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Jan. 12 was a great day in Denver for Sheridan Chaney and her Red Angus steer, Milo, at the National Western Stock Show.

The Elwood, Nebraska 16-year-old was named the Catch-a-Calf grand champion.

The Catch-a-Calf program is the longest consecutive running youth development program held at the National Western Stock Show. It started in 1935 when 10 boys caught 10 sponsored calves. The program quickly caught on and grew to 52 calves by 1942. Soon after World War II, the program settled at 40 calves per year, which is where it continues today.

Chaney’s journey to the contest in Denver began in January 2019 when she, along with 39 other 4-H youth from Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado and Kansas caught calves during four different stock show rodeos. Once the kids catch a calf, they are considered Catch-a-Calf winners and return to Denver in May to pick up their project calf to raise for eight and a half months.

Chaney said she enjoyed all aspects of the CAC program.

“I had the opportunity to make connections with people who share the same passion for the beef industry as I do,” she said.

One of those connections was with her sponsor, John Brown of Oberlin, Kansas. He traveled to six of Sheridan’s cattle shows throughout the summer to support her efforts.

Other top awards going to Nebraska youth included the top Catch-a-Calf herdsman award voted on by her peers presented to Katelyn Perhrson of Laurel, Nebraska. In the sponsor relations category, Chaney was second, her sister Rianna Chaney was seventh and Mason Roberts of Sutherland was ninth.

Under “record book,” which helped youth understand economics, nutrition and proper health care and feeding their steer, Pehrson was second, Kirsten Hurst-Collins of Ogallala was sixth, Emily Miller of Sidney was seventh, Mason Roberts was ninth, and Sheridan Chaney was 10th.

For the interview and speech division Sheridan Chaney was third, Rianna Chaney was sixth, and Cody Maricle was seventh. In the overall beef production phase, which combines scores for industry index, sponsor relations, and record book, first place and a belt buckle went to Sheridan Chaney. Fourth place was Rianna Chaney, fifth place went to Emily Carpenter of Scottsbluff, Mason Roberts was sixth and Emily Miller was 12th.

The Red Angus steers were all provided by Wagonhound Land and Livestock in Wyoming. The steers are then sponsored by individuals, families, businesses and civic organizations. Participants must write a letter to their sponsors each month, informing them of the progress they are making with their steer, as well as general information about their lives. They must also maintain a record book and submit monthly progress reports that inform them of their expenses and any issues they are having with their steers.

Catch-a-calf co-superintendents Molly Waneka Keil and Amy Kelley said the program is an opportunity to teach life skills.

“I describe it as the best practical beef cattle management program that 4-H youth can participate in,” Kelley said. “It teaches them so much about not just the beef industry, but life itself.”

She believes the three key benefits of the CAC program are learning responsibility, developing relationships and gaining recordkeeping knowledge.

Keil reiterated the many benefits the program has for kids.

“For some kids, this is their first time ever raising and exhibiting a large animal,” she said. “For others, they travel all around the region showing livestock and this is their normal livelihood. However, one thing that we strongly encourage in this program is the creation of relationships that we hope long outlast their time in the program.”

Youth also learned goal-setting, overcoming obstacles, analyzing financials, communications, feed calculations and public speaking.

The National Western Stock Show Junior Auction was held Jan. 24. Chaney’s grand champion steer sold for $35,000 to Sue Anschutz-Rodgers of Anschutz Family Foundation of Denver, a long-time supporter of the Catch-a-Calf program. Shane Dawson of Lander, Wyoming sold her reserve champion steer for $30,000 to a group of long-time supporters calling themselves Roundup Rider Friends of Catch-A-Calf, headed by Pat Shaw of Denver.

The kids keep 20% of their auction money, and 30% is divided between all 38 other Catch-a-Calf participants. The remaining half goes back to the program.

Forty new CAC participants caught calves the second weekend of the stock show.

Rebecca Long Chaney can be reached at editorial@midwestmessenger.com.

Rebecca Chaney is a freelancer writer for the Midwest Messenger, based in south-central Nebraska. Reach her at editorial@midwestmessenger.com.