Neither the strong winds nor the heavy rains of tropical storm Debby could damper the spirits of the hardy JRA members and chaperones who attended the 2012 JRA Round-Up Florida Fantastic! Beginning on Tuesday, June 26, JRA members and chaperones from 12 states and Canada, flexed with the varied weather in Florida to experience ranch stops, contests and the fun adventures of Round-Up!
Masked in the excitement of meeting new friends, re-connecting with old friends, enjoying a sunny day at the beach and participating in the various National JRA contests, those at Round-Up learned about Red Angus, the beef cattle industry in Florida, lobbying, performance selection, alligator reproduction and meat sciences. As usual, Barnyard Olympics provided much entertainment for those observing and competing; the Quiz Bowl challenged the recall of Red Angus, beef cattle, Florida, JRA and RAAA; Stockman’s Quiz and the Equipment Identification tested knowledge of Red Angus and beef cattle; while Print Advertising, Poster, T-Shirt Design and Scrapbook expressed the creativity of each entrant.
The Round-Up kick-off took everyone to the annual Florida FFA Convention at the Caribe Royale Convention Center for team building and ice breakers led by Clay Sapp and Nicole Liles, past state officers. A quick tour of the Convention preparation and set-up rounded out the first stop. From downtown Orlando, Round-Up traveled to Kissimmee for a tour of the Florida Cattlemen’s Association (FCA) building and an informative presentation by Dusty Holley. Holley’s discussions included the Florida beef industry, grasses and pasture management in the state and lobbying and its role in the beef industry, particularly by the FCA. An exciting session of the Beef Quiz Bowl, won by the “Bucking Billygoats” team, rounded out the day.
Despite the wet and soggy conditions, Wednesday was a tour of Deseret Ranches, the largest cattle producers in the United States, with 45,000 momma cows at their Kissimmee/St. Cloud ranch location. Deseret, which means “honey bee”, is owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and was founded on the ideals of hard work as depicted by honey bees. David Genho offered his insight and information on Deseret’s cattle, citrus, wildlife conservation and lumber industries.
Since the 13 inches of rain on Tuesday had the roads closed to Kenansville Cattle Co., the stop scheduled to follow Deseret, Alan Kelley joined Round-Up during the Deseret tour and described the Kenansville program and use of purebred Red Angus in their commercial operation.
Back at the hotel, everyone completed the Stockman’s Quiz before heading to Gatorland for a private, “Night Shine” tour. Staff members gave a private viewing of Florida animals, including pythons, tarantulas and alligators. The evening was highlighted by a flash light tour through the major pond of alligators – complete with feeding hot dogs to gators from the boardwalk. One interesting aspect of the Gatorland tour was learning and discussing alligator reproduction and artificial insemination with the staff. A breeding program, using A.I., for the white (mutated gene) alligators was fascinating!
Thursday the group visited Brooksville with Thomas and Debbie Dwyer of Dwyer Hilltop Red Angus. The Dwyers prepared a bred heifer judging class, provided props and equipment for Barnyard Olympics and took everyone on a walking tour of their herd. Chef Tom grilled burgers and hot dogs for the noon meal and a delicious, colorful birthday cake was provided for all the juniors who celebrated a birthday during Round-Up!
By mid-afternoon, the bus pulled into the Thomas Harper Red Angus Ranch of Trenton. The Thomases welcomed everyone with refreshments and prepared the Equipment Identification Contest and a class of Red Angus bulls for the judging contest. Harper discussed how they use performance information and data in selecting bulls with a goal of profitability. He challenged the group to sort through the class of bulls to select the best combination for profit in an operation. The bulls were ranked with emphasis on the EPDs and performance information provided to everyone. Deke’s Steak House was a welcome location for supper.
Jessie Savell began the visit to the University of Florida with an in-depth explanation of Beef Quality Assurance at the Beef Teaching Unit as well as discussed products of beef production, tattooing, branding and ear notching. Savell brought several cow-calf pairs to the arena for viewing and discussing the breeding programs at the University of Florida as well as their embryo transfer program.
Leaving the farm, the group journeyed to the Animal Science and Meat Science classroom/auditorium for a beef carcass and cuts of beef “show and tell” presented by Dr. Chad Carr. In addition to viewing a beef carcass, Dr. Carr discussed beef cuts, the development of new “value added” beef cuts, and explained quality grading and yield grading beef. A delicious meal was prepared and served by the Meats Lab staff and students.
Cathy Carr, Dr. Carr’s wife, discussed selecting a college, career choices and items important to students applying for college and employment. She also talked about the use of social media in today’s world and indicated that everyone should be vigilant in their own social media postings as many potential employers now check Facebook before making hiring decisions. The afternoon at the University of Florida concluded with the Prepared and Extemporaneous Speech Contests and a trip to the University Bookstore.
Most of Saturday was spent enjoying Florida beaches and a Dolphin Encounter harbor boat tour. Fortunately, a few dolphins were sighted to make the tour complete. JRA Standing Committee meetings, the annual JRA Business Meeting and the awards presentations were held back in Orlando at the headquarters hotel.
Many of the juniors attending the 2012 Round-Up are already making plans for the 2013 event! The 2013 Round-Up – Showdown Under The Big Western Skies – will take place June 22 – 27 in Montana. Headquarters will be Billings, Mont., and the schedule includes many Red Angus ranches and beef-related stops along the eastern/southeastern border of Montana.