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Thayer grows through Youth Beef Experience

By Janet Kubat Willette

Date Modified: 11/14/2013 8:09 AM

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KASSON, Minn. — Jackilyn Thayer remembers the phone call she received just more than a year ago telling her she would receive a heifer through the Minnesota Youth Beef Experience Program.

"It was really pretty exciting," Thayer said Oct. 16, the day before she left for Minnesota Beef Expo 2013.

Thayer, 14, a Kasson-Mantorville High School freshman, received her first choice, a black Angus heifer, which she named Lucy. The animal was donated by JC Angus of Pipestone, the Randy and Sue Carlson family, on behalf of the Minnesota Angus Association. Her second choice was a Simmental.

The Minnesota Youth Beef Experience Program awards heifer calves to youth who fill out an application, including letters of reference, detailing why they should receive a heifer. Ten heifers are awarded. Last year, 65 applicants sought heifers.

Recipients also have opportunities to earn a scholarship. This year, Thayer earned the Achievement Award and the scholarship.

Thayer's uncle, Larry Butler, who lives by Concord, got her started in showing cattle three years ago. He has a preference for black cattle, and she followed his lead.

Larry, his wife, Betty, and his sons, Adam and Ross, have helped Thayer as she has learned how to show and how to care for her heifer. She has her uncle on speed dial.

Randy and Sue Carlson and their children also have been mentors. The breeders who donate cattle agree to mentor the youth who receive their animal. The youth, in turn, submit progress reports.

Thayer recalled sending Facebook messages to Jaden Carlson on the way home from expo asking questions about caring for her new heifer. What does she eat? Does she sleep outside at night? They also communicated often when it came time to select semen.

"They have done so much," Thayer said of the Carlsons.

Her first year with Lucy is detailed in an artfully created scrapbook with the theme, "I Love Lucy." She and her mother, Annie, spent several hours pulling together the photos and other mementos from their first year with Lucy.

"She's like a big puppy dog . . . a really big puppy dog," Thayer said of her heifer, who recently weighed 1,580 pounds. The heifer is due to have her first calf in January.

Lucy was bred to Connealy Confidence. Thayer said she learned how to read a sire summary to select the best sire for Lucy's first calf. Lucy was bred in April using semen from Select Sires. The company supports the Minnesota Youth Beef Experience Program by contributing two units of conventional semen.

She and Lucy have come a long way in their first year together. Thayer said she remembers the nerve-wracking experience of showing Lucy for the first time at Minnesota Beef Expo 2012. Lucy wasn't totally halter broke and wasn't too sure about the show ring experience.

The duo has conquered several show rings since, making trips to the Minnesota Junior Spring Classic in April; the Alpha Gamma Rho show in Zumbrota; and the Minnesota Junior Angus Field Day Show in Faribault. They also attended the Dodge County Fair and the Minnesota State Fair.

At the Minnesota Junior Spring Classic, Thayer and Lucy won the January class and made it to the showmanship finals. At the Alpha Gamma Rho Show, they placed fourth in showmanship. At the Angus field day, they placed third in the breeding heifer class. At the Dodge County Fair, Lucy was named the Reserve Champion Breeding Heifer and Thayer was a showmanship finalist at the Minnesota State Fair.

At all the shows, Thayer took advantage of educational classes to learn more about fitting and feeding cattle.

"There's quite a few people that have taught me a ton," Thayer said. "I have learned so much."

In addition to her uncle and cousins, she learned about hoof trimming and hoof care from Steve Delzer; Dawn Hauge sent her helpful cattle care videos; Jorli Hauge, Dylan Miner and Michael Brual all helped fit Lucy for shows and taught Thayer what she needs to do to prep Lucy for the show ring. She credited all the people who helped her throughout the year, saying she wouldn't have made it this far without them.

There was also work to do at home. Before Lucy, Thayer leased all her cattle from her uncle and the cattle stayed at his place. In order to keep Lucy at her place, the family built a fence and a shed. They went to town to get materials the day after arriving home from expo.

Her father, Rick, and her brother, Tyler, 11, were instrumental in fence construction.

Their Christmas had a cattle theme, with gifts including show sticks, a blower and a chute.

Thayer also applied to be a member of the American Angus Association.

She and Tyler are excited to have a herd of their own, which started with Lucy. Their cattle herd grew to two when Tyler purchased April, a bottle calf, in April. The calf was born in March.

Their farm includes four horses that Thayer shows.

In one of her last emails from the Carlsons, they said, "Wow! I think we've turned the horse girl into a cow girl."

Thayer said she wouldn't give up her horses, but she's grown to love showing cattle too.