STEEN - Whitney Elbers, 16, of Steen is this year’s new beef ambassador for the Rock-Nobles Cattlemen’s Association.
Now a junior in high school, Elbers has been showing calves since sixth grade. Her new responsibility means she represents the association and the industry for the next year. She will attend parades (like Buffalo Days, Friendship Days and the beef feed at the Rock County Fair) and hand out ribbons at the county fair.
Elbers describes her role as “getting the word out about the beef industry,“ which is particularly important “for city people,” she said. “Maybe they don’t know what beef is, so we teach them.”
Elbers said in her ag classes in school, she is surprised at the things some people don’t know - for example, the difference between a bull and steer.
Elbers was raised around beef cattle, so she has just always known how the industry works. Her position as beef ambassador will allow her to educate not only her peers, but others who don’t have the same experience and are interested in learning.
She will also serve as an advocate. Beef prices are down right now, so Elbers encourages more people to support her family’s livelihood by eating beef.
Elbers knows firsthand how difficult it can be to raise cattle. Her dad custom feeds, and she has noticed that when new cattle arrive, they might have come from different conditions and may not be used to the Minnesota climate. That can present a challenge in helping cattle stay healthy.
Each year, Elbers breaks and shows a calf at the county fair and the state fair.
“You never know what your steer is going to be like,” she said. “It’s different every year.”
This year, her steer is a shorthorn plus named Romeo. Elbers describes Romeo’s disposition as “adventurous” - he’s ready to go as soon as she puts on his harness.
Elbers has put Romeo on a special diet, a mix of Precon and Show-Rite.
“It’s sweet, so he’ll like to eat it,” Elbers said.
Getting to know her calf is Elbers’s favorite part of showing.
Elbers’s experience in 4-H and FFA has taught her a lot about the challenges farmers face.
Last year, she was able to attend the 4-H Day on the Hill in Washington. Elbers listened to the issues being discussed by national politicians - for example, water runoff creating problems for farmers. She heard plans for how to solve such woes.
“It was a really cool experience,” Elbers said, adding that participating in the national conversation about agriculture helped contextualize local challenges of southwest Minnesota farmers.
This past winter brought some unique obstacles for Elbers due to the extreme cold and record-breaking snowfall.
“With all the snow, it’s been a struggle to get around the farm,” Elbers said. She noted that her family also debated where to dispose of all the snow.
The cold also made it difficult to keep all the water fountains thawed.
Elbers said her firsthand farm experience has taught her to work hard and will help her for the rest of her life.
Elbers is also involved in basketball and volleyball. She has begun considering where she would like to attend college, and plans to become a nurse.
“My mom’s a nurse, and I have always looked up to her,” Elbers said.
She hopes her experience as a Beef Ambassador will display her leadership skills to potential college admissions officers and employers.