By Starrla Cray
WINSTED, MN Winsted Holy Trinity freshman Will O’Sullivan has come a long way with Shorthorn showing.
After a solid 4-H performance at the Wright County Fair mid-August, Will advanced to the Minnesota State Fair, where he exhibited the grand champion Shorthorn heifer, and went on to receive reserve supreme champion breeding heifer.
“This is Will’s third year at the state fair,” said his father, Frank, explaining that sixth-graders are the youngest to qualify.
The O’Sullivan family, which also includes Will’s mother, Mary, and six siblings Patrick, Matthew, Michael, Joseph, Theresa, and Grace all look forward to cattle shows throughout the year.
“Not everyone exhibits, but we try to go together,” Frank said. “I was looking for something we could do as a family.”
The family operates O’Sullivan Cattle Co. in rural Maple Lake, which is a small cattle operation offering Shorthorn and Shorthorn-influenced genetics.
Since 2004, the farm has been developing a herd of top quality Shorthorn genetics, leading to many champions at the Minnesota State Fair, Iowa State Fair, Shorthorn Junior Nationals, Ak-Sar-Ben, American Royal, North American International Livestock Exposition (NAILE), and the National Western Stock Show.
“In the last seven years, our family has had supreme champion three times, and reserve supreme twice,” Frank said.
Preparation for shows begins far in advance, when calves are about 6 months old.
“Working with calves is fun,” Will said. “You wash them every day, and blow dry them.”
Calves are also trained to lead, and get used to wearing a halter.
“We have a radio on so they get used to noise,” Frank added.
The animals are given ideal amounts of nutritious food, and are kept in a climate-controlled environment.
“They have to be in tip-top shape,” Frank said.
Maintaining the hair of show calves is another crucial component.
“They [the children] brush them for hours on end,” Frank said.
Brushing trains the hair to lay a certain direction, giving the animals a longer appearance.
“You can’t make a bad calf look good with hair, but you can enhance a calf’s features,” Frank said.
The day of the show, it takes four or five people more than an hour to prep each calf.
“It’s a very meticulous process,” Frank said.
First, calves are misted with an ultra-strong “hairspray.” Then, the hair is carefully clipped to create a flawless look.
“It’s a beauty contest for cattle,” Frank said.
Frank, who grew up in west central Iowa, also enjoyed showing cattle as a child.
His wife, Mary, is a Winsted Holy Trinity alumna who was in the same class as current school Principal Cathy Millerbernd.
Will said his first few weeks at Holy Trinity have been good. Before starting school in Winsted, Will was a student at Cedarcrest Academy, a k-8 school in Maple Grove that recently changed its name to Ave Maria Academy.
Someday, Will hopes to become a mechanic, and have a small farm on the side.
More about the O’Sullivan farm can be found on their Facebook page, O’Sullivan Cattle Co.