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Beef, it’s What’s for College

Each year market cattle raised by Nevada County young people as 4-H and FFA projects are sold at the Junior Livestock Auction to provide the youngsters a leg up on their college funds. More than a project for exhibition, beef cattle are an important part of the state’s economy.

Chelsea Hawkinson is a triplet; she and her brother Andrew and sister Danielle all raise beef cattle and enter them in the Fair. The money from the sale of the animals goes into college funds for the trio of 17-year-olds.

“Our steers are on strict rations,” Chelsea says. “We feed them every 12 hours. You have to balance your time around feeding and working with them. You can’t take off on a vacation. I’m lucky though, I’m a triplet, I have a brother and a sister who can take care of my animals if I’m gone.”



“Nevada County support is great, particularly at the Junior Livestock Auction,” Chelsea says. “This is one of the reasons I’ll probably continue to raise beef cattle.” This is her fourth year as an exhibitor.

Chelsea plans to help other 4-H members with their projects in the future. The Forest Lake school senior belongs to Meadowlarks 4-H. She wants to study medicine but hasn’t decided on a college.




The cow is this year’s symbolic critter at the Fair, as visitors “Moo on down!” to the fairgrounds.

This animal was picked for very good reason.

Beef is the largest volume item sold in grocery stores and accounts for more than half the value of all meat, poultry, and seafood sales, according to the California Cattlemen’s Association. California’s ranchers and beef producers contribute more than $1.35 billion to the state’s agricultural economy, making beef the fifth leading ag commodity produced in the state.

Cattle and calves were the leading agricultural product in nine California counties, including Nevada County.

And, California cattle help feed the world.

Beef is our state’s 10th highest agricultural export, with a value of more than $165 million. Every dollar of cattle sales generates an additional $5 to $6 of business activity in farm supply, food and associated businesses, generating $6 to $7 billion annually in business activity in the state. Much of that money helps local communities support schools and government services.

Nationwide the beef industry’s one million farmers and ranchers raise 97.2 million cattle. California has 22,000 beef producers raising 5.1 million cattle, ranking seventh in the U.S.

But, statistics are only good as an indicator of how things were, when the numbers were gathered. How has the Oregon incident of Mad Cow Disease affected the beef industry?

Beef Magazine recently saw the situation as returning to pre-hysteria days. Or better. The publication expects to see the relaxing of foreign bans on U.S. beef in the near future.

Harlan Ritchie, Michigan State University professor of animal science, told the magazine’s editor that recent advances in meeting consumer demands for convenience will help the industry’s recovery. After a 20-year general decline, the development of hundreds of innovative, convenient beef products has given the industry a tremendous boost.

Then there’s the current diet trend toward more protein and less carbohydrates. That hasn’t hurt.

So, when you Moo on Down to this year’s Fair, stop by the cattle barns. You’ll see young Nevada County beef growers grooming their animals for judging, and for the sale ring. You’ll also get an inside view of the first step in a multi-million dollar industry that puts food on the table and money in the bank ” across the country and around the world.


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