Rowan Wasinger is chasing her dream.
Well, the 16-year-old from Buffalo actually chased that dream – then caught it – at the 2022 National Western Stock Show in Denver. Armed with just a halter and lead rope, Wasinger cornered a steer in the catch-a-calf competition and earned an opportunity to raise a steer to show at this year’s stock show.
A year later, Wasinger and the steer she raised have won the stock show’s Catch-A-Calf Grand Champion ribbon, as well as CAC Grand Champion Showmanship.
Chasing the Dream
From the time she was a little girl, Wasinger knew she wanted to raise and show animals. From the age of 3 or 4, she would walk with her cousin when she showed steers.
“I just remember telling my mom when I was really young, ‘I’m gonna show cattle,’” Wasinger said. “And she goes ‘No, no, you are done, you’re not gonna do that.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, yes, yes, I am.’”
Although she doesn’t exactly live on a ranch (they keep some livestock at their house on the edge of town), Wasinger has been an active participant in 4-H and Future Farmers of America since she was a young girl.
The National Western Stock Show began offering the CAC program in 1935, giving young 4-H and FFA members from Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado and Wyoming opportunities to literally catch an animal, then return one year later with a market-ready steer.
“They take you out (into the arena) and you’ll have a halter, and they do a countdown, and you have about two minutes to catch a calf,” said Wasinger.
Although most participants attempt to rope an animal with the halter, Wasinger took a more direct approach.
“I tackled mine,” she said. “I got ran over by him, but at the end of it I caught my calf.”
At the end of the contest, participants who caught their animals are given a steer donated by a Wyoming ranch to raise in preparation for the next year’s NWSS.
“You do sponsor letters monthly, you do monthly progress forms as well throughout your year,” said Wasinger about other preparation involved besides raising the animal. “And after you’ve completed everything, you go down for the live show.”
Wasinger was thrilled when she went to Laramie to pick up the Charolais/Angus cross steer she was given to raise, which she named “Trump.”
“Charolais have been, like, one of my dream calves to show and raise,” she said. “I don’t know why – everybody says Carolais are mean, but they’re flashy, though. They look pretty all the time.”
Wasinger and Trump were well prepared to show by the time the NWSS rolled around.
“I showed him at the (Johnson) County and the state fairs, and then I took him to the Cheyenne Livestock Expo in November,” she said. “And then we showed him once on Sunday (Jan. 9) at the National Western Stock Show.”
Judging at the NWSS covers a number of categories, including production and carcass quality of the animal, showmanship, record books and personal interviews with participants.
“I was in the top four in all of those categories,” Wasinger said.
And when she was named CAC Grand Champion, Wasinger felt that her years of preparation had paid off.
“I always felt like we’d wind up at National Western,” she said. “I would always tell my mom, ‘I’m gonna win, I’m gonna win National Western at a very young age.’ And she was like, ‘Oh, boy.’”
And while receiving those big purple ribbons was thrilling (“I always told my mom, this is why I show,” Wasinger said, “because purple is my favorite color!”), she said being part of the live sale at the NWSS was a thrilling finale.
“I got to go into the live sale at National Western and be part of that sale,” she said, “and he sold for $50,000.”
Although $50,000 sounds like a lot for a 16-year-old student, Wasinger said she doesn’t actually get to keep it all.
“Ten percent will go into the (NWSS) college fund, and another 10% will go to the other kids in the program itself,” she said. “So after that is all done we estimated, I will get between $25,000 to $30,000 – and the first thing I’m going to do is pay off my feed bill.”
After that, Wasinger said she’s got her 2022-23 calves to pay off, and the rest will go into a college or emergency fund. She said although she loves ranching, she does have other ideas for her future.
“I want to get a farm management degree,” said Wasinger. “And I’m hoping to get a master’s in occupational therapy… and maybe a cosmetology degree.”
Inspiring the Next Generation
Until then, Wasinger is content to raise her animals (she’s planning to show calves and sheep this year) and mentor other young people who want to get into showing livestock.
“I’m actually going to teach a little girl here, she just turned 13 today and she’s in my 4-H Club as well,” she said. “I’m going to help her get her showmanship cranked up a little bit.”
Wasinger said her best advice to anyone who is considering showing livestock is to be consistent and to genuinely have fun.
“If you’re not having fun, it shows very quickly,” she said.