Show Ring Rookie to National Western Stock Show Fed Beef Champion

Angelina Downing Displaying Her Grand Champion Banner

Angelina Downing Displaying Her Grand Champion Banner


By Lacey Mann, CSU 4-H Extension Agent, Bent & Prowers Counties

First year 4-H members typically enroll in one or two projects and focus their efforts on the county level with the hope of expanding to the state or national stage in the future. Angelina Rose Downing enrolled in her first year, 2013-2014, with an eye on the local and national stages. Within the first three months of becoming a 4-H member she had signed up for three projects, attended a regional camp, and had signed up to participate in the National Western Stock Show (NWSS) annual Catch a Calf Contest (CAC).

The NWSS CAC program is open to 4-H members from Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, and Wyoming. Applicants apply to the program and if selected, travel to NWSS and attempt to catch a calf, halter it, and then lead it back to the starting line. This sounds easy enough, right? The kicker is that you are in the Coliseum during a Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association (PRCA) rodeo performance in front of thousands of rodeo fans, there are more kids than calves let loose in the arena, and the calves weigh over 250 pounds and are not halter broken. It is a true example of a calf scramble and a race to the finish. Downing stepped up the plate during her matinee slotted time with a determined look and fought to the finish, however, she was unable to halter a calf. That night she and her family sat down and reviewed strategy and the next day she was the first one to catch a calf.

All smiles on the national stage with her sponsor representative, Tom McKibbon, of the Colorado Elks Association.

All smiles on the national stage with her sponsor representative, Tom McKibbon, of the Colorado Elks Association.

That May the Downing family traveled back to the NWSS grounds and met the other participants, their sponsors, and walked through program expectations. Sponsors are a key support system during the CAC program as they provide the financial assistance for the purchase of the calves. Exhibitors send monthly reports to their sponsors detailing their calf, school, 4-H, and life activities with the intent of building a lifetime relationship. Downing was sponsored by the Colorado Elks Association and her main contact was Tom McKibbon. The Elks have been a longstanding CAC supporter and sponsored Theresa and Trevor Butler in 2013.

From left to right, Sam Rink, Tank, Angelina Downing, Theresa Butler, and Joel Souders. Rink, Butler, and Souders gave tips and guidance throughout the project.

From left to right, Sam Rink, Tank, Angelina Downing, Theresa Butler, and Joel Souders. Rink, Butler, and Souders gave tips and guidance throughout the project.

Once the sponsor breakfast was over the Downing family loaded their steer in the trailer and made the three hour drive home. Angelina quickly observed this Charolais steer was acting quite cantankerous and his name was born, Tank. It took quite a few weeks and persistent patience by all family members before Tank finally settled into his new surroundings. Angelina was out in the pen early each morning before school and late into the evenings spending time with Tank so they could get used to one another.

Shortly after Downing came home the Butler family stepped into the pen to offer assistance. Doug and his children, Theresa and Trevor, had been showing market steers and breeding heifers for the past few years and knew the value of having a mentorship in place. Doug would call Alicia, Angelina’s mother, and visit with her about suggested equipment and clinics and Theresa would talk to Angelina at Prowers County 4-H Council meetings where Butler was the president and Downing a club representative. The Butler family convinced the Downings to participate in the WW Feed’s annual Steer-Aid Clinic in June. At the clinic market beef exhibitors would have an entire day learning how to feed, fit, and show their animals.

The second day consisted of showmanship and market classes.    Following the clinic, Downing had a new sense of confidence, focus, and determination. She began working with Tank and began utilizing tips she learned at the clinic, from fellow Prowers County market beef exhibitors and she wanted to show Tank at the Sand and Sage Round-Up and at the Holly Gateway Fair. To better prepare herself she invited Theresa, Sam Rink, and Joel Souders out to the pen to offer further handling advice.

“They all helped me learn a lot about showing and fitting. Theresa kept coming back and she has become like a big sister to me,” Downing said. All three older 4-H members came back over the next couple of months to offer equipment, advice, and just to spend time out in the pen working together to get Tank ready.

