EAST LANSING – Donald Trump and Mike Pence won a key race in Michigan in the 2016 presidential election, and the duo triumphed again in the Great Lakes State on July 16 – as steers taking top honors at the Michigan Livestock Expo.
“People have been congratulating me. A lot of people found the name funny, but it wasn’t a big deal like we were pushing political beliefs on anybody,” said Justin Ruggles, 22, of Tuscola County’s Kingston Township, owner of Donald Trump the steer – which took first place as Grand Champion Steer at the livestock expo beef show at Michigan State University.
Meijer Inc. purchased Trump, the 1,350-pound steer, for $26,000, said Ruggles, who graduated in May from Michigan State University with a bachelor’s degree in agribusiness management, and plans to use the money to help buy a house.
The state’s second-place steer, Mike Pence, fetched $10,000 for Jake Noll, 15, of Sanilac County’s Fremont Township, who sold the Reserve Champion Steer to Michigan Farm Bureau.
“I’m about to turn 16 and I’ve gotta pay for a truck here pretty quick,” said Noll, a soon-to-be sophomore at Croswell-Lexington High School who said the name of his steer has entertained folks around southern Sanilac County.
“Most people liked it, and they laughed,” said Noll, son of Michael and Jordan Noll.
Noll’s steer wound up named after the vice president after Justin Ruggles’ steer was named Donald Trump by Ruggles’ brother, Kyle, 19.
“My brother was really into the election when we bought the steer this fall, and he was a Trump fan and just kind of named the steer that, and it just kind of stuck all year,” said Justin Ruggles, son of Tim and Julie Ruggles.
“We show with the Noll family throughout the year, and both of the steers look quite a bit alike and they’re marked up the same, color-wise, and when we went to the first show, my brother Kyle said ‘Well, ours is named Donald Trump – that one needs to be named Mike Pence.’”
The Ruggles and Noll families bought their steers last year from Brock Welshans Show Cattle, a business owned by Brock and Krissa Welshans of Tuscola County’s Koylton Township. Ruggles and Noll then worked to finish the animals in recent months in preparation for the Michigan Livestock Expo.
Donald Trump the steer, like the president himself, had his share of hair.
“When you’re showing livestock at the state level, the big thing is to have quite a bit of hair on them, so you can shape ’em to look how you want,” Ruggles said. “This steer probably got exercised about 35 minutes a day. I walked him to make sure he stayed moving well. I also rinsed him three times a day to cool his body temperature, and I put him in a cooler room to grow hair.
“I probably spent five hours a day just working on him.”
Justin Ruggles said his steer weighed about 450 pounds when purchased in the fall, and that his brother, Kyle, helped care for the animal.
Noll added that “You have to feed your steer all the way through, basically, to where they’re big enough where they can compete.”
“You have to get them so they’re tame enough, and get them to grow hair, and all that,” Noll said.
The Michigan Livestock Expo, according to its website, is a multi-species livestock event including beef, sheep, swine and goats, designed to enhance the livestock industry, educate youth and showcase Michigan’s agriculture industry.
Beef industry representatives, for their part, have praised Trump lately. The Washington Post reported in May that the Trump administration has reached new deals with China to ease market access for a variety of industries, including beef and financial services.
Trump tweeted May 12 that “China just agreed that the U.S. will be allowed to sell beef, and other major products, into China once again. This is REAL news.”
U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said China is “at least a $2.5 billion market that’s being opened up for U.S. beef.”
Though Trump and Pence won Michigan in the November election, 52 percent of state residents disapprove of Trump’s job performance as president and 42 percent approve, according to results of a Gallup poll released Monday.
Ruggles said his steer’s first-place finish at the livestock expo was his best ever, and occurred at his last beef show, which is open to competitors from ages 9 to 21. He said he has shown animals at county, state and national competitions.
“It was kind of just a big honor to win, and I was very thankful I sold him,” Ruggles said. “It was a great year. I went out with a bang. It was a good way to end my showing career.”
Krissa Welshans, in a Facebook message to The Advertiser, found it remarkable that the steers Trump and Pence would place first and second in the statewide beef show.
“We knew the steers were good, but still cannot believe they made it to the top as a team,” wrote Welshans, adding that Justin Ruggles and Jake Noll are part of “a great group of young kids who have worked hard for many years.”