Cade Shepherd, 17, is focused on improving his cattle herd
Cade Shepherd has a family history in agriculture.
His grandfather, Jim Shepherd, worked for Tyson, and grew chickens for Tyson and George’s. He also raised cattle. Cade’s father, Jay, is an agriculture education teacher at Mount Vernon (Mo.) High School.
The high school senior has shown a variety of champion livestock over the years, including broilers, swine, cattle and market lambs.
“The only thing I haven’t shown is goats,” Cade said with a laugh. “Being on a farm and showing livestock teaches you skills and a good work ethic, how to reason and work things through. It makes you think, ‘if I do this, then the outcome is going to be that.’”
Cade is concentrating more of his time on his Hereford cattle operation, and the family, which includes Cade’s mother Crystal and little sister Camryn, hit about 10 fairs each year, but the number can vary depending on schedules.
“It’s challenging to keep up with farm chores and school, but you just have to get up early in the morning, but you just got to do it if you love something and are passionate about it,” he said. “I just make it work.”
Showing may be the fun part of the cattle industry, but Cade is also passionate about improving the quality of his herd.
“This heifer right here is an example of what you can do in just a few years of breeding,” Cade said of one of his show heifers. “It’s cool to watch what you can do to improve the quality of an animal. You can take an average cow and breed her up to make an amazing cow. The cattle industry is more realistic than in the show ring, and not everyone is going to want to show cattle, and they don’t need to show to improve their herd. I love showing, but the cattle industry, in general, is a big part of my life.”
Buttons the Hereford bull gave Cade his first trophy, which Cade still has, when the duo took supreme champion bull at the Pleasant Hope (Mo.) Fair.
Showing may be his passion, but the science of agriculture appeals to Cade.
“I like agriculture better than science class because it means something to me,” he said. “I see the science of agriculture every day.”
Cade is in partnership with Jay in about 20 cows, which began from Cade’s maternal grandfather, Kerry Fowler of Sheldon, Mo.
Cade hopes to continue to build his herd and show cattle numbers. The young cattleman and his family have constructed a show barn. Pride in how far the growing operation has come is evident in Cade’s voice as he shows off the new structure.
“I appreciate it every day,” Cade said. “It’s not done yet, but it’s something me and my dad can work on together. We’re excited to see what happens next.”
There was a time, however, when Cade was ready to walk away from the livestock industry.
“To be honest, back in the day, I didn’t enjoy showing because our cattle weren’t the best, and we were getting beaten,” Cade said. “What got me back into it was the pig side of things. We got some pigs, some good ones, and then we started winning. Then we got some good cattle and started winning there too. It just got me more motivated to breed the best.
“Seeing myself grow with the industry and watching my cattle get better and better is exciting, and that makes me want to see where I can go and what happens next. I have some embryos coming this fall, and I’m excited to see how my cattle will evolve with this. It’s going to propel me.”
He’s hoping at least one of the embryos will produce a full sister to one of the heifers in his show sting.
“If I’m lucky, I’ll get three heifers,” he said. “Flushing is great because, for example, if there’s a hot bull out there, we can use him to sire those embryos, then put eight or nine of those embryos in our cows.”
He added that they plan on utilizing cows from his grandfather’s herd as recips.
“They are good, big-bodied cows that can handle it,” Cade said.
Cade is very active in FFA and is currently the Area 9 President, as well as an officer in the Mount Vernon FFA.
He hopes to be selected as a Missouri FFA Officer this spring. His father Jay was a state officer in 1995-1996.
After graduation, Cade plans to attend Crowder College in Neosho, Mo., for two years then attend Missouri State University and major in agricultural education.
“I’ve also thought about poultry science, so I’m teetering a little,” Cade said. “I do know I’ll be happy with either one. No matter what, I’m going to have some cattle around. I want my kids to show cattle, but if they don’t like cattle, we’ll show sheep or pigs.”