Anaya McCune’s parents did not own any cattle when she was a child, and she grew up in town.
“Until I was 9, I was a city girl,” the 16-year-old Circle High School sophomore said.
But that didn’t stop her from becoming one of the area’s most accomplished competitors in the high school livestock showing circuit.
Anaya’s grandfather, Ron McCune, has been involved with livestock his entire life. When he began to tell Anaya stories about the livestock showing and judging he did in his youth, she took interest.
“It sounded like a fun and good experience,” she said.
Anaya’s family purchased her first heifer and steer when she was 10 years old, six years ago, from someone in Norton, Kansas.
“It takes a lot of practice, selecting cattle does,” McCune said. “Over the years you develop an eye for what judges and people in the industry are looking for.”
After the purchase of her cattle, McCune grooms, feeds and trains them so she can take them to 4H shows around the region. She has learned skills, from money management to presentation poise to how to feed cattle to attain a desired result.
After a great deal of work, McCune and her cattle are ready for the showing arena. When she arrives at weekend shows, she sets up her cattle pen, grooms her cow, and prepares to present it. She has achieved many successes in the showing arena, winning her breed in many shows, and several times she has won reserve supreme heifer, which is the prize for the best overall heifer. She also has won the prize for showmanship, which is awarded for the shower’s presentation skills and knowledge of animal husbandry.
“It’s been a great experience for me,” she said.
In more recent years, McCune has become involved in livestock judging, which consists of viewing a group of cattle and ranking them based on certain qualities.
“A lot of people, they have coaches and they are on judging teams,” McCune said. “I don’t have a coach or a team. Things have changed a lot since my grandfather was judging, so it’s a lot of trial and error. It’s a really fun experience for me.”
Ron McCune has supported Anaya as she has learned about livestock. He traveled with her to the large Denver stock show last year, where one of her heifers won its breed.
“I was so excited and happy just to be there,” Anaya said. “My animals did pretty well for my first time.”
For McCune, weekends are not often spent at high school parties or sporting events.
It’s not that McCune isn’t social; she gets along well with her peers. She also enjoyed athletics until she stopped playing basketball this academic year to focus further on livestock showing and judging. These activities that began as hobbies have developed into a possible way for McCune to earn a college scholarship.
“Around school, when I start talking about all of this they’re kind of lost,” McCune said. “I like the fact that I get to share with them some of my experiences and tell them about it.”
McCune’s parents, Ryan and Micky McCune, have supported her livestock habit, and she gives her grandfather a great deal of credit for teaching her about cattle. Her cattle live on his land next door to her parents’ house, and she visits them mornings and evenings.
“This has definitely brought us closer together,” she said about her grandfather.
Anaya hopes to attend a junior college to participate on a livestock judging team, and then she would like to go on to Kansas State University to study something in the agricultural area, although she is not yet sure what. She said her experiences showing and judging livestock will help her in the future.
“I have learned hard work, dedication, being committed; I've learned how to compete – you have to fail in order to succeed,” she said. “I have failed plenty of times to get where I am today.”
Ron McCune said watching Anaya compete with her livestock has been a rewarding experience for him.
“What she’s learned — how to manager her time, how to work hard and get results from that hard work — are what 4H is all about,” Ron said. “When kids compete and do it fairly, they learn about the ups and downs of life.”