Rogen, Repenning earn spots on junior boards |

Rogen, Repenning earn spots on junior boards

For kids who show cattle, one of the highest honors they can achieve isn't a banner or a trophy; it's the opportunity to serve on their junior breed association board of directors. Two South Dakotans have recently earned the chance to represent their respective breeds on a national level.

After an extensive application process, which included presenting speeches, debating over roundtable discussions, providing a resume, cover letter and letters of recommendation and stating goals for the future, Alex Rogen, Brandon, S.D., was named to the Board of Directors (BOD) for the National Junior Angus Association (NJAA), and Kelsey Repenning, Mitchell, S.D., was named a director for the National Junior Hereford Association (NJHA), respectively. Rogen and Repenning will work to represent their breeds, grow the junior programs, promote their breed's branded beef programs, and educate the public about the beef cattle industry.

Rogen is a sophomore at South Dakota State University (SDSU) majoring in biology with minors in animal science and chemistry. After graduation, he plans to attend school for veterinary medicine. Rogen will serve a two-year term on the NJAA BOD.

"I'm excited to have the opportunity to represent our state and the Angus breed," Rogen said, after earning a spot on the board at the national show held in Indianapolis, Ind., this July. "Getting on the board has been the biggest highlight of my junior show career, by far. It's something I've wanted to do since I was little. I've had very good mentors along the way, including my older brother Andrew, who was also on the board."

Rogen grew up on his family's purebred operation, Rogen Angus, started by parents Dick and Shally. Dick is a veterinarian, which has inspired both Andrew and Alex to pursue careers in veterinary medicine, as well. The Rogens can be found at many local, state, regional and national shows, and it's something they've always done as a family.

"Being on the board will allow me to give back to an association that has done so much for me over the years," he said. "It's not just showing cattle either. Being involved in junior programs also teaches leadership skills. Each year, I attend the LEAD Conference – Leaders Engaged in Angus Development – which is a four-day conference that takes place in early August. It's a great place to meet other juniors in the Angus Association, see different parts of the country and get to learn more about agriculture in those places."

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Some naysayers would argue that showing cattle is a lot of fluff and not much for practicality, but Rogen says there's much more to it than growing hair for the show ring.

"The show industry develops people into leaders," he said. "The show ring also helps to grow genetics and improve the beef industry. Granted, there is some divergence between what you might raise for the show ring verses what you might want in a commercial outfit, but we aim to raise cattle that will work well both in the show ring and in a pasture setting. Additionally, junior programs help to educate future cattle producers, so they can educate consumers, defend the industry when needed and make solid breeding decisions in their own operations."

In the future, Rogen plans to be a veterinarian and continue to raise Angus cattle.

"I want to be able to have a family and run cattle on a chunk of land somewhere," he said. "Raising kids with cattle instills a hard work ethic, which is so important in life. Showing cattle also teaches kids how to win and lose gracefully. There are a lot of aspects of raising and showing cattle that translate to life, as well. I wouldn't be the person I am today without those experiences."

Rogen realizes that the cattle business comes with its fair share of challenges, but he is optimistic for a future in production agriculture.

"I'm optimistic about the state of the beef industry right now," he said. "There are certainly some hurdles to get past. There is more opposition to the industry today than there has been in the past with criticism from activists and the media. Additionally, with rising prices in beef and lower cattle numbers, there are both opportunities and challenges to fill that void. However, I don't think the people who raise beef are scared of a challenge."

Repenning, a junior animal science and agricultural communications major at SDSU, has been dreaming of being on the NJAA BOD since she attended her first junior national show in 2006.

"I remember being in the show ring at my first junior show at 11-years old and a director helped me out with my heifer," recalled Repenning, who will serve a three-year term on the board. "It was my first exposure to what a BOD does, and that's when I realized that one day I wanted to be able to help little kids like me to have great experiences growing up in the breed like I have been able to have."

Repenning credits her experiences in the South Dakota Junior Hereford Association, 4-H, FFA and the South Dakota Beef Ambassador Program for preparing her for this role with the Hereford breed. In the months leading up to this year's junior national show, held in Pennsylvania, she pored over issues of the Hereford World to make sure she was knowledgeable in every aspect of the breed.

Her childhood spent on her family's operation, Blacktop Farms, a 250-head purebred Hereford and Angus business established by parents Steve and Lori, helped instill in her a passion for the breed and for the cattle business.

"I've always been involved in every aspect of our family's business," said Repenning. "In addition to raising cattle, my sister Abby and I have been lucky to be involved in the junior breed programs, as well. I believe today's junior members are creating tomorrow's beef, so the decisions they make are not only impacting what happens in the show ring but are also determining what will be sold at the grocery store, too. We figure if we aren't raising cattle that will also go and make good bulls and females that will do well in the pasture and on the rail, then what's the point of raising them?"

Repenning ran for the board on the platform of increasing the use of genomic-enhanced expected progeny differences (GE-EPDs) in the breed and educating juniors about new technologies the breed has to offer.

"With the ever persistent competition between breeds, it's important to me as a Hereford breeder to raise the best cattle I can. A recent poll from BEEF magazine found a 39 percent increase in the use of Hereford genetics across the commercial industry," said Repenning. "If GE-EPDs are utilized, they help to predict a more accurate portrayal of an animal's genetic merit earlier in life. Utilizing these tools from the beginning of a junior's production career could help significantly increase their total herd value and future profits. The tool allows producers to take advantage of the value of time and make appropriate decisions about genetic selection earlier. In fact, depending on the trait, GE-EPDs on an unproven animal have the same amount of accuracy as if they had already sired 8-20 calves."

Repenning believes that by educating juniors about this new technology and others available within the beef industry, they can raise better cattle and beef down the road.

In the future, she plans to pursue a masters in animal nutrition and continue to grow and improve her Hereford herd.

"I'm excited to be involved in the beef industry right now," she said. "There are a lot of great opportunities for young people to stay involved in production agriculture right now, and I'm proud to raise Hereford cattle and be involved in this breed that I love."

Both Repenning and Rogen are looking forward to the upcoming years serving on their respective national boards and to staying involved in the cattle business in their adult years, as well. Today's youth are tomorrow's cattlemen, and junior activities are certainly helping to shape these youth into strong leaders for the industry.

Cutline of Kelsey Repenning (photo courtesy of Legacy Livestock Imaging): "I believe today's junior members are creating tomorrow's beef, so the decisions they make are not only impacting what happens in the show ring but are also determining what will be sold at the grocery store, too," says Kelsey Repenning, Mitchell, SD.

Cutline of Alex Rogen (photo courtesy of Jeanie Bruggeman): "With rising prices in beef and lower cattle numbers, there are both opportunities and challenges to fill that void. However, I don't think the people who raise beef are scared of a challenge," says Alex Rogen, Brandon, S.D.