Student shares tactics of raising steer for livestock show (w/video)
YOAKUM - Kailee Knezek, 11, of Yoakum, knelt next to Bullseye, her 1,090-pound Simmental steer, and scratched his head. The black steer, with a white face, feet and tail, had lain down in his stall before the auction at the annual Yoakum FFA and 4-H Livestock Show.
"I like the kids and the competitiveness," Kailee said. "It makes me want to keep going and compete better."
Kailee is a member of the Lone Star 4-H Club, and this was her fourth year to raise a steer for the show.
She bought Bullseye from her uncle, Brian Knezek, a rancher in partnership with her father, Robert Knezek. The Knezeks raise Simmental and Simbrah cattle.
"He was born in December," Kailee said. "And I picked him because he was a big-bodied steer with a lot of bone."
Kailee's first step in the long process of preparing Bullseye was to get to know him.
"He liked my family a lot, but he went nuts around other people," she said. "He got better after a while."
Kailee fattened him up with Fitter's Edge feed and put muscle on him with Finishing Touch feed. Both are an acquired taste, she said.
The sixth-grader spent at least two hours each day at the barn brushing, feeding, walking and talking to Bullseye.
The biggest challenge was getting him halter-broken," Kailee said. "It took a week to get the halter on and two weeks to get him walking in it."
The most successful tactic to get him moving was to stand behind him and twist his tail, she said. Bullseye never kicked her.
"He's more stubborn than some of the others I've raised," she said.
Kailee held Bullseye's halter and walked him through the pasture. Eventually, she walked him around the empty rodeo arena to get him accustomed to it.
At the show, she walked him in a clockwise circle in front of the judges. She set him up, which means his two front feet were even while his back right foot was slightly in front of his back left.
"He was a little fidgety, but he got there," she said.
Kailee has always loved animals and wants to earn her living one day as a large animal veterinarian. She hopes to study at her father's alma mater, Texas A&M University.
"This teaches Kailee to have a good work ethic, and it teaches her responsibility," said Robert Knezek, her father. "We support her in the process by getting her to and from the barn every day and by helping her get started with the processes."
Although Bullseye did not win a prize, Kailee is no stranger to winning. Her steer won reserve grand champion last year.
The money Kailee earns at auction is spent on the next year's steer. The remainder is put away in a college fund.
Kailee looks forward to competing again - after a nice break.
"I'm going to celebrate the end of this project by not going to the barn every day," she said.