In the eighth and ninth grade, I showed pigs in the Highlands County Fair. For two years, I spent a tremendous amount of my time at the barn, planning every aspect of my schedule around my animal. The experience was definitely a great one, but this year I decided to take another step forward - showing cattle.
Obviously there is a huge difference between starting off with a 75 pound pig and a calf that weighs over 500 pounds. At first I was a bit nervous about taking the leap, as it's something completely new to me.
Over the summer, I made several trips to different ranches in the search for the heifer I would be raising; the final ranch, Smoak Groves, turned out to be the winner. We made our first trip out and selected our top picks, and came back out a week later to make our final selections.
I ended up with my first pick and her ear tag displayed the number "1". We decided to wait until the day of the initial fair weigh-in to move her into her new home.
The morning of weigh-in, I woke up at a bright-and-early 4:30 a.m. My dad and I went to a drive-thru to pick up some breakfast and headed down to the fairgrounds. My friend Angie got her calf from the same ranch, so we waited together for our calves to get there.
We later found out that we could have slept in for a few extra hours, as our heifers were not delivered until 7:30 a.m. Although the wait was long, we didn't really mind as we had a great time relaxing and seeing old friends come through with their animals.
Finally, around 9:30 a.m., it was our heifers' turn to go through the line. We climbed up on the fence to get a glimpse of our heifers going into the chute to be weighed. We also handed the guys in the holding pen, who were corralling the calves, halters to be put on the heifers. A few minutes later, we were handed cards with our heifers' weights on them. Angie's was 569 pounds and mine was 560, both with less than 200 pounds to go before making minimum weight.
As they were loaded back up on the trailer, we immediately left to head to the barn. We met the trailer there, unloaded our heifers, and smoothly got them into their new pens.
My heifer, who I have decided to name Dixie, was extremely skittish for a few days. She did not want to be touched, and it took a couple of days for her to even eat with me around her. Now, however, more than a week later, she has made tremendous progress. She is letting me take her by the lead rope and pet and brush her for over an hour at a time, and I have even been able to tie her up a few times.
We have definitely not had any problem getting her to eat, as she is now getting eight scoops a day and licking her feed bin clean. She is friendly with her neighbors on both sides, Angie's heifer Penelope and my friend Sarah's Beretta.
At first, I was nervous that she would stay as scared and cautious as she had been. However, now that she is starting to get more comfortable in her new home, those nerves have disappeared. Although this year is going to be a lot of hard work, I am beyond excited to see how this next FFA adventure plans out.