LARAMIE, Wyo. — After over a year of recording her expenses, writing letters to her sponsor and grooming him, Kara Reynolds and her calf, Bodie, were able to win grand champion as part of the Catch a Calf program with the National Western Stock Show late last month.
Last weekend at the Junior Livestock Sale at the stock show, she sold Bodie for around $37,000.
“I was really excited,” Reynolds, a Laramie High School junior and 4-H member, said. “I wasn’t really expecting that much (money.)”
After applying for the Catch a Calf program in December 2017 and getting approved, Reynolds had to compete against other applicants the following month to physically catch her calf — without a rope. She said what made it even harder was the lack of sleep she had the night before due to getting home late from a track meet.
“It was really scary because they walked us out into the ring and they said, ‘3, 2, 1, Go!’” Reynolds said. “There was no waiting time. … I was really tired, but luckily I just sprinted out there and I grabbed the calf’s tail and I didn’t let go.”
She added she could hear her mom screaming with encouragement while she hung on until the calf could be harnessed.
Throughout the following year as she was raising Bodie, Reynolds said she had a lot of support from her family, people in the event and especially her sponsors, Mark and Carolyn Neely from Golden, Colo. The sponsor is one of the competitor’s biggest supporters, Reynolds explained, because they pay for the calf.
“Every month you write a letter to your sponsor, so they’re updated with what you’re doing,” Reynolds said. “And every month you do a progress form of all the expenses, and that adds on to your record book,” Reynolds said.
The sponsor and record book updates include all the work feeding and caring for the calf, Reynolds said. She added keeping the calf at the correct weight is crucial — not too heavy and not too thin — as well as the overall presentation.
“Every day after school I would come home and spend about three hours with him,” Reynolds said. “I would try to wash him and blow him every day that I could. It was snowing a couple times that I was washing him.”
Reynolds said she took Bodie to other stock shows — including the Albany County Fair and the Northern International Livestock Expo in Montana — to help him get used to the stock show atmosphere.
Her dedication paid off, as she placed highly enough in the live placing categories — including an interview and record book accuracy — to win the grand champion. She said she was six points ahead of the reserve champion, and judging can be strict.
“I missed one little thing in my record book, and it dropped me to sixth place in the record book portion,” Reynolds said.
Although Bodie sold for $37,000, she said she only keeps about 20 percent of the money, with the rest divvied up between the other Catch a Calf participants.
Reynolds said she joined the program after seeing the support her sister received when she caught a calf last year.
“I just really connected with everybody who helped her with it and her sponsor, so I decided to try it myself this year,” Reynolds said. “Everybody helped me and encouraged me since they already knew me from the year before.”
Students can only compete in Catch a Calf once, but Reynolds said she plans on continuing to show calves since she has three others at home.
“I showed one of my calves, and we got third in our class,” Reynolds said. “I plan to take him back to Denver next year to take him as a fat steer for the show down there.”