GRAND ISLAND, Neb. — The very first cattle-handling demonstration at Husker Harvest Days was almost a disaster 25 years ago, said Joe Jeffrey, veterinarian and rancher from Lexington, Neb.
A calf nearly choked to death in the handling chute and had to be revived, Jeffrey said. After it was revived, it wanted no part of the demonstration and nearly wrecked the rest of the show.
After that debacle, Jeffrey said, he was surprised that the demonstrations were welcomed back the next year.
But they were, and they have grown in popularity, making Husker Harvest Days one of the state's leading cattle industry shows. Jeffrey still emcees the demonstrations, and longtime participants, such as Van Neidig of Battle Creek, Neb., still demonstrate the newest innovations in equipment.
A Wednesday ceremony honored the cattle-handling demonstrations' role over the last 25 years at Husker Harvest Days, which runs through today.
Neidig said the demonstrations provide an opportunity to see the equipment in use and compare it with similar equipment by other manufacturers.
“Anywhere you go where they have chutes on display, such as a store or dealer, you don't have an animal in it,” Neidig said. “Everything works nice when there is nothing in it but has a different dynamic when there are animals in it.”
Demonstrations are a hallmark of Husker Harvest Days, whether it's combines or cattle chutes.
When the cattle-handling demonstrations first began, Neidig said, there were no other live demonstrations in the U.S.
“Since that time, I have personally worked chutes and demos in 24 or 25 different states at different shows, but this is the granddaddy of them all,” he said.
He also credited Jeffrey's work as moderator for keeping the show popular.
“Dr. Joe is who makes this work,” Neidig said.
Jeffrey said the first cattle chutes more than 50 years ago were “man killers and cow killers.”
“What you see here today is the process of more than 50 years of knowing how to handle cattle, squeeze them safely, not only for the cow but also the guy on the chute,” Jeffery said.
Dave Boehle of St. Libory, Neb., who has helped to organize the demonstrations for 20 years, said cattle chutes help producers perform many tasks, from vaccinations to branding. He said the chutes being demonstrated at Husker Harvest Days are designed for safety for both the animal and handler.
“These chutes represent some of the best technology we have today,” he said, “as most all of them today are hydraulically operated so injury to the animal is minimized, stress on the animal is minimized, and the ability of the operator to safely handle the cattle is outstanding.”