DAYS CREEK — Emily Hopfer’s first decision when she joined 4-H as a fourth-grader turned out eight years later to be an FFA winner.
At the recent Oregon State FFA Convention in Corvallis, Hopfer’s breeding of purebred Gelbvieh cattle won first place for Beef Entrepreneurship Proficiency.
She picked that breed when she was a member of the Days Creek Junior Stockmen, a 4-H club.
“They’re a docile breed,” Hopfer said last week while watching some of her Gelbvieh mother cows graze in a field. “They weren’t going to beat up a fourth-grade girl.”
The high school junior, 16, is now a member of the Days Creek Charter School’s FFA program.
A dozen beef proficiency entries were judged by written answers, a resumé, letters of recommendation, photos and an interview with a 12-member panel. The winner received a plaque and $250.
Hopfer was the only FFA member who raised the Gelbvieh breed.
“I was really surprised, and I was really happy,” she said. “Normally, it’s a senior who wins. There’s a lot of great competition across the state that you have to beat.”
Hopfer’s win keeps the award at Days Creek. A year ago, senior Melissa Arp won for producing calves from Angus and Simmental breeds for 4-H and FFA members.
Melissa Arp’s father, Brian Arp, the agricultural science and technology teacher at Days Creek, said he wasn’t surprised by Hopfer’s win.
“She had a really solid project, one that she started back in 4-H,” he said. “It’s been a focus for her, and she’s done a really nice job with it. The Gelbvieh breed is very easygoing and was a good choice for her.”
The Gelbvieh breed originated in the mid-18th century in the Bavarian area of Germany. Several breeds of German cattle were bred into what would eventually be the Gelbvieh, which means yellow or gold cattle in German. The breed is known for its as easy growth, quick maturity and docility. The females are also known to have smaller offspring, allowing for ease of calving.
The Gelbvieh breed was imported to the U.S. in 1971. The U.S. herd has grown to 45,000 registered animals.
Hopfer purchased her first Gelbvieh mother cow from Richard Bartell of Powell Butte. Several calves were born this winter, and her purebred herd now totals 28 animals.
“I love the cattle business,” said Hopfer, whose father, Mark Hopfer, is a retired Days Creek school ag teacher. “We’re feeding America, a small part, but it’s what we’re doing.
“It’s amazing to be in the show ring,” she said. “Showing something you helped produce. There’s nothing like that.”
Hopfer said her winning beef proficiency entry will be submitted to the national level and judged against other state FFA winners.
“Obviously, not a lot of people have heard about the Gelbvieh breed,” she said, noting there are only 20 to 30 purebred herds in the Pacific Northwest. “This is another marketing method to get the Gelbvieh name out there.”
Through embryo transfer and artificial insemination, and by using her own herd sires, Hopfer wants to expand her herd to about 60 mother cows. Her profit will come from selling high-graded bulls to other breeding projects and selling lower-graded bulls and heifers for meat. The superior heifers will be used to increase the herd.
In January 2014, Hopfer plans to take a couple of her heifers to the National Western Stock Show in Denver, Colo., and show them in the Gelbvieh competition.
That would cap quite a journey since Hopfer picked the Gelbvieh breed back in the fourth grade.
• News-Review business reporter Craig Reed can be reached by calling 541-957-4210 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.