Miller siblings show calves, build cowherdWritten by Christy Hemken
P.D., 12, who started showing cattle eight years ago with feeder calves at the Wyoming State Fair, says, “Our parents have been in the industry for a while, and we’ve raised Charolais and Maine Anjou cattle, so we decided to start showing.”
When he was old enough P.D. moved on to showing in 4-H as his younger brother Skyler, 11, has also done. Paige, at 8, will soon show in 4-H and junior shows.
“In junior shows you can be too old, but you can also be too young,” says Christine, noting kids have to be 4-H age to show in junior classes, but Paige can show in open classes until she’s old enough.
The Miller kids show cattle year-round, from the North American International Livestock Exposition in Louisville, Ky. in the fall to prospect shows in the spring and weekend shows throughout Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska in the summer.
Of showing during the school year, Skyler says, “The school will give us excused absences, and we have a period of time to make up the work.”
“As long as we’re getting our work done, and getting good grades, they’re pretty lenient,” adds P.D.
Christine estimates the kids miss from 20 to 25 school days each year.
Of the livestock care, P.D. says every day after school they go down to work with their cattle, getting a few washed and rinsed. “On the weekends when we’re home we’ll go down and do chores and work with them longer,” he says. “It takes up a lot of our free time.”
So far Paul and Christine have made production decisions, but P.D. says he’s starting to lend a hand.
Of showing nationally, P.D. says he likes to travel to new places, meeting new people in the industry. Paige says she also likes to meet people that have been in the industry a long time.
“The hardest part of showing is being gone so much, and making up lots of school work,” she says.
“I think preparing the cattle for shows is a challenging part,” adds Skyler.
“I agree on the labor part,” says P.D. “And I think finding the ones you want to show is hard. That, and getting them home.”
“People say we’re teaching our kids about livestock, and the industry, but we’re not just showing cattle,” says Christine. “It’s a way to raise kids with responsibility, and it keeps them out of trouble because it does take so much labor. In the summer they don’t have a lot of free time, and we know where they’re at and what they’re up to.”
Because it does take so much time, Christine recognizes the kids will have to make choices between showing cattle and other activities like sports.
“But they’ve learned a lot already, and they know a lot about different parts of the country, and showing makes for well-rounded kids,” she continues. “They also come to understand the business end of things, and P.D. knows our cows as well as we do. If we’re out there with the herd and he says something about one of them, he’s most likely right.”
The Millers sold show cattle this year to Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, California, Texas, Oklahoma and Florida, among others, and they make it a policy to sell all their calves, then buy back those they want to show.
“I started showing as soon as I could, and before that I was out in the barns and excited about showing. I was excited when I turned 8 to go to the national shows, and to get a heifer and start my cowherd,” says P.D.
Now the three siblings share a cowherd, which is composed of around a dozen cows. “We add to it every year, and buy bred cows we think would help our cowherd,” says P.D. “Our parents provide the feed and the land, but we buy the cows and pay for things like breeding and C-sections.”
Christine adds the kids get a pretty good deal on their cowherd. “It’s helping them build equity in those cows, and building a college fund,” she says, but adds, “The herd is getting larger, so we may have to rethink the arrangement.”
For now, P.D. says their plan is to keep going to shows, and he says they’ve recently added show pigs to their barn. “They’re as fun as showing cattle, but cattle are still our life and that’s what we revolve around,” he adds. “It’s great being in the cattle business. It’s a lot of fun, but also a lot of work.”