Patrick Foley checks on some of his cows in a pasture. The junior exhibitor started with two cows and has expanded his herd to 30 during his time as a 4-H and FFA member. He has traveled with his animals to local, regional and national shows, where he has made a lot of friends and thrived on competing with fellow cattlemen in the show ring.
Patrick Foley checks on some of his cows in a pasture. The junior exhibitor started with two cows and has expanded his herd to 30 during his time as a 4-H and FFA member. He has traveled with his animals to local, regional and national shows, where he has made a lot of friends and thrived on competing with fellow cattlemen in the show ring.

PEARL CITY, Ill. — Patrick Foley began competing in the show ring with his livestock a decade ago.

“I joined 4-H when I was 8 and started showing pigs,” said Foley, who recently graduated from Lena-Winslow High School. “The second year, I showed both pigs and cattle, and after that I switched to only showing cattle.”

Foley started his cow-calf operation by purchasing a cow from his grandfather, Dale Bennett, and a cow from cattleman Dale Wernicke.

“My grandpa raised Shorthorns, so he got me started with that breed,” the young producer said. “Then I bought other cows over the years and experimented with different breeds to find out which ones I liked the best.”

The cattleman has increased his numbers to a 30-cow herd that includes Shorthorn, Chi, Maine and Angus cows.

“We calve mostly in January and February, and at one time the cows were bred more with A.I.,” he said. “Now I’ve switched over to using a purebred Angus bull because I like the lower birth weights for calving ease.”

Foley actually helped build the cattle barn for his animals.

“I worked for the building company one summer because I really wanted to learn what went into building it,” he said. “We installed cameras so during calving season, I can just walk up to the computer every three hours to check the cows.”

In his beginning years, Foley started by showing at local county fairs.

“My mom showed cattle, so she got me into it,” said the son of Pat and Barb Foley. “As I improved the quality of my herd, I went to national shows in Kansas City, Denver, Louisville and the Junior National Show in Grand Island , Neb.”

Evidence of Foley’s success in the show ring is displayed in the office area of the barn where numerous trophies fill shelves and hang on the walls.

“Last year at the Illinois Beef Expo, my Shorthorn Plus heifer was the overall champion of the heifer show and my heifer was reserve champion Shorthorn Plus heifer at the Junior Nationals in Nebraska,” he said. “In 2008, I was a class winner at the Junior Nationals with a bred and owned heifer.”

Foley’s favorite part of his cattle operation is the actual time in the show ring.

“I love showing, going in the show ring and that whole feeling of not knowing how your animal will place,” he explained. “I’m a little competitive, so I like that rush when judge starts looking at your calf.”

The exhibitor also enjoys competing in showmanship classes.

“I like showmanship because you don’t have to have the best animal — it’s about how you show,” he said. “I won showmanship at the World Beef Expo in Milwaukee and at our county fair.”

Another important aspect of his showing experience, Foley said, is the time spent with friends.

“I have friends all over the country from going to shows,” he said. “And I met lots of people that I would not have met if I didn’t go to shows.”

In addition to being a 10-year member of the Lena Live Wires 4-H Club, Foley was a member of the Lena-Winslow FFA Chapter for four years.

“I was very active in our FFA chapter,” the cattleman recalled. “I was the chapter president my junior year, and I was involved in lots of judging, including livestock, poultry, meats and dairy.”

In past years, Foley has traveled to shows with as many as 13 cattle.

“Several of the county fairs are back to back, so we would come home from the fair for one day and then go to the next one to set up,” the showman explained. “It’s almost like a vacation because we take a camper and stay at the fair, yet we’re still working.”

When he showed large numbers of cattle, Foley said, that meant he had to start washing the animals at 3 a.m.

“I would not have been able to do this without the help of my parents,” he stressed. “It gets pretty hectic at the shows.”

There were a lot of times when Foley would be showing an animal and his dad would be standing at the edge of the ring holding the animal for the next class.

“It’s because of my parents that I have been able to show,” he stressed. “And I have a lot of good friends that also helped me.”

This year, the junior exhibitor plans to cut back on the number of animals and shows he will attend as he prepares to attend the University of Wisconsin at Platteville in the fall to study ag business.

“I will be going to the Shorthorn Preview Show this weekend at the Stevenson County Fairgrounds, and I’ll be going to a couple of county fairs,” he added. “I’m not sure if I’ll be going to national shows this year since I’m saving money for college.”

After completing his college education, Foley’s goal is to return to family operation, Foley Brothers Inc., which includes the production of corn, soybeans, alfalfa, wheat and rye.

“My dad and uncle also have a 125-head cow-calf herd, and they feed out the calves which are marketed to Tyson Foods,” the cattleman said.

“I want to come back to the farm expand my cow-calf herd and operate a feedlot,” he said.