Fit for Life
Makayla Porter advises Wyoming youth not to miss the chance to be in 4-H and FFA
Douglas – “You meet people you’ll be friends with the rest of your life,” says 17-year-old Makayla Porter of her time at the Wyoming State Fair. Makayla is beginning her senior year at Wright High School where she serves as president of her FFA Chapter.
Porter has been showing sheep at the Wyoming State Fair since she was eight years old. “I started coming as soon as I was old enough to be in 4-H,” she says. Porter is the daughter of Steve and Tracy Dilts of Douglas and Scott and Kathy Porter of New Braunfels, Texas. She is the granddaughter of Bob and Judy Hageman of Douglas and Gerald and Sandra Porter of Fort Stockton, Texas.
At this year’s Wyoming State Fair she entered photography through 4-H, earning purple ribbons on her exhibits, and showed sheep at the event. “I entered photos from our trip to Italy, so that was pretty exciting,” she says. In the past she’s also participated in cake decorating, but says she didn’t have the time this year. At last year’s state fair she had the top placing cake, which received the judge’s choice award.
This year Makayla showed 15 Rambouillet sheep in both the junior show and the open show. “I have three yearling ewes, three yearling rams, four ram lambs and five ewe lambs,” says Makayla.
At the Junior Show Makayla won honors for Champion Rambouillet Ram, Reserve Champion Rambouillet Ewe and Reserve Champion Rambouillet Flock. During the Open Sheep Show on Aug. 16 she took home Champion Rambouillet Ram honors and Reserve Champion Rambouillet Flock honors.
A buck Makayla named “Tut” was one of two that earned her “Supreme Champion Ram” at the event. “That was a big highlight,” she says. Purchased by Texas A&M, the ram holds the record as the high-selling ram at the State Ram Sale held each September by the Wyoming Wool Growers Association.
Also with an eye for good cattle, Makayla helped her grandfather choose the heifers to enter in this year’s commercial heifer exhibit at the Wyoming State Fair. Their selections earned the purple ribbon as this year’s Champion Pen of Five Bred Commercial Heifers.
Beyond the Wyoming State Fair, Makayla is active in other learning opportunities offered through her local FFA Chapter. “I do meats judging, I participated in the Creed contest and I’ve done prepared speeches,” she says.
“I like to win belt buckles,” she says of competing in the shows. Thanks to the Wyoming Rambouillet Association, Makayla says some very nice prizes are offered for Rambouillets in the junior show and those winning the open show. “The Wyoming Rambouillet Association is very good about donating items and encouraging young people,” says Makayla.
As Makayla nears the end of her time in the junior shows she says she’s glad to see some younger kids beginning to get involved. “They’re willing to learn and like to be taught,” she says of her willingness to help them.
“This kind of stuff, along with ranching, has definitely taught me work ethic,” says Makayla. “I see that in people who grow up on ranches and have an entirely different work ethic than people who grow up in the city. I know how to take care of myself. My mom used to have to tell me what to do and when to do it. Now I just go do it on my own. It’s taught me responsibility.”
As for kids deciding whether or not to try out the 4-H and FFA experience Makayla advises, “The things you learn through 4-H and FFA – public speaking skills, talking to judges, knowing your livestock – there’s so much knowledge you can gain that will benefit you lifelong.”
As her time in high school nears its end, Makayla says she’s beginning to look at colleges where she hopes to pursue a degree in the business field. Long-term, she says she may always participate in at least the open show at the Wyoming State Fair. She says it’s a great marketing tool for the rams her family’s business, Hageman Sisters Rambouillets, which sells rams in the ram sale in Douglas each September. “I do want to keep raising the bucks and showing them,” she says.
Someday she says she may return to the ranch, but after high school she’s off to experience the world. While she likes the ranch, she says, “I want to see what else is out there and then decide if I want to come back to ranching in Douglas.”
“You meet some amazing people here,” says Makayla of the WSF. “You meet people like you that take the time to get up and feed their animals each morning at 6 a.m. You meet people just like you that you might not run into in your hometown.”
Jennifer Womack is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.