Elizabeth High School seniors Alexa Hagans and Kassidey O’Brien joined 38 other Catch-a-Calf competitors who brought the steers they raised from calves to the National Western Stock Show Complex …
Elizabeth High School seniors Alexa Hagans and Kassidey O’Brien joined 38 other Catch-a-Calf competitors who brought the steers they raised from calves to the National Western Stock Show Complex Jan. 5 so they could groom them and prepare them for the Jan. 7 judging
The judging will complete the projects that began at last year’s National Western Stock Show when each of the 40 young men or women became a successful Catch-a-Calf competitor by catching one of 10 calves released during one four of rodeo performances. There were frequently more candidates than calves, so not everyone was successful.
Hagans said she didn’t have a lot of trouble catching her calf.
“Our family ranches, so I knew how to catch the calf. But you don’t get to keep and raise that one,” she said. “I got my calf Ernie in May when he was a couple months old and weighed about 748 pounds. I took care of him, fed him and groomed him and he now weighs more than 1,400 pounds.”
She said she let the calf be a calf for about a week, then started working him, and they were friends in about a month. She said the hardest challenge was getting Ernie broken to the halter and walking when being led.
“I am happy where Ernie is today,” she said. “You get close to an animal when you are caring for him, so it will be a little hard to be separated from him. But I have raised market calves before so that will make it a little bit easier.”
O’Brien also is a member of a ranching family, so raising calves wasn’t new to her.
“I got this guy on May 6,” she said. “I named him Burt. Burt is a big goober and he is loveble.”
She said Burt weighed about 800 pounds when she got him and he was pretty friendly, so it took two or three weeks for them to bond.
“Probably the biggest challenge with Burt was getting weight on him,” she said. “He didn’t really want to eat the grain I fed him. I changed feed and that help him start gaining weight. We also gave him grass fed implants and he really took off.”
She said she Burt is the favorite show calf she has raised so it will be hard to say goodbye to him.
Both young women have plans for after graduation.
Hagans will graduate from high school in December and plans to complete the requirement to get her private pilot’s license.
“I am taking flying lessons now and I am getting close to being able to solo,” she said. “I know that flying planes and raising cattle are very different, but they are both activities I am passionate about.”
She said she plans to go to college with the goal of possible careers in embryo transfer and artificial insemination.
O’Brien said when she graduates she has a job offer to train cutting horses in Texas and a job offer in a Kit Carson feedlot running the organic steer operation and other things on the feedlot.
“I love raising animals but I also loved competing in rodeo events. I started competing in Little Britches and still do because it is challenging and it is fun,” she said. “I did some roping and ran barrels. I competed in rodeo because I don’t find the same edge in other sports. I guess that is because in rodeo the performance is based on you and if you don’t work hard, you don’t succeed.”
Catch-a-Calf candidates come from Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska and Wyoming to compete in National Western Stock Show’s longest-running program of practical beef cattle management. Young men and women 12 to 18 years old from the four states and who are 4-H members are eligible to apply to the program.
During one of four rodeo performances, candidates seek to catch one of the 10 calves released in the corral. Each year 40 calves are released and this year there are 52 candidates, so not every candidate will catch a calf.
Successful participants raise a calf, feed it, and return with the animal one year later as a market steer. The market animals are judged on rate of gain, quality of fitting, and carcass quality. The exhibitors are judged on showmanship, their record books, and personal interviews.