FAMILY FRIEND — NRHEG 9th-grader Amy Beckstrom was awarded one of 11 heifers at this year’s Minnesota Youth Beef Experience Program. (Star Eagle photo by Rachel Rietsema)

NRHEG student awarded heifer at St. Paul Beef Expo


Staff Writer

Every Monday through Friday, Amy Beckstrand’s alarm clock rears its startling alert at 5 a.m.

And although not one human is stirring in the house, somehow Beckstrand effortlessly lifts her eyelids and is already mentally prepared for the day ahead. Quickly, she changes clothes, grabs a pair of work boots and heads outside to the adjacent building of yesteryear.

Once inside the rustic barn, this ninth-grade NRHEG student grabs the necessary sustenance for Maci, her very own heifer she won at last October’s St. Paul Beef Expo.

“There were a total of 11 winners in this year’s Minnesota Youth Beef Experience Program,” Beckstrand said. “I acquired Maci on behalf of the Shorthorn Association. They started this program for kids to have the chance to be involved in the beef industry.”

Her mother Maryjo added, “The program has been around since 2004, and she’s the first one we’re aware of in Waseca County who has won this. I just think it’s a terrific accomplishment.”

This auspicious occasion didn’t arise without a wee bit of effort though. Two weeks prior, she completed an application process largely comprised of an essay portion. 

“I explained why I felt I should be awarded the heifer,” Beckstrand said. “I gave two reasons. First of all, we can’t really afford to buy heifers. Then, I was hoping to win the heifer so I could mentor younger kids and help them be more involved in the beef industry too.”

Beckstrand continued, “This was the second time I applied. I only received the good news a week before the expo, so I was really excited.”

As one of the 100 Minnesota applicants aged 12-16, she also had to provide two reference letters to accompany the application. She inquired of her 4-H program coordinator Amy Nelson and longtime neighbor Brenda Gerdts to help out with fulfilling this portion.

“I also had a say in the breed,” Beckstrand said “My first choice was a commercial heifer, and my second choice was short horn.”

Awarded a short horn purebred, she couldn’t be more grateful and excited. Typically, heifers at Maci’s age (1 year) cost anywhere between $1,400-40,000.

“They are really expensive,” Beckstrand said. “She is worth about $1600.”

In addition to Maci, she also received 500 pounds of feed and two straws of semen free of charge. The two straws she hopes will produce a calf next winter, when Maci is of calf-bearing age.

“Maci was born January 12,” Beckstrand said. “We’ll breed her in the spring.”

The showering of all gifts couldn’t be more awesome. But just because Maci lives on the Beckstrand farm, doesn’t translate into permanent ownership.

“I have to write four quarterly reports of Maci’s progress throughout the year and keep feed and vet records,” Beckstrand said. “I send those to the Beef Expo program, the Short Horn Association and the family who gave her to me.”

“If I do the correct caretaking, I’ll get to do whatever I want with her,” Beckstrand added. “The Beef Expo program also decides next October who kept the best records out of everyone and awards them with a scholarship.”

Maryjo added, “She’s a very humble girl, but she has worked hard and deserves it. She’s a very humble girl. We’re very happy for her, as she has worked very hard daily to accomplish this goal.”

Beckstrand is also required to create a scrapbook that highlights Maci’s life on the farm. It’s just for the fun of it, she says.

“If I walk up in the pen, she approaches me and lets me pet her,” Beckstrand said. “You know how people spend time with their dogs or cats; well, our seven cows are pretty much like pets.”

Apparently, hard work in and out of the barns literally can pay off. But, she and her siblings aren’t in it solely for the money. They just have a yearning to show animals.

“We know that if we work hard, then we will do better at the shows,” Beckstrand said. “Actually all the cows are ours, not our parents'. They’re our sole responsibility.”

Even so, this seasoned 4-Her and FFA newbie deeply enjoys this level of accountability. It’s more than her pleasure to corral Maci from the pasture for feeding times. Then, once spring is in the air, she and Maci will get to spend even more stall time together for the “fitting” process.

“In the summer, we’ll get up at 6 and spend about an hour rinsing them and blowing them off with a cow blower to stimulate hair growth. Then once school is out, we’ll do that morning and night.”

Maryjo further explained, “When you fit a cow, you blow them and then put adhesives in to make them look their best. By doing this, their best features are shown and the not so good areas are covered up.”

It may be time consuming, but all her efforts are done in the name of fun. This case of fun however, requires much responsibility.

“It’s not like you can take a break,” Beckstrand said. “Maci and all our other beef cattle have to be fed. You just have to do it.”