“I wanted to help her as much as possible because I did not have someone to look up to when I went through the CAC program. I wanted her to know where to go, when to be where, and what to do. Showing cattle grows and develops character, it is a lot of work, but the reward of working with the steer is worth all the time and energy,” Butler said. She also said that Prowers County market beef numbers are low and it is important to generate sustained enthusiasm and participation with younger members.

August came quickly and Downing was putting finishing touches on her woodworking, photography, and market goat projects before the Sand and Sage Round-Up. She wanted to gain some market beef show ring experience too. It was a frenzied week balancing the demands of feeding, washing, clipping, interviewing, working concession stand, but she successfully navigated the week and Tank experienced the show barn and ring. Butler said she could see Downing’s game face changed once she had the fair experience under her belt.

“I saw her entire ambition change, her excitement level increased, and she was open to learn even more about feeding, fitting, clipping, and showing,” Butler said.

Downing hauled Tank to the Holly Gateway Fair in late September to get one more show before she hit the national ring in January. Alicia Downing, Angelina’s mom, works for the Prowers County Extension office and was amazed to see how far her daughter had come from the beginning.

“This has been such a learning experience, she loves it, she wants to do everything, and we just have to try to keep up with her,” Alicia said. They had a family strategy to make sure all the bases were covered. Mike, Angelina’s grandfather, and Rob, her step-father, helped provide the heavy lifting and assistance with feeding. Hay came from Mike’s farm ground, and feed was purchased from Colorado Mills. Grandmother, Berta, and mom, Alicia, would help take rotations feeding when Angelina was at 4-H camp over the summer. The entire family came together to be ringside cheerleaders.

Before they could blink the family was making the trek north to Denver for the 2015 CAC show. Angelina worked diligently to keep an updated record book which would be judged by a CAC committee. She also prepared a speech for the interview committee. All of these components would be scored to help compile an overall grand and reserve champion.

“I was nervous to give my speech, but I worked with Theresa and was confident when I walked into the interview room. I could even talk about beef by-products because I had learned so much,” Angelina said.

The day of the show the Downing family filled up one section of the NWSS stadium arena to support their girl and Tank. Downing cruised through showmanship placing fifth in her age category and then placing third in her market class. Following the show’s conclusion exhibitors and families gathered to hear record keeping, interview, and sponsor relations placings. Downing successfully placed 13th in record keeping.

The Downings loaded their equipment, said goodbye to Tank, their new friends, and came home ready to jump right back into 4-H mode with camps, club work, council activities, and her new market beef project. However, the story did not end there; in March the carcass phase of the contest results were announced. Downing had logged hours and miles working with Tank to put him in market ready shape, she calculated his daily feed ration, and monitored his health to ensure he was market ready. She was focused on producing a finished product that met industry standards, was humanely treated, and produced a high quality carcass to be graded.

Downing won the carcass contest beating out 26 exhibitors from Colorado and Wyoming. She credits winning the best fed contest by feeding her family hay and Colorado Mills feed. After long barn hours and building lifetime relationships, she was able to top a national contest. “I am excited for this next year; I have my new steer, Archie, tagged in for the Sand and Sage Round-Up,” Downing said.

Angelina getting ready to show

Angelina getting ready to show


Downing applied 4-H life skills including record keeping, public speaking, and citizenship to help her accomplish the goals she set at the beginning of the year. She completed her three 4-H projects, caught a calf, raised, fed, worked, and showed him at NWSS. Going into her second 4-H year she has been elected reporter of the Prowers County 4-H Council, is a club officer, has attended three 4-H camps, and will have three projects for fair. Her first year set the bar high, but she is off to a running start and is not looking back.

If your child is interested in joining 4-H or you would like further information on the 4-H program, please contact your local CSU Extension Office; Baca County 719-523-6971, Bent County 719-456-0764, Cheyenne County 719-767-5716, Crowley County 719-267-5243, Kiowa County 719-438-5321, Otero County 719-254-7608, Prowers County 719-336-7734. 4-H is a cooperative effort between CSU Extension and the County.

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