SEDALIA — Hard work steered 12-year-old Gage Baker to success at the Missouri State Fair.
His crossbred steer was the 2019 grand champion market steer this week. The massive steer weighed in at 1,325 pounds.
"The competition was pretty tough," Baker said. "The champion and reserve champion both came from this class."
The son of Rhad and Leah Baker, Gage is a seventh-grader at Fulton Middle School and member of the Rising Sun 4-H Club. He's been showing livestock since he was just 3 years old. He started attending livestock shows practically at birth, his mother said.
"We live on a farm west of Fulton, and when he was young, we had a gentle bred heifer," Leah Baker said.
Steers aren't quite as easy to work with. Gage and his family acquired the animal as a feeder-calf from South Dakota last October. Over the course of months, Gage guided its growth, carefully monitoring its weight and body condition (how much muscle and fat it has).
"The point of the market show is to present a (steer) that's ready to butcher and eat," Leah said.
He also had to train it for its moment in the spotlight.
"You put a halter on it, start getting it used to you," Gage said.
Leah said Gage had to put in a lot of hard work to ensure his steer stood out among the approximately 200 entries in the class.
"I learned that if you put hard work in all year, you get something good at the end," Gage said. "(Showing livestock) is fun because of the competition, and it's pretty much year 'round."
The 2019 reserve grand champion market steer honor went to Mikaela Rojas, of New Boston. She is the daughter of Bryon and Alicia Rojas and is a member of the Shelby/ Linn County 4-H Club. Mikaela's Crossbred market steer weighed 1,350 pounds.
On Aug. 17, Gage and Rojas will sell their market steers in two of 12 lots offered in the Missouri State Fair Sale of Champions. Other champion animals, from lambs to rabbits and beyond, will also go on the auction block at 1:30 p.m. in the Lowell Mohler Assembly Hall. Animals will be processed after the sale.
Gage said he won't miss his prize-winning steer too much.
"Some of the ones that aren't so nice are easier to say goodbye to," Leah added.
A portion of the proceeds from the annual sale benefit the winning exhibitors and the Missouri State Fair Youth in Agriculture (YIA) Scholarship Program. Participants in the Sale of Champions are also requested to raise "hometown support" by rounding up donations that go toward the YIA program. Those donations can be made at mostatefairfoundation.net/p/getconnected and must be finalized by 5 p.m. today.
Though 30 percent of the sale funds will go toward scholarships, Gage will get to keep a portion for himself.
"(I'll) probably (spend it on) either a better steer for next year or a truck," Gage said.