Since 2020, Rolling Hills Livestock, Haley’s supervised agricultural experience, has offered packaged beef and pork at farmers’ markets. However, boxed beef isn’t where it all started for Haley. Now, a Pilot Grove High School junior in central Missouri, Haley got her start in the cattle business with two heifers she bought from an old family friend.
“I’ve shown cattle since I could walk. But there was one year that a good friend of mine brought a Charolais down, and I decided that I really wanted to show that particular breed,” explained Haley. “Later, I learned from my parents that I had chosen the breed years before when one of my family’s Charolais calves had earned the title ‘Haley’s calf,’ because I was so fond of the little while calf.”
A fifth-generation FFA member, Haley’s family clearly has a long tradition in agriculture. “My mom’s family raises crops, and my dad’s side raises cattle. But, they just ran crossbreds until I decided to switch up their plans,” laughed Haley.
So, it was no surprise when the small herd of two heifers quickly grew into the 32-head breeding operation it is today.
“I’ve started raising show cattle for kids in the community, and I really like helping out others who may not have had the opportunity to show otherwise,” explained Haley.
This year, Haley raised two bulls — one out of one of her first heifers.
“I took him up to the Northwest Missouri State Fair, and he won second in the Charolais bull show,” Haley said. “I’m pretty proud of him.”
Calves will begin getting fed in October to prepare products for Haley’s customers. In May, they’ll get USDA inspected and processed.
“I have a lot of repeat customers who come back asking for more — some now are asking for quarters, halves, and whole beef,” Haley said. “And I’ve got a few restaurants that have asked to do that, too.”
While showing livestock may have an endpoint, raising and selling Charolais and beef products is something Haley hopes she’ll be able to do for years to come through Rolling Hills Livestock. After all, there’s not much better than a medium rare ribeye, according to Haley.
FFA has helped Haley to keep building on her skills, and her SEA projects
Despite being relatively shy before high school, Haley said that FFA really helped to bring her out of her shell and motivated her to build on her cattle project and try new things. As this year’s chapter president, Haley is also helping keep FFA forward at her high school.
“Yesterday, I took a few other members from my chapter to help bring agriculture into classrooms around our schools with Ag Ed on the Move,” said Haley. “But, I also have helped out other showmen over the years.”
This year, one of Haley’s show steers went on to be shown by a freshman FFA member.
“He took that calf everywhere he possibly could. I worked with them a lot on everything from the basics of feeding, watering, and hair care to showmanship skills,” she said. “He took his calf to state and beat some pretty good showmen up there. I was pretty proud.”
FFA brings about support from family, community, and advisor
In the background, through all of it, Haley said that her mom has been her biggest encourager. Meanwhile, the community and her FFA advisor have all been driving and supporting forces for her.
“Last year, I was interviewed for the Missouri Agribusiness Academy. It was pretty stressful, but even though I didn’t make it into the academy, I got to be one of the top 60 kids across the state to get interviewed to go,” she said. “It really taught me that if you don’t succeed the first time, it doesn’t mean you won’t succeed in the future.”
The community also helped support Haley in her FFA pursuits. When it came time to practice for the academy’s interviews, she recalls that there were at least ten interviews to help her practice before she went into her interview.
“I went through at least three major interviews, but I had so much help from many others in preparation for them,” said Haley. “They weren’t going to let me fail on my own; they were going to make sure that I was as prepared as I could be.”
As for her advisor, Gene Kuster? “Kuster would probably give me the shirt off his back if I asked him to. He’ll help me clean up after shows; he’ll stay around until midnight to help me deliver a calf,” Haley explained. “He’s always there to help.”
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