Learning more about "Catch-A-Calf"

Published: May. 13, 2020 at 10:12 AM CDT
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A high school student from Elwood was named Grand Champion of a special competition at the National Western Stock Show in Denver this year.

Sheridan and Rianna Chaney say being a part of the Catch-A-Calf program was a life-changing experience. "Going to the National Western Stock Show, and winning anything there is a really big award," Sheridan said.

The journey for Sheridan and her red Angus steer "Milo", and Rianna and her steer "Otis" began in January of 2019. "We went into the arena along with some other kids and we haltered some of the roping steers that were a part of the rodeo," Sheridan said. "So Rianna and I both caught a steer." In May, they returned to the same fairgrounds to pick up their animals. "At that time, we met our sponsors who paid for our calves, and we picked up our steers along with the other 38 kids that caught calves for the program," Sheridan said. "Those young people came from Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming and Kansas. Once the kids pick up their animal, they raise it for 8 and a half months.

What might set this project apart from others is the attention to detail that's required, and the documentation that young people like Sheridan must account for. "Every single month you have to submit a sponsor letter to the person that paid for your animal, as well as a progress form that tracks your feed expenses, your health expenses, and just the behavior of your animal," Sheridan said. "So, not only do you go through the course of the program and show the animal, you have to document everything. You are basically a part of the entire project and since you have to document it, and it kind of sticks with you. You can put what you've learned into other projects."

The girls worked hard to care for their livestock. In the end, Sheridan was named the National Western Stock Show Grand Champion. Her hard work paid off. One of the highlights of the Catch-A-Calf program for Sheridan was working with her sponsor, John Brown of Oberlin, Kansas, who supported her along the way.

Rianna also had sponsors from the Colorado Elks Association.

"For me to actually win the title it meant a lot to me because not only did all of my hard work come through, but I also got to learn so much and meet so many new people," Sheridan said. "It was one of the best experiences of my life for sure."

Sheridan's Grand Champion steer sold for $35,000 at the stock show's junior auction. Her mom says the Elwood High School sophomore will get 20% of that, 30% is divided among all Catch-A-Calf participants, and the rest goes back into the program itself.

It's a program that proved very valuable to these two sisters from Elwood. Although Rianna didn't win Grand Champion, she's happy for her sister and what she learned through the experience. "I learned a lot more about the industry and how to take care of the animal and expenses, and along the way I also made a lot of friends." And perhaps the friends that the sisters made along the way, is the best prize of all.