The Calgary Stampede and its partner Summer Synergy at Olds, Alta., have become the livestock nexus for high achieving young people to compete and vie for more than $74,000 in scholarships.
In addition, the junior steer classic on the last day of the Stampede has grown into a rich show where teenagers face off for big prize money and the experience of exhibiting before a high-caliber judge.
Summer Synergy teaches young people marketing, showmanship and sportsmanlike competition culminating in a supreme livestock show down at the Stampede July 14.
The supreme champion sheep award was won by Justin Leeson of Hays, Alta., who showed a mature commercial ewe with triplets at side. The market lambs are Ile de France and Columbia crosses. This set already won champion at the Taber district 4-H show and then Justin went on to win big at Synergy. So far, that little flock has earned $2,000 in prize money.
“I wasn’t expecting to win the whole thing,” he said.
At 14, he hopes farming is in his future and he wants to continue showing livestock. He and his sister, Riley, work on their 15 ewes together and sell their market lambs locally.
The Stampede was not Halley Adams’s first rodeo. The 20-year-old from Forestburg, Alta., has stood in the winner’s circle before but leading out the supreme champion purebred female was a new experience.
She and her grandfather bought the winning female from Greenwood Angus of Lloydminster last year and a calf was born at Adams’s Ter-Ron Farms this spring.
Currently a student at the University of Alberta, where she is studying animal health, she dreams of veterinary medicine but there are no plans to retire from showing cattle.
She is president of the Alberta Junior Angus Association and plans to join the national board later this year. She also plays defence in women’s hockey in central Alberta, so making time to work with her show cattle was a challenge this year.
Working with her sisters Keely and Kasey, the work and all the prize money is equally shared. This year, she won a $3,000 scholarship and received $500 for the supreme win.
A bred Mainetainer heifer named Anastasia propelled 16-year-old Cole Reid of Hafford, Sask., to the commercial supreme championship.
A long-time 4-H member, he is interested in building a Mainetainer herd at his family’s mixed farm.
The 4-H movement gave him a taste for working with cattle.
“After my first achievement day I thought it was the best thing ever and it snowballed from there,” he said, adding that he plans to stay with the program as long as possible.
The winning heifer has been entered in four shows and did not place high until winning the big prize at Calgary.
“I have been waiting and working hard. I knew somewhere along the line it would pay off,” he said.
Persistence paid off for Braydon Thompson of Lloydminster, Sask., with a Shorthorn-Angus influence steer that he bought last year as a calf. That 1,300 pounder was named grand champion steer in a show, where five out of the top six animals came from Saskatchewan. Entrants came from all four western provinces.
“Last year was my first show here and I took fifth in class out of six,” Braydon said.
He bought the steer last fall and between his time at Lakeland College and weekends on the family farm, he made time to prepare the black calf named Teddy.
The grand champion earned him a $17,000 cheque where $5,000 is cash and the rest is scholarship money.
Winning like this has given him a taste to pursue more showing.
“It is really fun, but before the show I am really nervous. You work on it all year and this is your final destination,” he said.
Reserve champion steer went to Toby Noble of Lloydminster, Sask., who is also a friend.
“I have shown against him my whole life in 4-H and now here. He has always been the one that beats me. It is good to actually win,” Braydon said.