“It takes a village.” This seems like the best way to describe our operation. CK Cattle was established on July 18, 1997 when a “show jock” married a “sheep girl.” Much has changed since then, but one thing that hasn’t, is our passion for good livestock and the desire to surround ourselves with great people.
When we started this journey, it was predominantly a club calf and club lamb operation. As time evolved, we decided the purebred cattle better suited our goals. We started breeding Simmentals for the maternal side of our club calf project but liked them so well that they have remained the foundation of our operation.
As we added to our family, we also added breeds to our operation. Each girl has their breed of choice. It started as a way for them to not have to compete against one another but has grown into something much more for them….
I hold the Charolais breed very near and dear to my heart. It may sound ridiculous, but white cows would surely make the short list of things I could not dream of living without. My family’s experience with the breed dates back to before I was even born. My dad worked at the notorious Thomas Ranch in the early years of his relationship with mom, and well, the rest is history.
It was after Cally finished her 4-H career that I got to be on the end of a halter of a Charolais, but I can assure you it was worth the wait. The year was 2010 and Charolais Junior Nationals were in South Dakota. I will always remember the string of heifers that year, females that have went on to be cornerstones for operations across the country. Most importantly, I’ll never forget the people: Kendra Elder and myself duking it out in one of the most intense showmanship contests of my life, Cally Thomas and the rest of the Junior Board running a show, competing in the fitting contest against what would someday become some of my best friends in the breed, and Troy Thomas never leaving my side even though he had countless other juniors with cattle there. No words will EVER be able to accurately describe how blessed I am to have the Thomas family in my life. Not only was I given complete access to genetics of the breeds lead matriarch’s, but more importantly a family that will go to the earth’s end for myself and my family. To say the Charolais breed is special to me would be a vast understatement. I became hooked on the breed for many reasons, but that first Junior National did me in. My goals of becoming active in the junior program and having success in the show ring seemed farfetched, but with some luck and hard work 10 years later, I’m fortunate to say I’ve exceeded my 12-year-old self’s dreams. Though my time in the junior scene is closing, I’ve only scratched the surface on what I hope to do, not only for myself within the breed, but what I hope to help my sister’s accomplish in theirs as well.
My love for the Hereford breed began when I was just three years old. At the time, my dad was working as a field man for the American Hereford Association and my favorite thing to do was read the Hereford World. I would stare out the window every time we drove past our neighbor’s, who had a herd of over a thousand commercial Herefords. When I was old enough, it was no question what breed I would show. The beginning of my show career included Hereford steers and begging my dad to let me go to junior nationals. Every time I asked, I was told it was too far away and too hot where it was being held. It wasn’t until 2015, when I was 14 and had been to two other breed junior nationals (Simmental and Charolais) a couple times each, that I finally found my favorite of them all. Now, five years later, I can still remember that week in Grand Island like it was yesterday. The atmosphere of the whole week was like nothing I’d ever experienced. I was a new kid on the block but I didn’t feel like it even for a second. The people were so welcoming, not to mention all the fun that was had. The Sullivan Supply obstacle course, the three-on-three tournament, and tailgating are still some of my favorite memories to this day. It was, however, the awards ceremony, of all things, that had me hooked. Everybody drug their lawn chairs into the middle of the show ring, we honored the accomplishments of the exhibitors in the contests throughout the week, and, my favorite, listened to the junior board members’ retiring addresses. It was watching the board members hand off their jackets that made me realize that this was something I wanted to be a part of someday. Because of that first year’s impactful experience, I plan to run for the National Junior Hereford Association Junior Board. Junior Nationals is still my favorite week of the year because it’s my first chance to see all of my closest friends in one place since the year before. Hereford Junior Nationals has allowed me to make lifelong connections within the breed that I am forever grateful for.
The Simmental breed always interested me, but it was in 2014 when I decided that this was the breed for me. That year was the first junior national I attended. Even though I did not get to show that year, it was the people that made me want to go back. That year I participated in the novice program. We did many fun activities that included visiting Church Hill Downs and the Louisville Sluggers museum. The week of activities brought me many new friends that I am still friends with today. 2015 was when I finally started showing. I was the youngest, so Cagney and Chesney got first pick of the heifers that year. I got the leftovers and that was my first Simmental. After a few years of attending other breed junior nationals and Simmental regional shows, I finally got to show at my first Simmental junior national in 2018. A fun filled week with close friends was topped off by being named Champion Percentage Female. I spent my whole summer in the barn and achieving this accomplishment made me realize that hard work pays off. I have learned many lessons from showing cattle. I have learned leadership, teamwork, and to work hard for your dreams. I have big dreams that I want to achieve, and I must work hard to accomplish them.
It takes a Village. With each of the girls having their breed and passion for Jr. Nationals, it has created some challenges throughout the summers. 2014 was the first year that we tackled going to two Junior Nationals at once. This is where our village comes in. We sent Cagney with a great crew to Charolais Jr. Nationals while the rest of us headed to Louisville for Simmental Junior Nationals. Cagney flew into Louisville from Wichita, and once everyone was together again, we began setting up, and we watched a heifer we raised win Hereford Junior Nationals via livestream. Since that summer, we have attended at least 2 Junior Nationals every summer, and some years all 3! We have been blessed with some amazing people who are always willing to help us out. We are certainly a fan of technology, being able to watch the girls achieve some of their greatest accomplishments from another Junior National is awesome.
There is an unending list of family members, operations, and pieces of livestock that we salute our success to. One thing that we are confident in, is that our undevoted dedication and passion for what we do has brought us to where we are today. Village, Army, Crew, Friends, Family; whatever you want to call them we’ve got the best one! Thank you to The ShowTimes for asking us to share our story.