Passion for Showing Cattle Spans Generations
Growing up on a farm in rural Cedar County in eastern Iowa, Kathy Wagner believed the lucky kids lived in town. They got to spend time at each other’s houses while Kathy felt stuck in the country.
“It wasn’t until I grew older that I realized I was the lucky one,” says Kathy. “If you have roots in farming, hang on for dear life! There’s nothing better than breathing in the fresh morning air, experiencing the birth of a new calf, smelling newly baled hay, or watching beautiful crops grow in the field. It’s priceless being able to farm the same fields as your parents or grandparents did.”
Kathy grew up on a farm about three miles from where she and her husband, Mike, have farmed together for more than 30 years. They raise corn, soybeans and alfalfa. She ran the field cultivator until they started practicing no-till. Kathy also used to haul corn and soybeans from the field to the grain bins until Mike convinced her to run the combine. Now Kathy operates the combine while Mike hauls the grain.
Kathy steps down from the combine to check on cows that are calving as most of their cows calve in the fall. They also have calves born between February and March. Kathy also does the bookwork and keeps the cattle records; she and Mike both do chores.
Unlike Kathy, Mike always knew he wanted to farm. He was active in both 4-H and FFA grew up raising cattle and hogs. He really enjoys watching crops and livestock grow. In addition, he and Kathy have operated a Latham® Seeds dealership since 2014.
“I really enjoy talking with other farmers and helping them find the right seed products,” says Mike. “We made the switch to Latham Seeds because we appreciate that Latham is family-owned. I’m a third-generation farmer, and Latham Seeds is a third-generation seed company. We share many of the same values.”
Farming and selling seed give Mike and Kathy the flexibility to attend family activities. Together, they have seven children and 18 grandkids, ranging in age from 29 to three years old.
It’s Show Time!
Summer is a busy time for the Wagners. And that’s just the way they like it! Kathy and her daughter, Audrey, show Belted Calloway cattle around the Midwest. Kathy gets to live out her dream of showing animals with her children and grandchildren.
When Kathy was five years old, her parents divorced. In the settlement, Kathy’s mother received part of the land and continued to raise sheep, beef cows, hogs and chickens. She rented out her farm ground.
“Much later in life I realized what an undertaking that was!” says Kathy. “My mom had chores and bookkeeping to do plus she raised five kids, so there wasn’t time for me to be involved in 4-H or FFA. I would have liked to have shown animals. Now I show cattle each year in Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin.”
Their show cattle enterprise began as a 4-H project for Kathy’s daughter, Audrey.
“Audrey begged for a Beltie (Belted Galloway), so we finally got one. By the time she graduated high school, Audrey had six cows,” says Kathy. “I was left with the cattle chores after Audrey graduated. I decided that if I was going to do chores that I might as well have a cow of my own. I got one. Six years later, we had about 35 purebred registered Belted Galloways between our two herds. Today we calve out between 50 and 60 cows.”
Audrey and Kathy attend two or three shows each year in Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin. Audrey does most of the showing although Mike and Audrey’s boyfriend, Josh, step in when needed. Kathy is on the sidelines holding halters and reminding everyone of birthdates and other stats. The Wagners also sell breeding stock. There’s a sense of pride that comes along with building a herd and raising quality stock. Their bulls have gone to Texas, Oklahoma and Minnesota.
“I love the cows. I like taming the calves and breaking them to lead on a halter,” says Kathy. “Most of our cows have been in the show ring, so they are very tame. I love that they each have different personalities. Belties tend to be smaller and more docile than other breeds, and I like that, too.”
Showing Belties is becoming a family tradition. Kathy’s granddaughter, Tiffany, shows Belties at the Cedar County Fair in 4-H.
“Children learn responsibility from working with and caring for animals by being in charge of their food, water, shelter, as well as some of the costs. It’s life lessons that aren’t as easily learned on the couch,” says Kathy.
“Farming is a great occupation but it’s not easy,” adds Kathy. “There are days when you spend long hours in a cab and there are days when all the animals need clean pens. You must do chores in 20-below wind chill, on days when the mud is up to your knees, and on days when it’s 95 degrees in the shade. There are days you will envy those 9-to-5’ers! But when you look around at your land, animals and crops, you feel a sense of pride and it’s all worth it.”
Despite her farming responsibilities, Kathy also makes time to be involved in her community. She has served as church organist since she was in fifth grade. She also accompanies the concert choir at the Tipton High School.
With so much time spent outside, Kathy looks for recipes that are simple but delicious. Today she is sharing with us a favorite recipe for Cabbage Salad.
- 1 head of shredded cabbage
- Grated carrots to taste
- Green onions to taste
- 1 package of Ramen noodles, crushed
- 1 c. oil
- 2 T. rice vinegar
- 4 T. sugar
- 1 tsp. pepper
- 2 tsp. salt
- 2 tsp. Accent
- Stir together cabbage, carrots and onions; set aside.
- Mix dressing pour over salad mixture; toss to coat.
- Stir in Ramen noodles just before serving