By Joe Naiman
Ramona 4-H and Future Farmers of America members once again returned from San Diego County Fair with top awards. Among them are Kaylin vanTol, Christopher Wier, Brenna Alvarez, Jazmine Zwicker and Carney Flinn.
After two years of earning supreme reserve champion designation at the San Diego County Fair for a veal calf she raised, Kaylin vanTol settled for reserve champion dairy calf at the 2014 San Diego County Fair.
The 17-year-old vanTol, who recently completed her junior year at Mountain Valley Academy, won reserve champion recognition with Olaf, a Holstein who was born March 6 and was 405 pounds when weighed by fair officials. VanTol also took second place in showmanship for market calves and in master showmanship for large animals and was also second in the Bred and Fed competition for calves bred in San Diego County and nourished from feed stores or other sources within the county.
"I was not disappointed because I know I had brought quality animals and it was going to be tough and other people also brought quality animals," said vanTol, who entered Sven along with Olaf.
The fair competition starts with weight class honors in the animal's breed. The grand and reserve champions of each weight class then compete for champion and reserve champion breed honors. There is a grand and reserve champion for each animal among breed champions raised by 4-H and Grange members. The Future Farmers of America breed champions compete for FFA grand and reserve champion.
The 4-H grand and reserve champions and the FFA grand and reserve champions then compete for supreme grand champion and supreme reserve champion honors.
VanTol is the youngest of four sisters. Between 2009 and 2012 Raeann vanTol won either supreme grand champion or supreme reserve
champion for veal calves at the county fair. In 2012, she won supreme grand champion while Kaylin won supreme reserve champion. That year the vanTol sisters also took the top two places in veal showmanship and the top two places in the Bred and Fed competition.
Raeann is majoring in animal science at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
"We've been blessed to have had one several years in a row," Kaylin said of animals her family has raised reaching the supreme level.
The vanTol family owns TD Dairy in Ramona, one of three remaining dairies in the county. One of the other dairies is Konyn Dairy in San Pasqual Valley. Kylie Konyn of 56 Ranchers 4-H had the champion dairy calf, which weighed 491 pounds.
Konyn and vanTol then competed for supreme grand and reserve champion honors against beef calves raised by Japatul 4-H members Sarah Drown and Rachel Shellstrom. Drown was this year's supreme grand champion and Shellstrom won supreme reserve champion honors.
"You can only win so many times and someone else is going to come up," vanTol said of missing the supreme champion level this year. "I'll just come back next year and hopefully win next year."
She noted that beef cattle and dairy cattle are bred for different traits.
"Beef are more stout," vanTol said. "They have a lot more muscle and power."
Those traits are more preferable for obtaining beef than for milk-oriented activity.
"Dairy cattle are taller and leaner," she said.
VanTol obtained both her calves and the milk to feed them from her parents' dairy, qualifying her for a Bred and Fed award. After taking second place in showmanship for market calves, she placed second among eight competitors in the master showmanship competition for large animals.
"I beat out a lot of really competitive players, so I was very proud of myself," she said.
She considers the fair competition an educational experience.
"I'm learning," she said. "You learn a lot. You learn time management. You learn hard work."
VanTol also raises pigs. She plans to enter two pigs at this year's Ramona Junior Fair, scheduled from July 26 through Aug. 3, with the livestock auction on Aug. 2.
The auction at the county fair took place July 5. James Penney of Ultra Cal purchased Olaf for $3 per pound. Only one animal per 4-H or FFA member may be sold at auction, so Penney purchased Sven for $3 per pound in a barn sale.
"I had an awesome time at the fair, and I don't regret anything," vanTol said.
The San Diego County Fair livestock competition includes rabbit meat pens consisting of three rabbits in each pen. Jazmine Zwicker of Ramona High School's FFA chapter was the supreme grand champion as well as the FFA champion, and Ramona's Carney Flinn was the 4-H reserve champion.
Flinn also won first place in showmanship for meat rabbits, and she teamed with Michael Jaquez and Melanie Mitton to win the Knowledge Bowl for small animals. Flinn, who also entered a sheep in the county fair, partnered with Nicole Donais and Patricia Herrera to take second place in the Knowledge Bowl for large animals.
The rabbits must be no older than 69 days as of the judging date and must weigh between 3 and 5 pounds. Rabbits may be younger than 69 days, although older
rabbits have more meat and weight. Similar size is one of the judging criteria.
Flinn, who recently completed her sophomore year at Ramona High School, has entered rabbits in the county fair since 2009. She was the reserve grand champion in 2011, won supreme grand champion in 2012 and was supreme reserve champion in 2013. Katie Flinn completed the sisters' sweep of the top two awards in 2012 by winning supreme reserve champion, and she was supreme grand champion in 2013.
Carney Flinn was also the 4-H reserve champion last year. Her first-place prize for meat rabbit showmanship this year enabled her to compete in the round-robin master showmanship competition for small animals, where she finished second and her sister took third place.
Her three rabbits, which weighed approximately 4-1/2 pounds apiece, were born in April.
Christopher Wier wasn't supposed to compete at the San Diego County Fair this year.
A 2013 Ramona High School graduate, he was preparing for an agricultural business career by taking classes at Modesto Community College during the fall 2013 semester. His plans changed in November when his mother, Lisa, was thrown from a horse and broke her pelvis.
Wier returned to Ramona to run the ranch, and he utilized an alumni year to continue his county fair competition with swine he raised.
This year Wier won the Bred and Fed competition in the senior division for swine bred in San Diego County and nourished from feed stores or other sources within the county with Stagger, a gilt (female) who weighed 237 pounds on the fair scales. He also took second place for showmanship with Stagger, who placed third in the middleweight class.
Wier also entered Hollywood, a 221-pound gilt who took second in the lightweight class.