Catch-A-Calf 1960, W.D. Farr led 4-H student on professional path |

Catch-A-Calf 1960, W.D. Farr led 4-H student on professional path

Richard Hergert shows off a few of his old photos from his days raising cattle. Hergert took second in catch-a-calf contest at National Western in 1960.
Joshua Polson/ | The Greeley Tribune

Winners in 2015 Catch-A-Calf Live Evaluation at National Western

Champion and Reserve Champion Calf

1st - Joanna Harris of Laramie , Wyo. with Bix

2nd - Hannah Niccoli of Joes, Colo. with Quacky Doodle

Class 1 (995 - 1214 pounds)

1st - Kolton Dickinson of Fleming, Colo. with Rage

2nd - Terek Meyer of Fort Lupton, Colo. with Big Red

Class 2 (1231 - 1268 pounds)

1st - Allison Hill of Longmont, Colo. with Mudflap

2nd - Maggie Barnes of Longmont, Colo. with Nifty

Class 3 (1272 - 1417 pounds)

1st - Joanna Harris of Laramie , Wyo. with Bix

2nd - Hannah Niccoli of Joes, Colo. with Quacky Doodle

Class 4 (1430 - 1516 pounds)

1st - Grady Anson of Craig, Colo. with Snickers

2nd - Hailey Anderson of Laramie, Wyo. with Palmer

At age 14, Richard Hergert, in those days known as Dick, had already learned a few tricks about how to catch a good calf. The young 4-H student had spent the past year planning his strategy for the National Western Stock Show’s Catch It and Keep It Calf contest, now called Catch-A-Calf.

Currently in its 80th year, the Catch-A-Calf Contest is the longest running beef cattle management program operated by National Western and has awarded thousands of steers to 4-H students.

The pride taken in capturing a steer and carefully raising it over the following year is evidenced by Hergert’s nostalgia over his own prize calf.

He may have caught his steer 55 years ago, but his face still glows as he recalls that day in January 1960.

“I knew from 4-H and working with cattle that that’s what I wanted to do.

“I was so excited and pumped up. My mom and dad were in the audience, and I think that was one of the proudest days of his life because he loved the rodeo,” Hergert said, unable to hold back his tears as he recalled his father’s joy. “Afterward, he said, ‘son, I’m real proud of ya.’”

Before entering the arena that day, Hergert remembered his failed attempt at catching a steer in 1959.

Now a year older and wiser, he had carefully thought out his strategy to take home a calf this time around.

“I had confidence in times of going into a sporting event. I always had a winning attitude that if I tried my best, the result would turn out,” Hergert said, looking back on that day.

Rather than charge after the steers fresh out of the gate, Hergert knew to keep watch for the perfect moment.

“I waited until they came around the side, and I grabbed one and put my arm around him and grabbed my belt I had and hung on for dear life until he tired out,” Hergert said. “Then when I regained my feet, because he drug me for a few moments, then I put the halter on him and let him out to the finishing line.”

Hergert’s name would appear in the Greeley Tribune that week, alongside fellow winners Sammy and Charles Lammy, Jim and Jay Handle, Bill Peterson, Ken Zeiler, Bill Schild, Dennis Williams, Wayne Austin, Conald Shuman, Billy Schmidt, Larry Bagley, Danny Dunbar, Eldon Neujahr and Edwin Hall.

While all of the boys took home the same prize, a young steer, Hergert perhaps claimed an even greater trophy.

His sponsor over the coming year, as Hergert raised the Hereford to show at the following National Western, would be iconic cattleman and water developer W.D. Farr.

“I don’t know whether he drew my name or if I was assigned to him because we were both in Weld County. He never did say. I have fond memories of him being in the show ring when we exhibited our steers, and we were placed,” Hergert said.

Throughout the year, Hergert would log notes and write a monthly letter to Farr about his steer, keeping track of feed and equipment costs, weight gain, grooming and other details about the Hereford, deemed Philip.

“His name Philip describes him very well,” Hergert wrote in his project journal. “My father once knew a fellow by the name of Philip who ate and drank all the time, although it wasn’t always water. So by his suggestion, he was named Philip.”

And throughout the year, Philip would live up to his name’s reputation.

“Philip was always the first one up to the feeder and the last one to leave,” Hergert wrote in late May 1960.

By the end of the year, Philip had put on 905 pounds for a total of weight of 1,355. In his final project entry, Hergert would note, “I was very fortunate to receive such an animal like Philip, a very good gainer and a good example of the Hereford breed of cattle.”

The attention to detail in Hergert’s notes hinted at his future career as a livestock nutritionist.

“Throughout the year, I’ve tried to utilize all the feeding knowledge that my father and I possess to help put that extra gain that add to my profits,” he wrote.

Hergert’s work would pay off in the end, bringing the teen a total profit of $201.14 at the time of sale the following winter.

Hergert would also claim second place among the other contestants that returned to show their steers that year.

In a letter to Hergert, Farr would congratulate the young rancher for a job well done.

“Needless to say, I was very proud of you on Friday morning when your calf was placed in second place, out of 42 other contestants. You did a fine job with him. He showed wonderful care, and I hope you learned something about the cattle business from having handled the steer,” Farr wrote, in a letter dated Feb. 7, 1961. “I know with the background you have (being raised on the farm, the record of your parents and your brothers) you will be a fine successful farmer and livestock feeder in our area in the next few years to come.”

Hergert would go on to pursue a full career in the livestock industry.

He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in animal science from Colorado State University and a master’s degree in beef cattle nutrition from University of California, Davis.

For almost 30 years, he owned and operated his own consulting company, Hergert Nutritional Services, until his retirement in 2010.

It all started, however, with 4-H.

“I knew from 4-H and working with cattle that that’s what I wanted to do,” he said.

To students who caught a calf this year, he recommended they keep their animals on a good feeding program and apply good animal husbandry practices learned from family or teachers.

To students who did not catch a calf, he said, “Be positive and don’t give up if you don’t first succeed. Apply again the next year.”

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