Cody Shinkle has just one more year of eligibility before he "ages out" of 4-H. He says he will likely spend it engaging in as many state-level activities as possible.
The 17-year-old will turn 18 on Jan. 21 and is president of the Valley Victors 4-H Club this year. This summer, he had his first opportunity to participate in "Discovery Days," a four-days and three-nights event at Kansas State University where 4-H leaders had the opportunity to attend seminars in a variety of subjects.
"I really learned a lot," he says.
Learning is what it is all about for Cody, who plans to go to Butler County Community College right after high school and later enroll at the University of Kansas School of Pharmacy in Wichita.
For right now, however, Cody and his younger brother, Casey, 13, are up to the top of their barn boots getting ready for the Sedgwick County Fair, where they each plan to show two steers, a cow-calf pair and two heifers.
For the third year in a row, they have raised all the animals they will show. And with just a month to go before showtime, they have a lot of getting ready to do.
They had their cow-calf pairs and heifers out to pasture for the last several weeks and just brought them up to the barn near their home just outside Benton this week.
"They are still kind of independent and moody," the boys' mom, Amanda, says. "They aren't sure they want all this handling and attention yet. A couple or three weeks from now, they will be totally settled down."
The boys' steers, on the other hand, have been in training since January and have gotten used to being washed, brushed, and led by a halter. Cody will show "Mr. Bubbles" and "Moose" while Casey has named his steers "Chico" and "Rico."
"You can buy top stock for top dollar and have an assured chance of winning championships," the boys' father, Jeff says. "But I told the boys several years back that I think they will learn a lot more if they raise their show animals from birth. That may mean fewer top ribbons but it helps them gain knowledge that will last a lifetime. In the end, learning is the point."
Jeff Shinkle's family farm – about a section of land – is near Fall River. The family's main cow herd is pastured there. The family home is on 80 acres of land along the Butler-Sedgwick County line near Benton and that is where the boys usually work with their show animals.
Their cows are mostly shorthorns and their bull is a Maine Anjou/Chiaiana, giving their offspring good size along with good meat quality. In both 2011 and 2012, they won blue ribbons across the board at the Sedgwick County Fair. The boys also show regularly at the Kansas State Fair and the Kansas Junior Livestock Show.
This slideshow offers a quick look at what is going on at the Shinkle household and dozens of others like it across Kansas as 4-Her's prepare for County Fairs all across Kansas.