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John Wagner is co-chair of the Northeast Elite Hereford Show on Sept. 11. Sponsors are providing $800 stipends to four youths who can use the money to purchase a calf at the event. The program is designed to encourage young people to become involved in the beef industry.

Hereford breeders aim to improve their industry’s future by offering four $800 stipends for youths to use at an upcoming sale.

Recipients may use funds to buy a calf at the Northeast Elite Hereford Sale scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 11, at Trowbridge Farms in Ghent, Columbia County.

The event, for breeders from New York, New England, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, was first held in 2019 and is making a comeback after being idled last year by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Most beef producers in this part of the country have off-farm jobs,” said event co-chair John Wagner, owner of JKW Polled Herefords in neighboring Greene County.

“We were very hesitant to have a sale in 2020 because so many people were losing their jobs left and right. If breeders were working off the farm, we didn’t know if they’d have money to spend.”

The inaugural sale in 2019 featured about 90 cattle and attracted more than 200 people.

“We expect at least that number this year,” he said. “Cattle sales have been doing very well nationally.”

That first event offered two youth stipends of $500 each, which went to applicants from Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. The program was so well received that donors have stepped up to expand the initiative by offering four awards totaling $3,200 this year.

Applications are currently under review by a three-member panel. Winners will be announced by Aug. 1.

Why Herefords?

The program is open to anyone 21 or under. Wagner said evaluators screen submissions without knowing the applicant’s age or sex, and no points are deducted if the applicant’s parents don’t own cattle.

“We’re encouraging any youth,” he said.

But youths would be expected to show the stipend-purchased cattle at events such as the Great New York State Fair.

On the application, they’re asked if they belong to one of the Hereford associations involved in the sale. Youths are also asked if they have leadership roles in groups such as 4-H or FFA, and if they plan to show their calf at local, regional or national events.

In addition, they must also submit a 250-word essay entitled, “Why Herefords?”

For Wagner, the answer is simple.

JKW Polled Herefords, which he owns with his wife, Kathi, is the outgrowth of a hobby that Wagner began pursuing with his father, Henry, as a teenager in the mid-1960s.

“My father purchased Herefords because they were the predominant breed back then,” he said. “We could have switched to Angus in the late 1970s and into the ’80s as most cattle farmers and ranchers did. However, both Kathi and I have always enjoyed the breed and felt it had a lot to offer. Clearly, the Angus breed has very significant traits and advantages over other breeds, which is why they are the predominant breed throughout the world.”

“However, Hereford cattle do have very positive traits and in the last 10 years they’ve made tremendous strides through genetic mating and cattle evaluations,” Wagner said. “We continue to be very positive about the Hereford breed and are spending significant time and resources to support the national Hereford effort to improve breed performance.”

Wagner organized the first-ever Northeast sale, which took two years to pull together by garnering support from New York Hereford Breeders plus Hereford associations in New England, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

“I had to travel to all their annual meetings,” Wagner said. “Each of the associations except New Jersey had independently run production sales in the past, but with limited success. They don’t have as many big herds as you do in Virginia, Texas, Oklahoma and Ohio.”

By joining forces, the different groups can offer a high-quality sale that brings together the best cattle and many more interested buyers than they would alone.

All the animals for this year’s event are consigned, and organizers are in the process of finalizing the catalog with the American Hereford Association.

The event is held at Trowbridge Farms because of its facilities, built specifically for sales, and central location for participating associations.

Owner Phil Trowbridge is past president of the New York Beef Producers Association and the 20,000-member American Angus Association.

Wagner and other sale organizers are hopeful the youth stipends will encourage a new generation of Hereford breeders to follow in their footsteps.

The deadline for this year’s awards has passed. For information about next year’s program and the Sept. 11 Hereford sale, email Wagner at jkwpolledherefords@gmail.com

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