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Mercer teen-ager a regular at county, state fairs

August 26, 2003|ANN R. HARNEY

BURGIN - Ericka Waggener has always loved animals and recently that affection and an ability to work with large animals have paid dividends.

Last week, Ericka, 15, and her father, Howard, loaded three black Angus heifers into a livestock trailer and headed for Louisville for the Kentucky State Fair.

She's been there before and brought home respectable results.

This year, Erika was fifth overall in the junior show; and in the open show, she won third with two of her animals and fifth with the third one.

"I've done decent at the state fair," she said of the five times she's been.

She also won at the last six county fairs she entered.

She proudly shows a picture of her favorite among three heifers, Collette, which has brought not only praise for Ericka but has been named supreme champion animal and earned her showmanship awards.

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While Ericka talks about her experiences showing Angus cattle, her mother lovingly assembles what can only be called a treasure trove of purple and pink ribbons, trophies and banners denoting grand champion and reserve grand champion wins over the years her daughter has shown cattle.

Buyers at the state fair sometimes try to buy winning livestock. It would have to be a very good price for Ericka to decide to sell Collette. However, she would like to sell one of the other two cattle she took to Louisville.

That's the one that is owned by her parents and she doesn't seem as attached to her as she is to Collette, and she gets attached.

She had a show calf that she had broken and trained for show, but it was bitten by a rabid skunk and died at Christmastime. "I cried for days," she said. "You can get really close."

Ericka started learning to show cattle when her friend, Nikki Bugg, began to work with them. While Nikki was a little shy around the animals, Ericka dove right in and before she had her own cattle, Nikki's parents sort of took her in, according to Pam Bugg.

"I always wanted to pet the little calves," Ericka said about her early youth. She found working with cattle wonderful. "It was exciting to me; it still is."

Cattle are not her whole life. In addition to her classes at Burgin High School, Ericka is on the girls basketball team.

In addition to the county and state fairs, Ericka has shown cattle in the junior classes at the Angus national meeting. It was held in Louisville this year, and it will be in Kansas City, Mo., next year. She is the only female on a team that judged livestock at the North American International Livestock Exposition held annually in Louisville.

The team won the state contest and was second in a regional show in Virginia.

The state fair can be a grueling three days.

In the past, Ericka has stayed with the cattle in the barn Wednesday through Saturday nights of the state fair, sleeping with the her animals.

However, last year the bedding material and the cattle dander and hair got the best of her the day after the show.

She decided this year to stay in a motel Wednesday through Friday nights and stay at the fairgrounds the final night.

"All the kids hang out together the last night," she said.

Ericka plans to show cattle until she is 21. It is a good program that keeps young people out of trouble and teaches them a sense of responsibility, she said. Her parents are both proud and supportive of their daughter.

Ericka must spend some time with her cattle every day and she said it's like being responsible for another person.

They get a bath every day except the coldest. It promotes hair growth and the quality of the animals' coat.

On hot sunny days,her animals have it pretty good, as cattle go. They stay indoors away from the sun that soaks into their black coat.

Staying in the sun turns that sleek black coat brown, not the color they are supposed to be. In the shed, they usually have a fan near their stalls. So the time they spend roaming the Waggener farm is after sundown.

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