Heifer Grant Program Helps Young Producers Get Started
By Janelle Atyeo | Tri-State Neighbor Editor
Ryan Wollman is just 13, but he’s already looking to help younger kids get started in the cattle industry.
Three years ago, the Bridgewater, South Dakota teen used a grant program from the South Dakota Hereford Association to purchase his first heifer at the South Dakota Excellence Sale. He bought another heifer the following year, and this year is the first time he’ll be selling two steer calves on the Excellence Sale, set for Nov. 14 at the Swiftel Center in Brookings.
“I will have nice, good-looking Hereford calves,” Wollman said.
He imagines those two Hereford calves will go to another kid looking to start their own Hereford herd, just like he did not long ago.
“I hope whoever buys them keeps them to show at the State Fair next year,” he said.
Wollman has put in hard work over the years to care for his cattle.
Arriving home on the school bus from Bridgewater-Emery where he’s in the eighth grade, Wollman quickly changes into work boots and sets off to mix feed for his newly weaned calves.
“He’s a good worker. He helps out a lot with the cattle,” said his dad, Roger Wollman, who raises corn, soybeans and a herd of about 90 cows. The Wollman family also includes mom, Kate, and Ryan’s twin brother, Dylan.
As the one who’s taken to farming the most, Ryan Wollman started raising bucket calves to show for 4-H. His deal with his dad was that he if he took care of them, he could keep them. With them he started building his herd of commercial Angus.
Last winter, he added four bred heifers he bought with a youth loan through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency. The program gives operating loans up to $5,000 to kids ages 10-20.
With his money in hand, Wollman kept track of cattle prices to learn what he could afford. In February, his dad took him to the Madison Livestock sale barn. He watched as many of the lots bid above his price range. From what ended up being the last group of cattle in the sale ring that day, he got his four bred heifers.
“It was good experience for him to do the paperwork,” said his mom, Kate Wollman.
When he sells his steers this fall, he plans to use the money from the sale to buy more cows and make payments on his loan
Being out of school due to COVID-19 shutdowns this spring allowed Wollman a chance to work closely with his animals. He watched his heifers calve and tagged a lot of new calves from the family’s herd. Through the summer, he worked with his new calves – named Rudy and Franklin – to halter break them.
While he continues to add to his commercial herd, Wollman likes his Herefords best.
“They have a better attitude and they seem to gain better weight,” Wollman said.
The Wollmans found the Hereford association when Ryan needed to take one of his bottle calves to the vet. Dr. Mike Stiefvater at Salem Veterinary Service, himself a Hereford association member, told the Wollmans about the heifer grant program.
The South Dakota Hereford Association typically offers 10 heifer grants a year. The program started in 1987, funded by donations and proceeds from the silent auction at the annual banquet. The $600 grant is open to kids age 8-21. Applications are due Nov. 1, and forms are available on the southdakotaherefords.org website.
As part of the heifer program, the grant recipient agrees to show their cattle through the next year.
Wollman showed his heifers, named Rita and Flo, at shows including Hereford Field Days in Winner, South Dakota and the Midwest Classic in Pipestone, Minnesota. They went to the South Dakota Summer Spotlight and to the county and state fairs.
Flo did well, but Rita was pretty certain she was not made to be a show animal. She was a bit too sassy in the ring, Wollman said.
Over those few years, he’s found a lot of support from fellow Hereford association members.
Wollman keeps in touch with the Junior Hereford member who sold him his first heifer. Ivan Blume, son of Bruce and Nancy Blume of Redfield, was 14 at the time, and now he’s a senior in high school and president of the South Dakota Junior Hereford Association. Recently accepted into Kansas State University, he’s looking forward to studying animal science and continuing to build a quality herd back home.
Blume bought his first two steers off of the Excellence Sale when he was in third grade. Then he bought a heifer and started his own herd. He had years of experience under his belt by the time he took Wollman under his wing.
The two would connect at the Hereford shows, and Blume shared pointers on cattle feed and fitting.
“Just being buddies with him is probably the best thing a guy can do,” Blume said. “There’s quite an age gap but at these show deals, but everybody seems the same age and we all look after each other.”
Wollman looks up to him. He finds it neat that by selling calves from that first Excellence Sale things will come full circle.
“Somebody might feel that way toward me,” he said.
This article was originally published in the Oct. 23, 2020 edition of Tri-State Neighbor. Find it and subscribe at www.tristateneighbor.com.