For eight months, most of Zack Levin’s free time has been spent with Bill and Butch.
He’s fed them, groomed them, trained them and cared for their needs.
And now, he has to say goodbye.
Bill and Butch are steers that Zack, a 15-year-old freshman at Sabino High School, has prepared to show at the Pima County Fair.
For six years, Zack has been a member of Littletown Ranchers 4-H Club, one of about 30 clubs in Pima County.
He’s matter-of-fact about letting these two guys go.
“It can be a little difficult, depending on how attached you get, but it’s not difficult for me at all,” Zack said.
His mom will be the one weeping when they send Bill off Saturday.
“Zack looks at the business of it more than the emotional attachment,” said Laura Levin, who was involved in 4-H in her youth.
Bill was shown Thursday and won third in his market class. Zack also won a blue ribbon for showmanship.
Bill will be sold Saturday at the Pima County Junior Livestock Auction at the fair.
Butch, whom Zack entered in the carcass category, was slaughtered earlier this week. He earned a reserve champion carcass award.
Since August, when he bought the two animals, Zack has spent about 15 hours a week caring for the steers, who lived on his grandparents’ property on the far Northeast Side. He often rode his bike before and after school to care for the animals.
Daily activities included training the hair coat by washing, combing and blow drying; walking Bill to get him used to it; working with his feet so he can place them during the show and feeding the animals sweet feed, corn, oats and Bermuda hay twice a day.
Judging is based on showmanship and the look of the finished steer.
Zack said steer and swine, which he raised previously, have distinct personalities. “They’re just like people. “They have emotions. They get mad. They plot their revenge. They cry.”
He said Bill is a bit unpredictable. “He’s nice when he wants to be.”
Bill, who weighs 1,060 pounds, is a bit small. But Zack hopes to get about $3 per pound at Saturday’s auction, which would pay for the purchase of the two steers. But the Levins are concerned the economy will result in lower prices at auction.
Animals often are sold to business owners like car dealer Jim Click, construction firms or companies including Bashas’ Supermarkets. Some donate the meat to charity.
In addition to showing the steer, Zack entered the photography and cooking competitions.
Last year, he won Best of Show for a photo he took of a bridge in Florence, Italy.
This year, he won two purple ribbons – outstanding – for photos, one of his dog, Charlie.
He also won a purple ribbon for his free-form apple tart and three blues – very good – for two varieties of cinnamon rolls and his crescent rolls.
Zack said he often cooks with his grandmother, Jan Levin.
He said he will consider farming and ranching in the future, but he’s not sure the market will be strong.
He is also considering starting his own restaurant or opening Zack’s Mustang Service, where he can work on his favorite car.
Laura Levin is happy her son chose to be involved in 4-H.
“It was a big thing for me when I was growing up,” she said. “I have to say 4-H is is one of the best things out there for kids. There’s so much to get involved with, and it teaches you responsibility.”
Zack said 4-H members occasionally get teased by other kids. But it doesn’t bother him.
“I enjoy how it helps with your leadership skills,” he said. “You learn a lot about animals and marketing and you build a lot of friendships. A lot of my family has done it, and it’s good to carry on.”
Tucson Citizen photo intern Heather Raftery contributed to this report.
IF YOU GO
What: Pima County Fair
When: Daily through Sunday. Main gate opens at noon Friday and 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. Closing time is from 11:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m.
Where: Pima County Fairgrounds, 11300 S. Houghton Road
Price: $7 general, $2 for ages 6-10, free to children 5 and younger. Parking is $5.
Info: 762-FAIR, pimacountyfair.com
Bill, who is one of about 55 steers shown at the Pima County Fair this year, will be auctioned Saturday.
Large animal stock will be auctioned at 11:45 a.m. The small animal stock auction is at 10:30 a.m. Sunday.
Both events take place under the Pima County Fair Ramada.
Animals will be on display throughout the weekend.
For more information on the auction, call Pat Selke at 749-3531.
PIMA COUNTY 4-H
For more information on getting involved, call 626-5161 or go to http://ag.arizona.edu/pima/4-h/ index.html.