For Kaitlyn Broughton, 17, showing her family’s Shorthorn cattle is an important part of her summer. Growing up on the 500 acres of Broughton Cattle Company in Silver Springs, NY, Kaitlyn has handled the breed all her life under the guidance of her parents Christie VanValkenburg and Merritt Broughton.
Kaitlyn brought a cow/calf pair, junior yearling heifer and market steer to the Ontario County Fair in Canandaigua, NY.
“We did really well,” she said. “My market steer was champion for the open show at Ontario County Fair and Supreme Champion cow/calf pair for Cash Female Showdown.”
She has been showing since she was six or seven years old. “I enjoy the people and the atmosphere,” she said. “The industry is great. I’ve always been an animal lover … It really took off when my mom introduced me to the show cattle side of things. I got the bug.”
Her youngest brother, Ethan, 11, won a few classes with his calf.
The family’s herd of 25 Shorthorn is only one of their farm endeavors. Their main revenue stream is raising 1,000 head of replacement heifers for local dairy farmers. They also have 3,500 taps for maple syrup, board animals and Merritt sells crop seed for Hubner and Seedway.
“We used to be big into custom harvesting for other farmers but have scaled that back,” Kaitlyn said.
They raise feed for their own animals, including corn and hay, on their own land and 300 rental acres.
Kaitlyn learned about showing from her mother and father and a few family friends who mentored her. Before she was born, her family raised Limousin cattle, but switched to Shorthorns for their calm nature.
“The Limousin breed tends to be spooky,” Kaitlyn said. “My parents have always admired the Shorthorns. They’re fairly docile and easygoing. They decided for my safety that we would try the Shorthorns. We bought our first and got hooked. The cool part about them, unlike some other solid breeds, they range from red and white to strawberry brown to reddish brown. The possibilities are endless. It’s like Christmas morning when the calf is born. You never know what it will be.”
She described her brothers Evan, 15, and Braden, 13, as “more tractor boys,” whereas she enjoys animal care more, especially showing. Kaitlyn said what she learned most from the fair was that “it’s about the people. No matter how good or how bad you do at a show, it’s the people and spending time with them. You can’t take that for granted.”
They typically exhibit at about 10 shows annually, beginning in the second week of April and wrapping up the season with the Royal Agricultural Fair in Toronto. She has shown as far south as Jackson, MS.
She advised people new to showing to start with animal selection. “Make sure if you’re really going to be into showing an animal competitively that it has good genetics and the animal itself is good enough to compete,” she said.
After choosing the right animal, much of showing success relies on care and nutrition. “That’s normally done with feeding supplements to help them add more muscle or more fill or depth of body,” she said. “When it comes to grooming, you’re trying to make them look flawless. Grooming the hair on beef cattle helps to a point, but it comes down to the animal and the feed.”
She bathes and clips her animals a few days before the show. The day of the show, she may fluff the leg hair and spray the tail and head hair. “My show cattle probably have nicer hair than I do,” she joked.
Handling also matters, so Kaitlyn breaks them to halter and practices leading them so they will remain calm in the ring. “I see it as if you really put your mind to it, you can do anything,” she said. “The possibilities are endless.”
This autumn, Kaitlyn plans to attend Oklahoma State University to major in agricultural communications. “I won’t be able to see my ‘show family’ that much anymore because I’ll be 12,000 miles from home and I’ll have to miss out on some shows,” she said.
After graduation, she hopes to return home and work at an agricultural marketing service job. “I would love to still stay connected to the stock show industry, whether that is graphic design, photography or marketing services for the stockmen,” she said. “I would also love to have a small herd of beef cattle with elite genetics I can push to sell to local 4-H use as project animals and help them.”
by Deborah Jeanne Sergeant