Isabella King remembers seeing Norman for the first time. Born at Higgins Family Ranch near Kamloops, Norman was grazing in the pasture at her friend Ashlyn’s house, where he had been dropped off for Isabella, as her family does not own a farm.
She instantly fell in love with the Maine-Anjou’s milky white and black-spotted coat and knew then what lay ahead of her.
At 13, Isabella has had more responsibilities than most teens her age. For the past year, she has spent all her spare time feeding, grooming, and training Norman to be a prized steer.
All her hard work paid off last summer when Norman won Reserve Grand Champion at the Okanagan 4-H Stock Show in Armstrong. The stock show is also where Isabella said goodbye to Norman when he was sold to Askew’s Foods during the beef auction.
“When I walked into the pen, and they started bidding, I knew it was going to be tough,” Isabella, a Grade 8 Vernon Secondary School student, says. “Lots of kids don’t know what I do. I tell them that I raise a steer, and then I sell it, but it’s a lot more than that.”
Isabella is about to go through the process all over again. She has recently purchased another steer, a Hereford, from Ogilvie Ranch in Knutsford and is planning to enter it into upcoming stock shows.
“I still haven’t decided on a name. It’s between Ronnie and Louie,” she says.
Banking on Beef
As with Norman, Isabella received the funds to purchase her new steer with help from Community Futures North Okanagan’s 4-H business loans program.
A member of the High Country 4-H Club in Westwold, Isabella, and all other registered 4-H members in the North Okanagan are eligible for a CFNO business loan up to $3,600 to invest in livestock as well as feed.
“The 4-H loans program is a CFNO initiative to support youth in agriculture. It allows kids to learn how to manage money, a business, and have a purpose,” says loans advisor Scot McNair. “We help young people like Isabella with an interest-free loan that only involves a small processing fee.”
Isabella’s mom, Jodi Gerich, says the program has enormous benefits. It not only teaches youth valuable life skills but also helps cover the costs of purchasing the animal and caring for it.
“Without support from Community Futures, we wouldn’t be able to afford a steer. Club calves can be as much as $2,400. A sack of feed alone is $500,” Jodi says. “The loans program is a great business introduction for young people, as it gets them banking and managing funds at an early age.”
Learn to Do by Doing
As a 4-H member, Isabella has learned how to engage an audience through public speaking and leading demonstrations. She has also acquired all it takes to prepare an animal for judging.
There is lots of time involved to get a steer prepared for stock shows, says Isabella, who has participated in the Prospect show in Kamloops along with the Okanagan 4-H Stock show.
“You have to train the animal using a breaking halter. You have to walk around a lot, so your steer can get used to its head being up. You also spend days washing and brushing. You have to comb their hair up to make them look wider, and you have to clip their head hair to get it looking straight,” she adds.
The hard work is worth the effort as once the steer sells, it helps pay off the loan.
“Isabella has been able to make some profit to put back into her animals and to help get some fencing up at home, so one day her horses can come here,” says Jodi. “She’s also interested in purchasing a heifer, so she can possibly breed her own steer one day.”
To learn more about CFNO’s business loan programs, contact the Community Futures Business Team at 250-545-2215, or visit futuresbc.com.