Gentle giants: Students show their market steers at livestock show

MERCEDES — Matthew Jasso kneeled next to his award-winning steer, warm in the success of the afternoon.

“We just walked confidently and showed him off,” said Matthew, 13, whose Santa Gertrudis steer had just won breed champion at the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show and Rodeo.

This was the third year for the Edinburg resident to participate in livestock shows. Matthew, an eighth grader at South Middle School, has shown steers for only two years.

His family sat closely around him with looks of admiration and support. As anyone familiar with livestock shows, this had been a family effort. But everyone knew who’d put his heart and soul into the day’s success.

“I’m excited and very, very happy,” said his mother, Belinda Jasso.

“He put in a lot of hard work and dedication,” she said. “It’s teaching him responsibility and discipline.”

Market hogs had commanded the show earlier in the day. The appearance of massive steers from a broad range of breeds stood in sharp contrast to the hogs. The steers, one of which would soon become this year’s grand champion, stood powerful and silent in the holding area.

Even their owners appeared rather small as they stood next to their animals and grasped a line. They entered the large arena, class after class, breed after breed, presenting themselves to the judge’s discerning eye.

Matthew walked jubilantly from the arena, followed by Yulisa Santana, whose steer made reserve breed champion.

“It makes me feel my hard work paid off,” said Yulisa, 18, a senior at McAllen High School. She’s been competing in livestock shows for 10 years. She was also showing a heifer.

Some students were trying something new. Meet Bella Alaniz, 15. She waited with great enthusiasm to show her Simbrah medium weight.

“I’m just a little nervous,” she said. “I’ve shown lambs, pigs, goats.”

She gestured toward the hulking steer beside her. “I wanted to try something new. It’s a huge animal.”

Meanwhile, Jasso’s family relaxed in the afternoon sunshine, looking forward to the rest of the week.

“I am just very, very proud of him,” said his father, Homer Jasso. “It’s a lot of hard work. You raise it since 6 months old. He did really well.”