Dakota Townsend, 16, has grown up around the cattle she now raises. She went to her first beef show at the age of six weeks, and showed her first animal when she was 18 months old. Her family has been working in the agriculture industry for six generations.
“Showing and raising livestock is our way of life,” said her mother, Val.
All that experience translated to an eye for selecting a top-notch show animal, and the knowledge to raise it properly. Dakota entered her 1,376-pound Hereford steer in nine shows, including the Calgary Stampede, where he was named the UFA Steer Classic’s overall reserve champion. She said he won all but two shows, netting her a combined total of $23,000. Her family plans to use the money to build a new show barn.
“It’s good that hard work pays off. I put lots and lots of work into these show cows, it’s nice to finally win,” said Dakota.
According to Dakota, that work starts with choosing the right animal. She looks for one that is “big-boned, pretty-fronted, and sound.” While she wants the animal to be the right weight, most important is a good disposition, she said.
“In order for a show animal to be successful, they have to have a good disposition. They have to want to do it,” said Val, adding that frequent travel to strange environments does not suit all animals.
Once she made her decision, Dakota began raising the animal. She had to feed him every day and halter-break him, she said. She walked him every night to keep his joints loose.
She also made sure to keep him cool so he didn’t lose his winter coat by rinsing him with water and keeping him in the barn during the day.
“I like everything about it, from selecting what you want in an animal, to feeding it and hoping that you get what you want,” said Dakota.
She credits the quality of her steer as the reason why she beat out the stiff competition at the Calgary Stampede, with some entrants from as far away as Iowa and Ontario.
Dakota has two years of high school left, after which she hopes to pursue studies in marketing and agriculture management at a university in Oklahoma or Kansas. She also hopes to promote interest in agriculture among the younger generation.
“We need to keep youth involved in agriculture, because that’s the only way we’re going to keep our farmers,” said Dakota. She participates in a 4-H club, which she said has improved her public speaking skills and her ability to market agriculture.
Dakota’s brother Wacey, 13, is also involved in agriculture and livestock shows. He has attended the same shows as Dakota, including the Calgary Stampede, where he won a $1,000 International Youth Livestock scholarship, along with four other recipients in the 12-14 years age group.
“It’s been fun,” said Wacey.