Showing an animal at the Iowa State Fair is an honor under any circumstances, but a rural Story City girl is taking that honor to a new level. Tyler Pudenz’s steer calf, Jet, will be shown by Gov. Kim Reynolds during the Iowa Governor’s Charity Steer Show and Sale at the Iowa State Fair over the weekend.
Jet is about a year old and is a Maine-Anjou breed. He’s home-raised since birth by Tyler and her family; he was born by Caesarean section on the farm with the help of veterinarian Dr. Jennifer Arnold. Jet’s mother, Delilah, was a cow that Tyler had shown when she was younger. Although the family has sold Delilah, they remember her fondly.
“She was a good mom,” said Tyler, 14, a freshman at Gilbert High School. “Jet is a sweet calf although sometimes he gets a little rambunctious. He weighs 1,300 pounds, so that’s a lot to deal with when he gets like that.”
That mischievous side makes her like him even more though, she said.
Jet has grown up on a mix of feed the family makes for him. It has ingredients like corn, wheat pulp, cottonseed hulls and protein concentrate, with a little molasses added to make it extra tasty.
Jet gets his name from his brockle face. The black steer has white markings on his face that, when he was born, reminded the Pudenz family of a jet stream and cloud formations. Now a year old, the markings still give his face a characteristic look.
The road to the State Fair has been paved with hard, dedicated work for the Pudenz family, who look at Jet as a family project. But most of the responsibility is on the shoulders of Tyler, who gets up at 6:30 every morning to spend a couple hours caring for Jet in a way that sounds like a spa for steers.
“I wash him, scrub him, rinse him, blow dry him,” she said. His hair gets a special conditioner to help it grow.
Jet is housed in a special room in the barn, where he has a bed of cedar mulch; the room is called the cooler because the air conditioner is set at 55 degrees to help stimulate his hair growth.
“It’s important to have a lot of hair so we can clip it into shape before he goes into the ring,” Tyler said.
That haircut will take between two and four hours. Jet’s hair will be styled with a blowdryer, and hairspray will hold it in place as he goes into show.
Relatives have participated in the event before and that’s partly what inspired the Pudenz family — including Tyler’s dad, Nick, mom, Jenni, and younger sister, Calleigh — to get involved this year. In May, the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association confirmed that it would be purchasing five head at the fundraiser, and Jet will be one of those five. Altogether, there are 25 head in the competition. Tyler said the opportunity to benefit the Ronald McDonald House charity was one of the family’s top reasons for being in the sale.
This is the 36th year for the Governor’s Charity Steer Show, which raises money for the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Iowa. Last year’s event featured the highest selling auction with a total of about $270,000. The money raised benefits the Ronald McDonald Houses of Des Moines, Iowa City and Sioux City. All of the houses are located near hospitals and provide a “home away from home” for families of seriously ill children. The Iowa Beef Industry Council and the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association sponsor the annual steer show and auction, which is hosted by Iowa’s governor and is held in the Pioneer Livestock Pavilion at the Iowa State Fair.
The sale has generated more than $3 million in donations over the past 35 years. Last year Gov. Reynolds won the title, showing a steer owned by Cody Von Glan of Vail. At the time, Reynolds said she was thrilled to carry on the tradition started by former Gov. Terry Branstad.
“I just have so much respect and admiration for these young kids that put the time and effort into raising these steers and the proceeds that go toward the Ronald McDonald Houses,” Reynolds said in a press release last year. “They’re to be commended.”
Gov. Reynolds will lead Jet in the show ring this year, and Tyler will be with her to assist.
Tyler and her family encourage the public to attend the market steer show, which will be Saturday, Aug. 11, at 4 p.m. in the Pavilion at the fairgrounds. “The show is always standing-room-only, so get there early if you want a seat,” Nick Pudenz said.