Emily the champ
Jan. 17, 2009 at 11:01 p.m.
Updated Jan. 16, 2009 at 7:17 p.m.
YOAKUM - Every week, Emily June Kelley spends about 14 hours washing her steers, mixing their feed and cleaning out their stalls.
"They don't like sleeping in nasty stalls," the 12-year-old from Yoakum observed.
Kelley's hard work paid off. She and her steer, Oreo, took home the grand prize for market steers at the Yoakum Project Show.
The event was held on Friday and Saturday at the Yoakum Rodeo Arena.
Oreo caught the attention of show judge Jeff Prokop, who looks at a combination of muscle, finish, balance and structure when evaluating steer
"From a show's perspective, he was very eye-appealing," Prokop said. "He combined muscle and finish to the highest degree."
The victory was not the first for Kelley. She has raised steers for the past five years and won several honors during that time. In October, she was named champion at the State Fair of Texas in Dallas for a steer that was aptly called Champ.
"Before we ever saw him, someone described him and we thought maybe we'll name him Champ," she recalled.
Champ sold for $95,000 - about a third of which Kelley got for her college education. When the seventh-grader graduates from high school, she wants to go onto Texas A & M University and study a field related to agriculture.
She plans to raise steer until she "can't raise them anymore," she said.
The experience appeals to her because it is a challenge to control and care for such large animals.
"There's that thought in the back of your mind that you accomplished something really great," she said.
Humans need to approach steer with confidence and strength or the animals won't show them any respect, she added.
"Sometimes, they can get out of hand," she said. "They know they can just drag you if they want to."
Kelley's parents, Tom and Jennifer, helped teach her how to work with steer. They have also spent many years raising the animals.
In early February, Kelley will again appear in a livestock show. She will attend a livestock show in Fort Worth with another steer - DJ.