Eventually, her brothers would also show beef. And the State Fair tradition would begin in earnest for the family.

Through her 12 years in 4-H, Megan learned how dangerous working with animals can be.

“I have been kicked, stepped on and drug by a rope around the yard by a 300 pound bucket calf,” says Megan.

But 4-H also taught Megan and her brothers leadership, responsibility, commitment and a healthy work ethic.

Hard work definitely pays off, whether it is getting an animal ready for fair competition or to successfully complete everyday tasks.

“I’m sad I can’t show cattle in 4-H anymore,” says Megan who is currently a freshman at St. Mary’s in Winona. She is studying biology, hoping one day to work in physical therapy.

“Megan started and ended the cattle project for our family in a beautiful way,” says her proud mother, Nancy, of the multiple State Fair awards her daughter recently earned.

Indeed, the Linder family was lucky and blessed to have had Thomas, the 4-H dairy steer, enter into their lives.