CURTISS — When Evan Schindler walks into the show ring at the Wisconsin Valley Fair this week in Wausau, it will mark the culmination of his junior showing career. The Abbotsford FFA member, who will enter his second year at UW-Madison’s Farm and Industry Short Course this fall, has been taking his show cattle to the annual event for the past seven years.
“I always had an interest in showing when I was growing up, but never really started until I was in seventh grade. That first year I showed one heifer and after that I was all in for it,” Schindler said.
Throughout the past seven years, Schindler has not only shown at the Wisconsin Valley Fair, but also the Athens Fair, the District 4 Show and the Central Wisconsin State Fair. He said these experiences have taught him a lot about his animals and showing in general.
“Truthfully, I am still learning. I learn a lot from watching other people,” Schindler said. “Every time you think you have it, someone says ‘No, I do it this way and this is how it should be done.’ They are bigger shots in the showing world so you want to follow what they do because they have obviously had success on the state and national spectrum.”
Schindler’s show animals range in age from 7 months to 3½ years old. He said it takes a lot of work and attention to detail to get each of his animals ready for the fair.
“The main thing for getting started is halter breaking your animals when they are young. The older they get the harder they are to train them to lead,” Schindler said. “After that, it is keeping them clean and feeding them the right hay and grain to keep them growing right and making sure they are not too fat or too skinny.”
Schindler said the biggest challenge he has faced is not getting discouraged when shows do not necessarily go his way.
“When you think you have a decent heifer, but you end up standing in the bottom half or toward the bottom of the class, (try) not to get down on yourself and to look at it as a learning experience. I think ‘OK, I can improve this on her’ ... the hardest thing is just having an eye for what you could be doing,” Schindler said.
Being able to have “the eye” for showing paid off for Schindler last summer while showing at the Wisconsin Valley Fair and the Athens Fair.
“Last year, I had a September heifer calf that was bred and owned out of a cow that was probably 5 months old when I bought her,” Schindler said. “I raised her and this calf out of her; she would be my own prefix.
“She won her class at the Wausau fair, and at the Athens Fair, she got junior champion. To think that I was finally figuring out what to feed her and how she should look and figuring out the breeding, it all finally came together and I had a big success in the show ring.”
Schindler said he enjoys showing at the Wisconsin Valley Fair because it’s usually very competitive and he enjoys the challenge.
“I like to be in a class with 15 head or somewhere around there. The more head, the more competition, and I like that,” Schindler said.
“I also like getting to know a lot of people and getting my name out there. And it is a good learning opportunity,” he said.
Schindler said although his junior showing career may be wrapping up, he plans to continue to show in the open classes as his schedule allows.
Born a farmer
Schindler grew up on his family’s dairy farm near Curtiss, where he developed a passion for farming at an early age.
“As soon as I could start pushing a shovel, I was in the barn. I would scrape the floor and the fronts, feed hay and grain, and do other little things like that,” Schindler said.
He said he never really thought about doing anything other than farming as a career.
“Even when I was in elementary school, people would ask me questions about the farm and I would rattle off this long answer. They would be like, ‘Oh, I wasn’t expecting that from a 7-year-old,’ ” Schindler said.
Today, Schindler said he does a little bit of everything on the farm, including feeding the heifers in the morning and taking care of the young stock. He also helps with herd management and fieldwork.
Upon completion of school, he plans to return to the farm and continue to work into owning the farm in conjunction with his father, uncle and cousin. He hopes to help the farm continue to grow as it enters into the third generation.
“I would like to maybe build a robot barn or a free-stall barn in the future, which would be a step up from our stall barns we are milking in right now. Otherwise, (I hope to) just continue to help our herd be more successful and make our farm the best that it can be,” Schindler said.