Market animal projects a learning experience

Bonlander sisters prepare for 2016 county fair

Ray Mueller


For Hannah Bonlander, the market animal project for the Calumet County Fair is proving to be a learning experience through which she will “see if the hard work paid off.” That happens to be one of the stated goals of the county committee for the 4-H and FFA youth project members.

At the fair on Labor Day weekend, Hannah will be showing one of two Simmental Angus cross steers, which have been raised on the family's farm at the eastern edge of the unincorporated village of Hayton since November of 2015. They were purchased from a Manitowoc County family whose children also take part in the 4-H market animal project.

Hannah and her father Don Bonlander Jr., who is also one of the directors on market animal sales committee, were hoping that one of the steers would reach a weight of 1,300 pounds by the time of the fair. By mid-August, however, they realized that the weight would be about 1,250 pounds instead.

Learning along the way

This will be the 2nd year in which Hannah, who will be a freshman at Chilton High School, will have a steer in the market animal sale. In response to her first year experiences, she has picked up tips from her dad, other exhibitors at the fair, and the procedures at cattle shows.

Hannah indicates that she learned more about grooming, care of the animal's hair, how to show the steer, and how to make better use of the show ring stick. She plans to begin taking part in the accompanying showmanship competition at the fair in 2017.

As the weeks wound down to the fair, Hannah spent about two hours per day washing the steers. She can also have responsibilities with feeding the ration that is prepared by her dad.

Making the sale

Another task that's integral to the market animal project is preparing for the sale that's held at on the Sunday before Labor Day at the county fairgrounds. The county's guidelines for the project encourage contact with potential buyers in the weeks before the fair.

In 2015, Hannah carried out that promotion with flyers that were hand delivered and by talking to potential buyers. The plan for this year is to send letters to a list of about 20 potential buyers for what will be the 50th year of the market animal sale at the Calumet County Fair.

Family project

Hannah's older sister Olivia, who will be a junior in high school, will be showing and selling a Hampshire cross market hog at the fair. This will be her 5th year of showing hogs at the county fair. The Bonlander sisters are members of the Pine Creek 4-H club.

Don is confident that Olivia's hog will enter the fair at about 280 pounds, which he describes as the weight that judges often prefer in a “champion hog.” This hog was purchased from Adam Riemer, whose family has a long history of breeding and raising hogs and showing them at the county fair.

One more Bonlander family member will be taking part in the fair next year. That is Owen, who is 7. Because he would not yet be old enough to take part as a 4-H project, he will start in the open class competition.

For their Simmental cattle, the Bonlanders went to the state Simmental sale this year to sell two of their own registered cows and buy three heifers “to upgrade our pedigree,” Don indicates. When Hannah went to that sale, it also satisfied one of the three educational events that the county committee expects market animal project members to attend every year.

Hannah Bonlander poses one of the maturing registered Simmental heifers that the family purchased this year to improve the genetics of its beef cattle.