Smithsburg teen aims high with his heifers

November 07, 2011|By JANET HEIM |
  • Shane Heizer, a junior at Smithsburg High School, is taking two of his Angus heifers to Louisville, Ky., later this week for the North American International Livestock Exposition.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

SMITHSBURG — Eight years of hard work, focus and a strong work ethic have paid off for Shane Heizer, a junior at Smithsburg High School, where he is enrolled in the Agriculture Completer program.

Shane joined the Washington County 4-H Livestock Club when he was 8 years old, the earliest age possible. He’s been a member of the Maryland Junior Angus Association for five years.

He started out showing beef steers and heifers, then lambs, hogs and steers at small shows and at Washington County Ag Expo. Shane now exclusively shows Angus cattle.

At the Maryland State Fair this year, he won Supreme Champion heifer and Reserve Champion heifer.

Shane has shown his cattle in 15 shows this year, with his last stop in Louisville, Ky., for the 38th annual North American International Livestock Exposition, or NAILE, being held Nov. 5 to 18.  

“We’ve been fortunate to have a good group of animals this year. We picked up the pace because we have a good group of animals,” said Shane, 16, the younger of John and Mary Heizer’s two sons. They live on Cool Pines Farm on Cool Hollow Road in Hagerstown.

Shane said anybody can pay the entry fee to get into NAILE, but to make it worth the time and effort, the animals should be of a certain quality, with experience at other shows.

His goal at the show is the ultimate — to win Supreme Heifer, which comes with the prize of a $30,000 trailer. He’d be happy to come home with the Grand Champion Angus Heifer title, though.

“This is the biggest show in America. It takes a lot of work to get to,” Shane said.

Shane, his father, and his friend Justin Frey will drive a trailer with two of Shane’s Angus heifers to Louisville, the longest drive to a show they’ve made. They’ll leave Thursday, and Shane will show in the Junior Show on Sunday and the Open Show on Nov. 15.

“The shows are for networking and reputation,” Shane said.

Mary Heizer will stay behind to take care of the rest of Shane’s 13 animals, all Angus cattle except for one cross-bred steer.

“It took eight years to get to where we are now — lots of daily dedication. This is a family-oriented project, even though Shane is here morning and afternoon,” Mary Heizer said.

Shane is up daily at 6 a.m. to feed his animals, which takes about an hour before school. In the afternoon, it can take two to four hours to feed and groom the animals.

“It takes a lot of dedication, especially on cold mornings,” Shane said.

The proper nutrition and amount of feed, as well as care of the animals is critical when preparing them for shows, Mary Heizer said.

“There’s a lot of hard work that goes into this before you even step into a show ring, but it’s a labor of love,” Mary Heizer said.

Shane got interested in beef cattle while riding on calls with his father, who is a large-animal vet. John Heizer grew up on a dairy farm in Staunton, Va., while Mary Heizer grew up in Northern Virginia. They met while students at Virginia Tech.

Through 4-H, Shane said he has met a lot of people and made new friends, as well as learned a great deal.

“Shane just gets to know people, and asks questions and learns,” Mary Heizer said.

After high school, Shane wants to go to Virginia Tech to become a veterinarian and have an Angus cattle herd on the side. His older brother, Patrick, is a student there and hopes to become a medical doctor.

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