Heifers and their handlers lean against each other at the Jones County Fair


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ANSON – apples and trees.

Watching a child wrestle an animal for 15 times its weight can be an inspiration. It is not enough to turn your back – you need to know exactly when and how to do it.

Karlee Rathmann struggled a little at the Jones County Fair on Saturday. The 9-year-old did her best tossing around her 60 kilos. It just didn’t always work with 900 pounds of jade on the other end of the holster.

Still, Karlee was determined. Jade wasn’t her only heifer; she had another named Miss Priss.

But Karlee not only raised Jade, she also helped give birth to the calf in February. Her mother Kayla remembers it well, they had watched the mother of the calf.

“She said, ‘Mom, when she’s done, will you come and get me?’ And I said, ‘Yes!’ “, Kayla recalls. It didn’t matter that the calf was born in the middle of the night.

Kayla smiled when she thought of her daughter and proudly added, “We have pictures of her.”

“Majors” training ground

District fairs are training grounds for the region’s cattle shows at the beginning of January.

But even these are trainers for the so-called “majors”, gigantic shows in Houston, Fort Worth, San Antonio and, more recently, in Austin.

Karlee showed with her sister Kinlee, 12. The family lives in Slaton and that would be enough to know them down to one standout detail.

Kayla, her husband Ryan and the two girls are not just a stick show family. Ryan, an Ag instructor at Texas Tech University, is described by the school as “the most successful trainer of all time in over 100 years of college cattle breeding.” He has coached five national meat animal assessment teams at Texas Tech. “

His cattle judge teams have been awarded seven national championships in his eight years as a coach, three with Texas A&M and six with Tech. In 2010 the “Ryan and Kayla Rathmann Pursuit of Excellence in Livestock Judging Endowment” was launched by members of the Livestock Judging Teams 2007-10 in their honor.

So yes. They know about showing heifers.

Unfortunately, Ryan wasn’t at the show on Saturday; he returned from another place with his team. That made Kayla and the girls get together and make it work.

That includes stalling 900-pound jade for show judge Cameron Anderson, A&M AgriLife Texas agent in McCullough County.

“Sometimes they get a little stubborn and don’t really want to work with you,” Karlee said of her heifers. “So sometimes you have to fight them a little.”

Suddenly she let out a breath.

“It’s not always easy.”

Go with me to come with me

Walking your heifer is not like walking your dog. By training, a dog will understand that you are the boss and will adapt accordingly.

A calf? Maybe not so much.

As someone’s grandfather mentioned on Saturday, their brain is the size of a fat walnut. That is not much room for crucial reasoning to gain a foothold.

“Sometimes I go out to the hay with them just to get more exercise walking,” Karlee said. “Sometimes she wants to walk a little with me; I just have to let them go because I know there is nothing I can do to stop them. “

What is it like to run with a heifer? It’s a bit like going with them to get along.

“They usually go pretty fast, but you have to be right there with the halter and run as fast as they do,” she said.

That’s a lot of cow that little legs have to compete with, but Karlee looked pretty casual about it. Though there might have been a moment when her feet stopped moving when she grabbed the rope.

“Once,” she said, and thought about it again. “Once or twice. My bull – it’s called ketchup – we’ve worked it and suddenly it’s running back to the barn.”

She tried to stop him, but ketchup couldn’t be caught. Since he’s an ox, he’s unlikely to have had a hot date. He was just finished.

Karlee did a kind of water ski next to him until he got to his pen and just stopped at the closed gate. She tied him up, held her breath, and went back to work.

The route is the goal

Winning a ribbon or belt buckle is great, but that’s not the only value for showing cattle. It’s what you learn along the way.

“I was thinking about that when we drove down here today because you know we can do anything on a Saturday,” Kayla said with a chuckle. “But instead, in the 90-degree heat, the hottest day in autumn, we decided to perform outside.”

But there is nothing like making a small effort to bring a group, families or others together.

“Really, it’s the quality time I have with my daughters. I mean, we don’t sit at home, they don’t watch TV, ”she said. “We’ll never get these days back.”

Over the years there have been different opinions at stock exchange fairs about the naming of one’s own projects. Some choose not to, to make the inevitable sale and loss of the animal easier for young hearts who become easy friends.

But as you’ve seen, the Rathmanns don’t roll like that.

“We cry every time; Every time we have to let go of the oxen we cry, ”laughs Kayla, but is also a little sad about it. “Because I mean, you spend a year with them every day. It’s like losing your dog every year.

“Some people don’t, but we do. And we’re emotional, we’re soft-hearted. So the heifers are a good thing because you never have to get rid of them. It’s a good balance. “

In the end Karlee prevailed and won Grand Champion and Reserve Champion for her heifers.

“Showing taught me a lot; It taught me discipline that some things don’t always go the way you want them to, ”she said. “And sometimes you just can’t do everything yourself, you have to have help.”

These apples never fall far from their trees.

Ronald Erdrich is a photojournalist and columnist for Abilene Reporter-News. If you value local news, you can support local journalists with a digital subscription from ReporterNews.com.

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