Kids Showcase their Livestock at Fair and Rodeo in Casper   

Raising, buying and selling livestock give youth an enduring lesson

The livestock exhibit at the Central Wyoming Fair and Rodeo displays a wide variety of animals, including cows, chickens, ducks, lambs and alpacas. (Wyoming Truth photos by Shen Wu Tan)

By Shen Wu Tan

Special to the Wyoming Truth

CASPER, Wyo. – Reese Gearheart is only 12 years old, but he’s already raising and selling livestock as a way to earn money and invest in his future.  

The young Casper resident and 4-H member showcased his two Hampshire cross lambs, Ashton and Delilah, at the livestock exhibit at the Central Wyoming Fair and Rodeo this week. He’s raised the lambs since March, feeding them and cleaning their pens. On Saturday, he plans to sell them to the highest bidder at an auction. 

Reese Gearhart removes a mask from one of his lambs at the livestock exhibit at the Central Wyoming Fair and Rodeo. (Wyoming Truth photo by Shen Wu Tan)

“I want to get enough money to start off my life when I grow up,” Reese said. “Get me started by having enough money to buy a house [and] have college money.”  

The livestock exhibits at the Central Wyoming Fair and Rodeo, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary, also featured rows of alpacas, cows, chickens, turkeys and ducks, with some contestants’ displays strewn with ribbons.  

For the Gearhearts, participating in the livestock competition is an annual family tradition. Mollie, Reese’s 16-year-old sister, and James, his 14-year-old brother, also showcased their lambs and hogs this week. The siblings raised their animals on their grandparents’ land near the airport in Casper.    

Megan Kennedy, the Gearheart children’s mother, said raising livestock has taught them compassion and that they must work with the animals if they want the animals to work with them. She added they also have learned  valuable life skills, such as money management, hard work and discipline.  

“The family that shows together grows together,” Kennedy said while standing next to Reese near the alpacas’ pen. “It’s not just a kid thing. . .. It’s a team effort. We all have to work together for the betterment of the animals. Like I said before, it’s really important for these kids to know what it takes from birth to slaughter and what kind of product they’re going to be producing. I think it gives them a little bit more respect for the animals themselves and for what farmers and ranchers go through.”  

At the opposite end of the dirt-floored facility, 17-year-old Nichole Worthing and her 15-year-old sister Isabell were tending to much larger livestock: their four Black Angus cows.  

“Each cow has their own personality,” Nichole said, adding the cows act like dogs and follow their caretakers around.  

Isabell Worthing walks her cow, Benjamin, outside the livestock exhibit building at the Casper fair.  (Wyoming Truth photo by Shen Wu Tan)

The two sisters acquired their cows – Rico, Rango, Benjamin and Batman – nine months ago, when the animals were just six months old.. During the school year, Nichole and Isabell wake up at 6 a.m. to feed their cows, which consume about 2% of their body weight in food – a mix of hay and grain – each day.  

While cows are among the most profitable livestock to sell, they also require the most work, said Jennifer Worthing, Nichole and Isabell’s mother. The Worthing family owns about 10 acres of land in Casper where they raise the cows, each of which weighs more than 1,000 pounds. On Saturday, buyers will bid on the cows by pound at an auction. The next day, the sisters will say farewell to Rico, Rango, Benjamin and Batman and help load them up onto a truck that will head to a food processor.  

Isabell and Nichole have raised and sold livestock for seven years, using their earnings from the previous year to invest in new livestock. The sisters usually purchase new cows to raise in September or October.  

Jennifer said raising livestock teaches her kids where food comes from and how to ethically treat animals.  

Meanwhile, the children of Casper residents Kristie and Jo Watson were showcasing their four pigs at the fair this week: Dune, Gibbly, Miss Piggy and Petunia. Their 13-year-old son, Lee, and 15-year-old daughter, Jessica, are responsible for feeding the pigs, giving them water, purchasing their food and performing health checks. Lee and Jessica buy the pigs’ food locally to help support the Casper economy, Jo said.  

The yearly livestock competition at the fair gives kids an opportunity to show what they raised and demonstrate what they’ve learned during the process, he added.  

“It’s taught them responsibility,” Jo said. “It’s taught them how to care for a product, sell it, business management…It’s taught them to work toward being a leader and not a follower.”  

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