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Wyo sees Catch-A-Calf success

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Denver, Colo. – Once a year, contestants from Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska and Wyoming gather at the National Western Stock Show (NWSS) in Denver, Colo. to participate in the Catch-A-Calf contest – the longest running program of practical beef management at the NWSS.

“To be part of the program, participants must be in 4-H, and they must be between the ages of 12 and 19. They don’t have to have any previous experience exhibiting or owning cattle,” explains Molly Keil, co-superintendent of the NWSS Catch-A-Calf program.

Each year, participants must catch a calf during a rodeo performance at NWSS in January. Forty successful contestants are then given a steer the following May, which they raise and prepare to show at the next NWSS. They must also keep a record book, maintain written correspondence with a sponsor and complete an interview when they return to Denver the following year.

“We had six participants from Wyoming last year, and overall, they did pretty well,” notes Keil.

Cattle experience

The Catch-A-Calf program provides an opportunity for contestants to gain experience showing cattle and participate in the cattle industry.

“For some, it’s an opportunity to see if they’re interested in being part of raising cattle, and for others who have more experience, it’s an opportunity to show at NWSS,” she continues.

The program often leads to future opportunities within the industry, providing many participants with the inspiration and the connections to pursue further interests with cattle.

“One person who used to be in the program is now working at NWSS, and that’s how she got associated with the position. There are all sorts of opportunities that the Catch-A-Calf program can open up for people,” she notes.

All but two calves are sold at the end of the program at market price. The top two calves become eligible for the NWSS Junior Livestock Sale, with the potential to sell at a substantially higher price.

2015 challenges

“This year, our participants learned a real lesson in the cattle industry. At the beginning of the project, steers were valued at $2.30 per pound, and at the end of the project, they were valued at $1.38 per pound. Following the exact market, they lost money,” Keil explains.

As well as learning real-world lessons about the industry, participants gain other important experience as well.

“Some of the challenges included maintaining records or meeting deadlines. When they do their interviews, they have to speak in front of a panel of judges. For each individual, it’s a little bit different, and the challenge depends on what people are comfortable and what’s new to them,” she adds.

Participants are also expected to halter-break their steers, which all come from the same herd, and contestants must work with whichever animal they are randomly given.

“This year, they were given Herefords, and there were participants who have never dealt with Herefords before. They had to learn about the side effects of things like pink eye,” she remarks.

Wyoming success

Despite the challenges, all six recipients from Wyoming returned to NWSS with their steers, ready to show.

Wyoming calf catchers included Lane Barker of Evanston, Jaycee Hendrickson of Kemmerer, Burgandy Mackey of Cokeville, Brooklyn Salo of Laramie, Karl Brennecke of Cheyenne and Morgan Sanchez of Bear River.

In the live placing contest, Barker took second place in class one, while Hendrickson took fourth and Mackey placed sixth. Sanchez was awarded a fourth place finish in class two, Salo took fourth in class three, and Brennecke placed fifth in class four.

Hendrickson also won the top placing in showmanship for class one, while Salo took home fourth, and Barker placed 11th in the same category. Sanchez was third, and Mackey placed eighth in class two. In class three, Brennecke placed second for showmanship.

In sponsor relations, Sanchez placed third, Barker placed fifth, Salo took home eighth, and Brennecke finished in the 10th spot.

Salo was the second place finisher for record books, as well as the third place finisher in the interview. Hendrickson placed fourth, and Sanchez tied for seventh in the interview category as well.

In overall production, third place was awarded to Salo, Sanchez received sixth place, and Barker came in at number 15.

2016 Catch-A-Calf

“The basis of this program is about raising steers, but so many lessons are learned throughout. The opportunities are endless for those that are willing to take on the challenge,” remarks Keil.

Eight new Wyoming contestants from all over the state were able to catch a calf for the program this year.

In May, steers will be presented to Callie Clingman of Laramie, McKinzey Camphouse of Evanston, Michaela Fleming of Glenrock, Kemsley Gallegos of Laramie, Natalee Huyser of Evansville, Riggen Myers of Baggs, Kristina Nelson of Cody and Colby Stockton of Cheyenne.

“Wyoming has stayed constant in having a good number of kids participate each year. We’ve had very successful participants from Wyoming,” states Keil.

Natasha Wheeler is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be contacted at

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