Yoakum youth shines through raising steers

Amber Aldaco By Amber Aldaco

Jan. 13, 2018 at 10:27 p.m.
Updated Jan. 14, 2018 at 6 a.m.

Kailee Knezek, 15, with her market steer, Flash. She has been raising steers for the stock show for eight years.

Kailee Knezek, 15, with her market steer, Flash. She has been raising steers for the stock show for eight years.   Amber Aldaco for The Victoria Advocate

YOAKUM - If you had told Kathy Knezek 10 years ago that her daughter, Kailee, would grow up to successfully show market steers, she probably wouldn't have believed you.

The 15-year-old Yoakum High School student has spent nearly a year preparing her market steer, Flash, for this year's Yoakum Project Show.

Kailee showed Flash on Saturday at the Yoakum Project Show.

But when she was 5, she was preparing to have a tumor removed from her brain.

"When it was discovered, the doctors told us that she wouldn't be here," Kathy Knezek said.

The tumor was successfully removed from her brain when she was 5, and it has had no effect on the teenager, Kathy Knezek said.

"We're blessed every day that she's here. It's a true blessing from God," Knezek said.

Kailee is a motivated, determined girl, she said. Kailee has been involved in stock shows since she was in third grade. The high school sophomore remembers her first time in the ring with a steer.

"I was really nervous," Kailee said with a laugh.

While her first show was nerve-wracking, big animals don't rattle Kailee. She grew up around cattle, she said, and several family members have shown steers as well. She's shown market steers for eight years.

"We don't have to beg her to wake up and feed her steer or beg her to go out to the barn. She takes on the responsibility of raising an animal herself," Kathy Knezek said.

Kailee wakes up at 6:30 a.m. every day before school to feed Flash. She also walks, brushes, washes and dries the 1,300-pound steer. Flash is one of 62 animal projects at the Yoakum Project Show this year.

"He eats about 20 pounds of food a day," Kailee said as she walked her steer with ease. "It's a mixture of corn, barley, oats and supplement."

Though Kailee is a motivated individual, she is challenged by balancing raising a steer with school. She is involved in cross-country, track and UIL math and is in the top 10 of her class.

The most difficult part about raising a steer is getting the animal to be halter-broken. The process takes about two weeks of getting the steer used to wearing a halter and becoming accustomed to the pulling and tugging for walking. It also takes some time to build trust with the steer, she said.

"It takes a lot of responsibility. Without that, you can't do this. It takes a lot of dedication, too, because you have to learn how to manage your time," Kailee said.

The nearly 10-year stock show veteran has received reserve grand champion four times and has always been fortunate enough for her steers to go on to sell. The money Kailee earns through the livestock show goes toward purchasing a steer for the next show and to her college fund. She plans to attend Texas A&M University to study biomedical science to become a large animal veterinarian.

For those who are just starting out in the stock show life, Kailee said patience goes a long way.

"It's about setting a goal and making a commitment and sticking with it," she said.


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