National Western Exhibitor Uses Fresh Ideas for Traditional Contest

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Tradition is an important part of the National Western Stock Show, and this year marked the 85th year for one of its longest-standing, educational traditions – the Catch-A-Calf Program. Shane Dawson participated in the 2020 Catch-A-Calf (CAC) Contest, and after nine months of feeding, caring and preparing for the Contest, she and her calf reached their full potential to earn one of the top banners.

The 18-year-old from Lander, Wyoming, is no stranger to the livestock show world. She had shown cattle three years prior to having her CAC. When her mom, Mikala, made her aware of the program, she thought it sounded like fun. She completed the application, and at the 2019 National Western was fortunate enough to “catch” a calf during one of the rodeo performances.

“You go out to the rodeo with a rope halter and try to catch a rodeo steer. It’s basically like musical chairs, there’s 11 calves for every 13 people so two people don’t get one, so you really have to get in there and do your best to get one. I caught one,” Dawson said with a smile.

Doing her best is and continued to be her goal through the duration of the project. Dawson said that all 40 participants returned to the National Western Complex May 4, 2019, where they each received their Red Angus calves, provided by Wagonhound Land & Livestock, near Douglas, Wyoming. She said she spotted the calf she wanted for her own as he was coming off the trailer.

“I watched him walk off the trailer and knew he had great potential. He was a large frame, level topped steer,” Dawson said.

Her steer, that she named Courthouse Pete as she was reading the Truman Capote novel, In Cold Blood, on her way to Denver to receive her CAC, did have great potential. His potential was realized and rewarded this year at the National Western, as he and Dawson claimed Reserve Grand Champion Catch-A-Calf honors. However, the award isn’t based solely on his show ring performance. Dawson worked hard to earn the honor.

The CAC program is judged on several criteria, explained Dawson, including record book, interview, sponsor relationship, showmanship class and market class. There are 160 total points possible, and only one-half point separated Dawson and the grand champion winner. However, in addition to the banner, she said she learned valuable lessons from the program, including more in-depth recording keeping. She weighed Courthouse Pete each month, kept detailed records of all bills, tracked any changes in his diet and communicated regularly with her sponsors.

“The last year, I developed a more consistent work ethic. I learned a lot more about teamwork and a broader sense of responsibility. I’ve also learned the world doesn’t revolve around me or my wants and needs from a very young age, because I need to care for my livestock,” she said. “I would highly recommend the Catch-A-Calf Program because it emphasizes the fact that we all, as stewards of the land and animals, need to promote the proper care of livestock. Even though we all do it, it is really misconstrued from the producer to the consumer.”

One of the ways Dawson cared for her steer is by ensuring he had a balanced diet with proper nutrition to gain steadily and convert his feed efficiently. She and her mom, Mikala, reached out to Keith Micke, owner of K Triangle Feed, to seek advice and assistance. Micke said Mikala found him on the BioZyme® Inc., dealer locator, and started asking him questions via email. With his resources and the help of BioZyme nutritionist Dr. Susan Day, Micke helped them find a ration that would work for Courthouse Pete and suggested the use of Sure Champ® Cattle with the Amaferm® advantage as part of his daily diet. Sure Champ is a pelleted, daily vitamin and mineral supplement for show cattle formulated to improve digestive health, stimulate appetite and optimize health. Amaferm is a precision-prebiotic designed to enhance digestibility by amplifying nutrient supply for maximum performance. It is research-proven to increase water and feed intake, and research shows that Amaferm decreases body temperature in heat-stressed animals.

“He weighed 1,485 pounds at the end, so he was a big boy, but I knew if he even weighed 100 pounds less than that he’d be skin and bones. So, I just knew I would have to feed him until he was finished, and Sure Champ helped me with that. It helped with his gut health, and the Vita Charge Gel really helped him with stress,” Dawson said.

Vita Charge Gel is a convenient go-to product designed for all species that supports digestive health and promotes feed and water intake during times of stress and recovery. It contains Amaferm and MOS to support the ability to recover from the effects of stress. MOS traps the bad bacteria limiting their ability to do harm. The Vita Charge Gel also includes organic Zinc, the antioxidant Vitamin E and B vitamins.

Dawson said she administered her steer the Vita Charge Gel for about three days prior to any time she traveled, both to shows and clinics and while away from home, to ensure he stayed on feed and water.

Although Dawson and Micke are not neighbors – more than 200 miles separate them – Micke said he still works to make sure she had the minerals and supplements she needed. His son plays sports in her part of the state, and they have relatives near him, so getting the deliveries just took some extra communication and coordination.

“She was very diligent on using the Sure Champ and there wasn’t a day she didn’t use it. I’m glad to help my customers attain his or her goals. If I don’t know the answer, I will find someone who does,” Micke said.

When a tradition like the CAC Program that teaches young people responsibility, work ethic and stewardship lasts nearly a century, that is an impressive track record. When competitors like Dawson discover supplements like Sure Champ and Vita Charge, their calves will stay healthy, grow efficiently and help young exhibitors #preptowin and reach their potential.

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