Hard work pays off at Aksarben Stock Show

Ralston Ripp of Kearney took first place for showmanship at Aksarben 2017 (NTV News)

Agriculture drives the nation’s heartland and Aksarben is a reminder the future is bright.

Showering her calf with gentle whispers and kisses, Ralston Ripp stands in the show ring before the judge.

Her mom runs one of the region’s biggest cattle shows, but this calf came by chance.

“It was just a draw out of a hat for which one you got,” Ripp said.

That’s what happens at the Aksarben “calf challenge”, as this Kearney teen takes top honors for showmanship.

She said, “He started out pretty temperamental, so I was happy and surprised today that he was able to act so well and cooperate and truly show the work we've put in at home.”

Work and play go hand in hand for the Stallbaumer family of Custer County.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Abby Stallbaumer says of showing cattle.

The 12-year-old works with an animal more than ten times bigger than she is.

“My heifer, she stands way taller than me,” Abby said, lifting her hands above her head.

Her mom and dad encourage their kids to do sports and music, but showing livestock brings unique experience.

Abby’s mom Marla said, “When they get out in the show ring, they have to sell their calf and present it, explain why, what they're feeding it.”

Abby does band and sports, but cattle shows add another dimension.

“It's a huge confidence building,” she said. “It's a lot of fun and shows other people they're not just scary and big animals.”

Showing cattle is an extension of ranch life, as the Stallbaumers raise cattle and crops near Oconto.

“And you can put the beef, market animals back into the food chain as they call it,” Owen Stallbaumer said.

Producing beef is something these kids take pride in.

“It makes me feel good inside that I'm part of it,” Abby said.

Back at Ralston’s competition, she’s been sponsored by an Omaha family. Her primary sponsor wasn’t able to make it, but another woman was.

“She was asking all sorts of questions and found great interest in youth involved in agriculture. They may not be involved directly but understand the importance of it,” Ripp said.

And it all culminates at the Aksarben Stock Show.

Ripp says it’s special to work hard, and “have it all pay off.”

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