Beef is back at the Hancock County Fair, and Charlie and Levi Beagle helped steer it there.

Charlie, 49, is president of the Hancock County Cattlemen's Association, and his son Levi, 27, is a Hancock County fair board member.

The longtime cattlemen have been promoting county-raised beef, and their work is showing results at the fair: entries have nearly doubled this year in the Junior Fair market steer competition. There are 66 animals entered this year, up from 35 last year.

The price of corn is down this year, which makes it more affordable to feed the animals, and interest in cattle is up as area residents want homegrown and locally-processed meat for their freezers, the Beagles said.

In one of several market steer competitions at the fair, the Junior Fair calf club, there are 17 club members this year, up from 10 last year. These youngsters are raising Hereford cattle, which are not common in the area.

Herefords are more common in the Western states, Charlie said. They make "a good starter project for kids to show steers," he said.

The youngsters acquire the steers in the fall and raise them until the fair. AgCredit finances the purchase and is repaid after the animals are sold.

Other market steer classes include "born and raised in Hancock County;" independent steers, which don't have to be county-born; and finished dairy steers.

In another beef category, there are more beef feeders and dairy feeders at this year's fair. There are 123 of these younger, smaller animals entered, up from 84 last year.

Feeder cattle start as bottle-fed babies and are raised to 400-500 pounds each, Levi said.

The old steer barn at the fairgrounds was destroyed by last year's windstorm. This year, a wing was added to the Buckeye Building, an open-air structure. The expansion allows the building to house both dairy feeders and market beef. The wing also allows space for a center show ring.

The Buckeye Building expansion was made possible by donations from the Hancock County Cattlemen's Association, the fair livestock sale committee, individual donations, and profits from a reverse raffle. The project was originally estimated at $40,000, but came in under budget.

Much of the project was funded with proceeds from a nearby hamburger concession trailer, operated during the fair by the 28 families of the cattlemen's association.

Hamburgers cost $3 each, cheeseburgers $4, and double burgers $6. The hamburgers are made from 100 percent Hancock County beef, the Beagles said.

Most of the beef competition at the fair occurs on Friday each year, known to many as "beef day."

The livestock projects are shown beginning at 8:30 a.m. Friday in the north show arena. By the end of the day, judges have picked champions and reserve champions.

The youngsters' efforts are further rewarded on Monday during the annual Junior Fair livestock sale.

That is the Beagles' reward for their volunteer work, too.

"It's one of those things you do for the kids," Charlie said.

Maurer: 419-427-8420

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