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Haylee Rafuse, 15, and Melanie Ross, 21, received top provincial honours with their shorthorn beef cattle at the Nova Scotia Provincial 4-H Show in Bible Hill earlier this fall.
HANTS COUNTY, N.S. — Haylee Rafuse jokes that she has used more hair products on her calf in the past year than on herself.
Rafuse, a member of the Burlington Workers 4-H Club, was one of Nova Scotia's 4-H members that were selected to compete at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto earlier this fall.
The trip marked her first time on an airplane, her first time in a big city without her family, and the first time in her 10 years as a 4-H member that she's qualified for the prestigious national competition.
“If you show at exhibition and you don't make it, you're out. If you show at the pro show and don't make it through your individual breed classes, you're out,” said Rafuse.
“If you make it to the qualification class, that means you either showed as a reserve champion or champion,” she said, noting that the judges at the provincial level then select youths to attend the Royal.
Haylee Rafuse, 15, travelled to the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in November to show Philip Burgess' shorthorn heifer Rachelle. She’s already looking forward to next season when she competes again.
Rafuse, 15, and Melanie Ross, 21, are both members of the Burlington Workers 4-H Club and both show shorthorn beef from Philip Burgess' farm in Mount Denson. Ross didn't apply to the national competition, but her yearling did well enough at the provincial level that she could have went.
At the pro show in Truro, Ross placed first for shorthorn yearlings and Rafuse placed first for shorthorn calves. When both shorthorn age groups were rated, Ross's heifer was named champion shorthorn and Rafuse's heifer Rachelle received reserve champion shorthorn. Ross then received reserve champion overall beef animal.
Ross, who has been involved in 4-H for 14 years, also showed sheep and made it to the provincial competition. In Truro, she placed reserve overall ewe lamb and reserve overall lamb. She also placed first in senior sheep judging and then reserve overall sheep judge.
Ross said she's decided to hang up her hat as a competitor following the successes of this year.
“It was a very good year,” said Ross.
“I've decided to become a leader and give back to 4-H.”
Melanie Ross shows off the yearling shorthorn that she showed in Truro at the provincial 4-H show. Ross's heifer was named champion shorthorn and then received reserve champion overall beef animal.
Ross will be helping to lead Rafuse, and other Burlington Workers 4-H Club members, next year with Rafuse's dad, Kevin.
“A lot of the kids in our club are fortunate to have their own farms so with only one leader, it's harder for a leader to spend a lot of time to go around to every barn to help out every kid,” Ross said.
“Burlington Workers is wide-spread. Philip's (farm) is in Mount Denson. Then there are some down the shore. So at least with two of us, hopefully we will be able to get around and help each kid a little more.”
The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair was held in November. Rafuse said it's an experience she won't soon forget, and a trip that she hopes to repeat next year.
“I was going to be done this year too because it's been a lot (of work) but I think I really want to do it again because of my experience at the Royal. I just want to do it again.”
Due to the size of the showmanship class — she said there were 15 people in her heat and there was about 13 heats — Rafuse didn't get selected to compete.
During the 4-H open show, Rafuse's calf placed third in the junior beef category.
In the open class on the final day of competition, which was open to farmers, her heifer, Rachelle, placed third. A family friend, Kerwin DeLong, showed the animal that day as Rafuse was getting ready to fly home.
“I'm really upset that I didn't get to show my heifer but we didn't put her on the trailer with the rest of them so she stayed an extra day,” she said. “There was 10 in that class and my heifer ended up third.”
A lot of elbow grease
Philip Burgess owns Green Grove Shorthorns. He used to show at the Royal and now helps young up-and-comers like Ross and Rafuse compete. He said he was proud of how the girls fared this season.
“I started when I was younger than Haylee with this breed of cattle. I come from a livestock background so I started when I was a youngster and started raising quality type cattle and started going around to shows and competing. The same as these girls are,” he said.
“The calf Haylee had, they started working with her when she was about two months old. She'll be a year old in January. It takes a lot of elbow grease and a lot of commitment,” said Burgess.
Burgess raises Durham shorthorn beef, primarily providing purebred seed stock.
“4-H teaches them responsibility and they know how to work, how to do something. It keeps them off the street too,” said Burgess of the local program.
“Hopefully, down the road, a lot of these kids that go through this 4-H program, when they get a little older, they'll go the same route as I did and maybe become a part-time farmer.”
Melanie Ross pets the yearling shorthorn that she showed in Truro at the provincial 4-H show. Ross's heifer was named champion shorthorn and then received reserve champion overall beef animal. Ross will become a 4-H leader next season.