Black Hills Stock Show Cattleman’s Legacy Heifer recipient doesn’t let bone disease slow him down
January 28, 2019
For Black Hills Stock Show Cattleman's Legacy heifer recipient Colton Michalek, choosing a favorite animal to show is nearly impossible because he loves them all. Any chance the 14-year-old gets to show, he's game, whether it is a goat, steer, sheep, rabbit, pig, dog, chicken, duck, horse, or heifer, he has shown them all. He relishes the chance to be a showman.
"He likes the showmanship side of things, it doesn't matter what species," said Colton's dad, Marty Michalek. "It doesn't matter what he has for an animal, he goes out there and feels he has a shot."
The first thing Colton plans to do upon receiving his heifer at Black Hills Stock Show is to print a banner with the donor's name to proudly display at his future shows. Long-term plans, he will incorporate the heifer into his modest herd at the family's acreage in Chamberlain, South Dakota. Both of his parents come from a ranching background and found ways for their children to be involved in agriculture.
"We thought that was important," Marty said. "We like the work ethic and responsibility that comes with raising and showing livestock. The kids started six to seven years ago with Boer goats, and we've retained ownership of 10 to 12 cows from the kids' show heifers."
At the South Dakota State Fair this summer, Colton and his younger brother Ryder were in the show ring or on the show table a combined 112 times over the course of five days.
"They were running constantly and didn't have a chance to spend much time on the midway or go to a concert," Marty said. But when he asked Colton if he regretted anything or wished they could have done something else, his response was simply that he didn't have a wether to show in the meat goat category. "He had does, but not a wether, which, I think, demonstrates his dedication to his 4-H career and showing livestock. He's the one who likes getting up in the morning in the summer and doing chores."
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Colton has dealt with hypophosphatasia—a genetic disorder affecting the growth and density of his bones and teeth—since it was discovered that he had it at the age of two. As a baby, he was losing teeth at the same rate they were coming in, but his parents Marty and Mandy were stumped why.
"He'd just get his baby teeth in, and they would just fall out. We didn't know if he was in a fight or would fall down at day care," Marty said.
At one point, as a four-year-old, Colton only had about four teeth in his mouth. Doctors told Mandy and Marty that they weren't sure what was affecting their son, but that he was mostly fine, except, of course, his teeth, but they had a different instinct as parents. After going through many doctors, a doctor in Omaha finally diagnosed their son with juvenile hypophosphatasia. In the years between his diagnosis to about the age of 12, the Michaleks were able to get Colton on new medicine to address his low bone density and pain.
"Kids get to a certain age, and their bones are unable to support their body. They were concerned about him leading a normal life and dealing with bones breaking for exertion or anything like that," Marty said. "When he hit about 12, they put him on a medicine that is supposed to counteract effects of the disorder."
At the age of 12.5, his bones were comparable to a 10.5-year-old. Today, at 14, they compare to that of a 13-year-old.
"I get shots for it to help me; my bones start aching and it makes me tired when I take them, but I think it's really helping me start to grow," Colton said.
While he experiences some aches on the medication, it doesn't compare to the pain prior to the treatment, Mandy said. He is able to actually feel headaches now, while the occasional headache isn't desired, it's normal for kids his age, and prior to treatment they were overshadowed by his other pain.
"His body does not produce an enzyme, so the drugs aren't making him grow, but it's making his bones stronger when he does grow," Mandy said.
Hypophosphatasia has never stopped Colton from showing or rodeoing, even when his doctors advised against it. He has never broken a bone, a blessing, his dad said, considering how many small wrecks he has encountered rodeoing that normal parents wouldn't pay much mind to.
"He's always been an active kid and has never had broken bones, but he probably should have. We're very fortunate," Marty said. "He has kind of soldiered through pretty well. He didn't stop doing something even though doctors said he probably shouldn't rodeo because his bones are softer. He didn't care."
Colton is the second in his family to receive a heifer through Cattleman's Legacy at the Black Hills Stock Show to return to show at the Western Junior Livestock Show; his older brother Garrett Wessel received a heifer four years ago. Even if neither of his sons had been awarded their heifers in their several years of applying, it would all have been worth it to Marty.
"The thing I like about the program, more than the final prize, is the value in kids today having to learn how to talk to adults. I've had two boys go through the process for several years, and it's a good program strictly for the fact they have to learn how to interview, conduct themselves in a professional manner," Marty said. "I've seen a drastic improvement in my kids going through the interview process, and winning a quality heifer from someone's program that will come into a young person's herd and improve their line is a tremendous opportunity."
To apply for the heifer, youth between ages eight to 17 must be an exhibitor at the Western Junior Livestock Show and write a 500-word statement on why they want to be part of the Cattleman's Family Legacy.
In addition to showing, Colton also greatly enjoys basketball, track, and shooting sports, which he has also been highly successful in during his short time participating; he has set a state record in archery and had the highest score at South Dakota State 4-H. Colton placed reserve at the South Dakota Summer Spotlight with a goat and won his category at the Western Junior this year with a shorthorn bull.
At the Western Junior last year, he showed a very average lamb that had her flaws, and "the judge very openly said she was flawed, but this kid shows her in such a way that hides that, so he had to go with her as reserve ewe," Mandy said. "I bawled. It was an average lamb, and he showed her so well."
The eighth-grader's biggest accomplishment thus far, his dad said, was, as a beginning seventh grader in FFA, qualifying to compete at the state FFA Round Robin Showmanship, in which exhibitors show a dairy goat, dairy cattle, breeding and market divisions for meat goat, beef, and sheep, and swine gilt and barrow.