By Konstantine Fekos
When they’re not participating in farm shows, Centerville sisters Kali and Madalyn Rankin of Lone Pine Acres are up at dawn walking their cows, often a precursor to subsequent bouts of brushing, washing, feeding and all-around constant care that their prize-winning cattle require.
Kali Rankin, 10, recently took the prize for Reserve Grand Champion in the Pennsylvania Farm Show with the help of her shorthorn beef heifer, Little Miss Darla.
Shorthorn Grand Champion Heifer went to Sull Roan Mattis, owned by Rachel Clark of Mercersburg, Franklin County.
The state show, held in Harrisburg, boasts nearly 10,000 competitive exhibits and 6,000 animals and remains one of the country’s largest indoor agricultural expositions, representing more than half of the state’s counties.
“They’ve basically been in the barn since they were born,” father Greg Rankin said, mentioning his daughters’ roles in helping deliver and raise their cows.
Although Madalyn’s shorthorn heifer Lilly didn’t place in this year’s state finals, both girls competed in the junior league between Jan. 5 and 12, having won first place in several preliminary divisions.
The sisters still have several champion and division titles under their belts for previous shows in various counties.
“In order to win, they have to win first in their class,” said Janel Rankin, the girls’ mother, who watched her daughters compete against national entries in shows like the Keystone International Livestock Exposition, an October show in Harrisburg.
While care and attention help put them ahead of the herd, the girls have honed in on the major aspects of what makes a champion.
“We mix their show feed and give them hay,” said Kali Rankin, listing specific ingredients like oats, corn and barley. “It makes their bellies get bigger for shows.”
The girls also employ show sticks when walking their cattle to improve a major show factor, good foot position.
“Sometimes they’re stubborn, but all you have to do is push them and they go,” said Madalyn Rankin, 8.
Following in their parents’ footsteps, these local cowgirls have been raising cattle and representing the county in state shows just about their whole lives.
Janel Rankin showed steers for more than a decade of her life. Greg Rankin, who showed sheep during his time with 4-H, said he and his wife put the girls in charge of many facets of the cattle raising in order “to teach them responsibility.”
“We (raise cattle) as a family and spend a lot of hours doing it,” Janel Rankin said. “We really enjoy it.”
Responsibility can be fun in cattle raising, according to Kali Rankin, who enjoys being able to run around and play with their prized champions.
That’s not to say there’s no winner’s rush in “getting first and second and doing well,” according to Madalyn, describing her favorite part of showing.
The girls take the several hours with their one-year-old and eight-month-old cows to heart, tending to their daily and long-term needs, making hay, mixing feed and even helping to pick out bulls for breeding.
The winter months impede some cleaning and care, but the sisters can still be found in the barn, bundled up with brushes in hand.
“We try to wash them twice a week,” Madalyn Rankin said. “It’s hard to do when it’s cold.”
Usually the girls will start cow-care duties around 6:30 a.m. before homeschooling and other activities.
“A lot of people invest time and money in sports,” Janel Rankin said. “This is pretty much their sport.”
Cattle-showing may house their competitive drive, but the girls still enjoy a variety of outdoor activities such as soccer and other sports, all while balancing their daily chores and studies.
“They’ve done very well,” Janel Rankin said. “All the time they invest is paying off.”
Kali and Madalyn plan to continue their already prominent showing streak, expressing their wish to raise and compete for centuries if they could.
Konstantine Fekos can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.