A Blessing & A Privilege

Donated Heifer leads to responsibility and a potential future in agriculture

By Craig Reed

Molly Kenagy standing by a fence
Molly Kenagy received a heifer through a program sponsored by Douglas County Livestock Association. She is active in Oakland FFA and plans to remain involved in the cattle industry. Photo by Craig Reed

Twenty-five purebred Red Angus heifers milled around in the corral. Molly Kenagy had to choose one.

Before she had much of a chance to evaluate the young animals, one stood out by looking at the 12-year-old girl.

“It was almost like she picked me,” Molly says. “It sounds sappy, but we kind of picked each other. I’m glad I picked her, or she picked me. She’s been so much fun.”

On that fall day in 2019, Molly was a recipient of a heifer through the Douglas County Livestock Association’s heifer replacement program.

The 10-year-old program is an effort by the association to encourage young people to get involved in agriculture. Youth in grades 5 through 11 can apply for a heifer if they have shown a livestock animal in  at least one jackpot show or fair, have a suitable location to keep the heifer and can provide feed for it.

A livestock association committee judges the applications and usually selects two youth a year to receive a heifer. The animals are offered by livestock producers who are reimbursed 80% of the animal’s value by the association. The heifers are valued at about $1,000.

Ten Douglas County cattle owners have donated heifers throughout the program’s 10 years.

“The livestock association recognizes the value of educating kids about agriculture,” says Veril Nelson, who ranches east of Sutherlin and coordinates the heifer program. “The best way to go about that is to have an agricultural project. Giving kids this experience bridges that gap to agriculture and might inspire them to be involved in agriculture in their future.”

Molly says she wanted a heifer to start her own herd. She had shown three lambs at the annual Douglas County Lamb Show and two heifers at Douglas County Fair.

The Oakland High School student already had a cow that her parents, Kyle and Amy, helped her buy when it was a heifer. This time, she didn’t need any financial help to acquire a second heifer.

“It’s a great opportunity,” Molly says. “If you get the chance and want to start your own herd of cattle, these ranchers want to help you. They want to help you become involved in the livestock industry. It’s a blessing—a privilege—to get a heifer. Those people are trusting you to take care of this animal.”

Molly quickly bonded with her new heifer, a donation by Veril’s Nelson Red Angus Ranch. She named the animal Cora.

“She enjoys the pampered life,” Molly says. “It was my responsibility to feed her, to learn about animal nutrition, wash her, halter break her and show her.”

Molly knew the responsibilities expected of her because her two older sisters, Ellie and Lucy, each received a heifer from the association, and the girls’ parents have a cattle and sheep operation.

Molly with her heifer, Cora
Molly has cared for her heifer, Cora, through two pregnancies. A bull named Blaze was September 2020. Another calf is due next month. Photo courtesy of Amy Kenagy

Molly fed Cora and three other calves at 6 a.m. and then again in the evening.

“It really wasn’t a chore,” she says. “I wanted to do it. It was my hobby.”

Molly and Cora participated in a jackpot livestock show in Myrtle Point in June 2020. The pair earned second in their class. Because Molly wasn’t old enough to be a National FFA Organization member, Lucy showed Cora in an FFA show a few months later. Cora was named reserve champion female.

In September 2020, Cora became a mother, giving birth to a bull calf. Because of the wildfires and smoky air at the time, Molly named the calf Blaze.

“Cora was a very good mother,” Molly says. “Blaze was very spoiled, by both of us.”

Molly showed the cow and calf at last year’s county fair. She plans to sell the young bull this spring.

Cora is pregnant again. Her second calf is due around April 1.

Because COVID-19 didn’t allow for the livestock association to hold its annual meeting last fall where Molly could make an in-person presentation about Cora, she submitted a written report. Molly wrote the report from Cora’s point of view.

“As a cow, I’d say life is pretty good these days,” Cora says in Molly’s report. “I’ve lived with Molly’s cow family for over two years. I’m fortunate to have other bovine friends, but my favorite friend is Molly.”

The report says Molly is active in Oakland FFA, has attended two nationally recognized multi-day camps for animal nutrition, health and showmanship skills, has earned her Youth For the Quality Care of Animals certification and has been selected to be a show circuit ambassador for 2022.

As an ambassador, Molly will work with other teens on leadership development and will promote the livestock and show industry in the Pacific Northwest.

Molly says she plans to stay involved in the cattle industry.

“It’s really an eye-opener to be involved in this industry, to live it, to experience it,” she says. “Not to be influenced by the media, but to experience it for what it is."

“Thank you to the livestock heifer program. It’s an honor.”