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Farmers Union Gives Breeding Livestock to Six Rural Youth

By Lura Roti for South Dakota Farmers Union

If the 2023 Western Junior Livestock Show is any indication, South Dakota youth are serious about their livestock. More than 350 youth from South Dakota and six surrounding states took time away from school activities to show their sheep, goats and cattle at this Rapid City show.

Six of these youth won new breeding stock thanks to the South Dakota Farmers Union (SDFU) Herd Builder Award.

“It gives six kids a leg up each year to start their own herd,” said Jackie Maude, Western Junior Manager.

Helping the next generation is the focus of this annual award, explained Karla Hofhenke, South Dakota Farmers Union Executive Director.

“The future of South Dakota’s livestock industry is in the hands of our youth. We understand how expensive it is to introduce quality genetics into a herd, so this is one way Farmers Union can help support the next generation,” Hofhenke said.

The 2023 Herd Builder winners to receive meat goats are: Oakleigh Reis-Elwood, Reliance; Carissa Scheel, Wessington Springs; and Evelyn Bunker, Reliance. The 2023 Herd Builder winners to receive heifers are: Jade Twedt, Beresford; Mark Cavenee, Miller; and Jozie Reis, Oacoma.

The winners were selected by a panel of judges based on an application. And only youth involved in Western Junior qualified.

Meet the 2023 Herd Builders

Carissa Scheel, Wessington Springs

The high school senior has been building up her own flock of sheep for quite some time, but this is the first doe she has owned.

“I have shown meat goats since I was 6, but I have never owned any breeding stock, so I am excited to be able to grow up a herd of goats alongside my sheep,” Scheel said.

Managing genetics to improve her livestock is something Scheel enjoys. In 2022 she was awarded a breeding ewe through the Herd Builder program. The ewe had a lamb in March.

“I enjoy seeing how the different sire and dam matings turn out,” Scheel said.

Evelyn Bunker, Reliance

“This is the first meat goat I have owned. The other ones my parents helped me buy,” said the Chamberlain High School freshman.

Bunker plans to breed the Herd Builder doe she won to a billy owned by her 4-H friend, Keeleigh Reis-Elwood. “We are thinking about starting our own market goat business,” she said.

Bunker plans to save the money she earns from the sale of meat goats to help cover the cost of veterinary school.

“It has always been my dream to become a vet and own my own ranch,” Bunker said. “I like helping animals. Going out to check cows with my dad is what got me started on wanting to be a vet.”

Oakleigh Reis-Elwood, Reliance

The eighth grader said her older sister, Keeleigh, is the reason she got into raising and showing goats. “My sister always helps me get my goats ready for the show and I enjoy spending time with her,” Reis-Elwood said.

Because the Herd Builder doe is the first goat she has owned herself, Reis-Elwood said she looks forward to this new experience. “I am excited that now I get to start my own herd,” she said.

In addition to spending time with her sister, Reis-Elwood says raising livestock has taught her a lot about discipline.

“I am involved in a lot: rodeo, volleyball, gymnastics, track and cheer – so I have to make time to take care of the animals before or after school and make time to work with them so they are ready for State Fair or Western Junior.”

Mark Cavenee, Miller

Cavenee has been building up his cow herd for 14 years.

“My grandma and grandpa gave me my first cow, number 120, when I was born. We are actually selling her this year,” he said.

He is excited about the genetics the Herd Builder heifer he won brings to his herd because she is purebred Simmental.

Actively involved on his family’s ranch, after schoolwork is done, Cavenee spends his days moving cattle, working cattle, sorting cattle or grinding feed.

Of all the chores he does, he enjoys helping with calving the most.

“I like the calves,” he said.

Jade Twedt, Beresford

Twedt enjoys helping with livestock on her family’s farm.

“I have been doing chores since I was little and feeding bottle calves,” she said.

Today, she helps her parents with all livestock chores – including calving.

“It’s taught me a lot about responsibility,” she said. “And I really like working with livestock to get them ready to show.”

An eighth-grader at Beresford Middle School, Twedt is excited about winning the Herd Builder heifer.

“Nice heifers are expensive, so this is a great opportunity,” she said.

Jozie Reis, Oacoma

Growing up a fifth-generation cattle producer, 13-year-old Reis is excited to add another heifer to her small herd.

“This helps me build up my herd and make more money,” she said.

Reis started her herd when she turned 5 with a heifer.

“My grandma and grandpa Reis give all of us cousins a heifer when we turn 5, and we get to keep their replacement heifers or sell the steers each year,” Reis explained.

Eventually, Reis will use the money to help cover college expenses, but right now she is saving up for a vehicle.

To learn more about how South Dakota Farmers Union supports rural youth and families, visit

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