The Catch-a-Heifer Program
Catch-a-Heifer is a major recipient of the Mesa County Cattlemen’s Association’s support. There are those who are not familiar with this program. Many have watched with amusement the mad scramble that occurs during the National Western Stock Show or at our own Mesa County Fair when several young people are released into the arena with about half as many half-grown calves and proceed to try and “catch” one.
Across the U.S. there are a variety of programs meant to help young people who want to be in production agriculture as cattlemen. The Catch-a-Heifer program here in Mesa County is one such program. This 2 ? year program is open to all FFA and 4H participants ages 11 to 16. The process begins with an application and interview held during fair week. The MCCA board selects the top 10 applicants. These will be the ten who will be out there in the arena hoping to halter one of five calves and start their own cattle herd. Each year the program is composed of five first year kids and five second year kids. The calves caught during the “scramble” will be exchanged for weaned calves in the fall donated by area ranchers.
“Participants are looking at a 3 to 4 year commitment with the program.” said Alan Rossi. Alan with his wife Verla are the current adult leaders of the Mesa County Catch-a-heifer program. The next two years are spent raising the heifer, having her bred and showing her as a bred cow at the next year’s fair. The second year group will spend their time caring for the cow and her calf (also known as a pair) and then showing them at the next year’s fair.
A participant in this program has to have a good work ethic, a commitment to their animal and a desire to be a part of the group. When asked about the positive and negative aspects of the program, Alan Rossi admitted that it is not for every student in this age group. “The length of period involved and the commitment can be a deterrent at a time when students are involved in so many activities. For some of the kids this is their main project, otherwise they find themselves running in multiple directions.” The participants are also expected to attend at least 80% of regular group meetings and Mesa County Cattlemen’s meetings.
The rewards are both tangible and intangible. The participants get the first hand experience of raising the calf and learning from experts in the ag industry. The participants have the services of people like Vicki and Joe Russell, who provide them with AI services, and Jennifer and Adam Nobel, who graciously donate the semen for their heifers.
The brand inspection on the heifer remains the property of the group and MCCA until the participant has shown their pair at fair, then they take possession. In addition the group brings in speakers on diverse topics related to the ag industry, they help pay for signage at the fair, for buckles and then there are the scholarships. While there is no maximum or minimum on the land the participants live on, “We try to encourage the participation of kids whose families live on smaller acreage,” said Alan Rossi. The participants also get to know the wonderful ranchers and the families who donate the calves.
In 2005 the participants were: Chasity Drury, Producer – Jim &Lauri Platz, Sponsor – Irrigation Systems; Nikki Hutchings, Producer – Gaylen &Kolene Homedew, Sponsor – Delta Implement; Andrew Linn, Producer – Unaweep Hereford Ranches, Sponsor – Curt Rahm (Farm Bureau insurance);
Taylor Thorshov, Producer – Dwain McClelland, Sponsor McClelland Homes Inc.; Miranda Wilson, Producer John Folkstad, Sponsor – Judy Burford; Myta Adams, Producer Kristen Himes, Sponsor – Fruita Coop;
Rory Cassidy, Producer – Doug Hall, Sponsor – Murdochs; Dani Massey, Producer – Jinx Everett, Sponsor – Western Implement; Jaimie Stephens, Producer – Sierra Burbridge, Sponsor – Rod Smith Construction/Town &Country Finance; Hanna Talbott, Producer – Joe Russell, Sponsor – Alred Giles and Sons.
Both producers Kristen Himes and Sierra Burbridge are past participants in the Catch-a-Heifer program and are now donating back to the program. Kristen Himes donated her calf in memory of her producer Ed Gunderson. Sierra Burbridge is now in the military serving our country in Iraq.
If the Mesa County Catch-a-Heifer program seems like one you would like to participate in, please contact an FFA or 4H member or call Alan or Verla Rossi at 970-858-3212.
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