Life with livestock
It's a 24/7 committment for Routt County Fair competitors
For the past 11 years, Jaime Booco has been starting each day early in her quest to raise a champion steer each year for the Routt County Fair.
As the fair gets into full swing this week, Booco, 18, and numerous other 4-H kids in Routt County will show off their livestock at the fair.
During the fair, each competitor has the dream of their steer, horse, swine or sheep being named a grand champion.
If anyone knows what it takes to raise a top-notch animal, it is the Booco family.
Last year, Booco raised the fair’s grand champion, Furby, which sold for $3,400.
As Booco competes in her last fair, she is not only trying to repeat but also keep a family streak intact.
Since 1992, Booco or her two older sisters have claimed the top honor for steers.
“If we are able to win 10 in a row, that will be great,” Booco said.
Raising steers has been a way of life for the Booco family, who live outside of Hayden.
Randy and Joy Booco got their three daughters involved in steer raising at a young age.
“Randy did it in 4-H and so did I,” Joy Booco said. “Our daughters are the fifth generation in my family to do this. It was a positive experience for myself, and it is a good confidence builder.”
Over the years, Jaime, Jessie, 20, and Jody, 24, competed against each other to see who could raise the best steer. That competition translated in the girls dominating the fair’s steer competition.
“Winning 10 in a row has been a goal for the whole family,” Joy Booco said. “We will just have to wait and see what happens.”
Since September, Booco has been getting up at sunrise to raise her three steers she has named Antonio, Sean and Berto.
“I get up and feed them,” she said. “I will then wash and brush them. In the day, they are put in an air-conditioned barn, and then at night I will feed them.”
As Booco is raising her three steers, she is also managing to work two jobs this summer and prepare for college this fall.
“This is kind of sad that this is my last fair because I have had some good memories but I am ready to move on and go to college,” Booco said.
Booco does not know if her parents are ready for the competitions to come to an end.
“They have done it for so long,” she said. “It will be interesting to see how they handle it.”
Letting go will not be easy because Joy Booco already has her eyes on some baby calves.
“It is kind of sad,” Joy Booco said. “But it would have been nice if Jaime could have shown these new baby calves.”
As the Booco family prepares to leave the competition, another Routt County family has many years left to raise champion livestock.
Doug and Dorinda Wheeler’s four children, Justin, 13, Colton, 12, Krystina, 10, and Shaylin, 8, give full attention to their animals each day.
“They work all year taking care of their animals,” she said. “You can’t put horses in storage.”
At the family’s ranch north of Steamboat Springs, extra work is being done by the boys and girls to prepare their animals for the fair. Justin is planning to show a steer, sheep and two horses. Colton will be showing a horse and a steer. Krystina will be showing two horses, a steer and a lamb, and Shaylin will be showing a horse and a lamb.
“We put most of our work into our horses,” Dorinda Wheeler said. “We will ride the horses between four and 20 hours a week.”
Colton is excited about his chances in the horse competition. He has his eyes on winning a saddle to go along with all the blue ribbons he has won.
“He needs to win his own saddle,” Dorinda Wheeler said. “So he doesn’t have to use mine.”
Every morning, Colton is up with his brother and sisters tending to their animals by 6 a.m. Each of them bathe and brush their animals every day.
Riding their horses is also a priority.
“I ride at least four days a week,” Colton said of riding his horse Kate. “If I don’t ride her, she gets really grumpy.”
As the children care for their animals, they also grow close to them.
“It may be difficult for the girls to sell their sheep this year,” Dorinda Wheeler said of her two girls as they walked with the animals. “They have been given names and are kind of like pets.”
Wheeler is hopeful her children will learn from their experience of raising livestock and competing at the fair.
“I’m hoping they learn responsibility and learn to take care of an animal,” she said.
To reach Gary Salazar
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