Building a legacy of champions: Hinnants have top steers in livestock shows

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Kate Hinnant has an experienced teacher in her big brother.

The 9-year-old is among a dozen 4-H members who will be showing steers this year at the Wilson County 4-H Livestock Show and Sale.

This is Kate’s first year with a steer project, but she is plenty familiar with what it takes.

Her brother, 12-year-old Ross Hinnant, has had the livestock show’s grand champion steer for the last two consecutive years, not to mention the fact that Hinnant had the grand champion steer at the North Carolina State Fair in October.

“Just be comfortable in the show ring and focus on the judge,” Ross told her. “You just look at the judge, and you work with your steer.”

Ross knows that the more work you put in, the more comfortable the animal gets. Then she can carry her steer to the show ring with confidence.

Ross gave Kate some tried and true advice about how to handle a steer.

“Keep his head up and scratch him,” Kate said. “It makes him calm so he doesn’t get away.”

Kate took these tips to heart, as her cow won reserve champion feeder calf at the state fair in October.

“The Hinnant family is one that you really have to appreciate for their hard work and determination, and it’s some of those skills that we emphasize in the 4-H program,” said Jess Anderson, North Carolina Cooperative Extension agent for livestock in the Wilson County office. “It truly is an example of ‘If you put the time in and you put the hard work in, you end up with a success in life.’”

For this year’s show and sale, the Hinnants had to decide who was going to show which cow.

Kate intended to raise a red cow named Elmo, but Elmo was what they call “a crazy one.”

“Kate was going to show him, and I was going to show her steer. Then we switched it up because her Elmo, the red one, was a little bit on the wild side,” Ross said. “I show the crazy ones better.”


Kate, at 50 pounds, is handling a much gentler but much bigger cow named Cooter Brown.

“He’s big. He has a really big belly,” Kate said. “We weighed him yesterday, and he weighed 1,385.”

Cooter Brown is currently on a diet.

“He was eating too much, and his belly was getting too big,” Kate said. “They can get overweight and sometimes they can’t show.”

Elmo is 1,150 pounds compared to Ross’ 86 pounds.

“He is red. He’s hairy. He has not very much belly at all,” Ross said of Elmo. “He’s super-sound. He has a cool neck.”

“It’s all about proportions, so you want the steer to look proportionate,” Anderson said.


The Hinnants work with their steers every day.

“A lot of baths,” Ross said. “We blow them a lot. We brush them a lot.”

“We come out here and wash them and it takes about an hour,” Kate said.

Then there is the practice for the show ring, which they usually do together, leading the animals out and stopping them on a mark, trying to get their legs straight to make the best impression for the judges.

“Whenever you are scared in the show ring, the steers and heifers get scared, so if you stay calm, they are going to stay calm,” Ross said.

“Showmanship is really where the kid gets to shine,” Anderson said. “It really shows the relationship between a kid and their animal.

Tending to cows is not the only thing these kids do.

“Ross plays baseball, and the girls do dance, but they put the time and energy and hard work into this project,” Anderson said. “They have lots of support around them to get kids where they need to be.”


Both Ross and Kate want to be veterinarians when they grow up.

At the show and sale, the Hinnant siblings will say goodbye to their projects and hope their steers bring a good price. What’s left over from the sale will get applied toward their college expenses in a few years.

“It’s really important,” Ross said. “It’s really the reason why you do it, to get to college, and you really learn tons of lessons along the way.”

The children are members of the St. Mary’s 4-H Club. Their parents are Clay and Jessie Hinnant. Clay was in the show and sale as a young man, too. Another sibling, 8-year-old Sloan Hinnant, was a grand champion novice lamb showman at the state fair. A fourth sibling, 3-year-old Van, could be a future showman.

Anderson said the skills that 4-H’ers learn in the program are transferable outside of the 4-H program when they grow up and chose their careers.


Anderson said many of the Wilson County families like the Hinnants have worked hard to ensure that the steers they are sending in with their small children are “broke and calm” enough to get into the show ring.

The Hinnants are the kind of family organizers want in the program, Anderson said.

“They try to make everyone else better around them by being as best as they can be themselves, so it kind of elevates everybody else and pushes them to be better,” Anderson said.

Anderson said the livestock show and sale’s success comes down to community support.

“The farm economy has not been great in 2018, and that’s where we are really hoping for some great community support from our other businesses that participate to come out and support our 4-H’ers,” Anderson said.

The 68th annual Wilson County 4-H Livestock Show and Sale is March 27-28 at the Wilson County Fairgrounds.

For more information, call the N.C. Cooperative Extension office in Wilson County at 252-237-0111.