Roggen, Colo., girl goes from fear to attachment through decade of raising cattle
June 1, 2016
After competing for 10 years, most 4-H kids don't cry when they sell their market animals at the county fair.
Or maybe, they're just good at hiding it.
Molly Cooksey, 18, of Roggen, Colo., knows the days are numbered before she'll present 2-year-old Abe at the Weld County Fair to — hopefully — be sold. But it will still be hard to see him go. In fact, Cooksey said he'll be the hardest of her animals to part with.
But Cooksey has a reason behind her attachment to the gold and white steer with the milk chocolate colored nose.
"When he was born, I was there," she said. "I helped my dad pull him out. He's been my favorite since he was born."
Abe was the calf of a breeding heifer she competed with before the birth.
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He is one of eight cattle Cooksey is prepping for the Weld Fair — three breeding heifers and five market steers. She starts her day at about 6:30 a.m. each day, wrangling the cattle into what was once a place for potato storage. She then preps them, cleaning and blowing out their hair, to get them fair-ready.
They stay inside for the remainder of the day until the sun starts hitting the west and the temperature cools. It helps with the cattle's presentation.
"You want to train their hair," she said.
Cooksey always showed cattle in 4-H, something her parents, Amy and Jeff, both did. But it took her a year or two to handle the cattle like she does today.
"I was always scared of cattle," Cooksey said. "I used to have my mom or dad close to me just in case."
But now Cooksey commands her cattle, regardless of the type of attitude they may show.
"At first they're a pain in the butt because they don't know you," Cooksey said with a chuckle.
And after time, the cattle and Cooksey become familiar — so familiar Cooksey learns which cattle need to lead and those she can wait to take out of the barn last.
She also knows when the battle is worth fighting.
When she tried to take a stubborn steer named Trump out of the cool and sheltered area, he resisted. Even with the tug and twist of the tail, he didn't want to go too far from his daytime digs. But he wasn't the only one who put up a fight.
At first, Abe was less reluctant than Trump, but eventually, he too wanted to go back inside and away from the sun. Cooksey was able to calm and keep the steer in the presentation position. But she also knows why he's reluctant.
"He's really lazy," Cooksey said as Abe belted out a moo. "Whenever he has to do anything he gets a little crabby."
Last year, Cooksey decided to add pigs to the 4-H mix, but it was short-lived. She decided her cattle were enough — plus between the cost and work, the pigs weren't worth it to her. Since this is the second-to-last season Cooksey can show, she wanted to focus on the animals she grew up alongside, or in cases like Abe, the ones she brought into this world.❖
Samantha Fox is a reporter and designer for The Fence Post. She will be following Weld County 4-H participants through their preparation and competition results at the 2016 Weld County Fair. Reach Samantha at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect with her at @FoxonaFarm on Twitter.