Growing up in Bristol Reese Rusenstrom was either at her family home or at their neighbour’s farm grooming or caring for the animals. Being there she felt most at home, which is what led her to compete in this year’s Build Your Herd 50K For The Future essay competition to grow her herd.
As a child, she tried different hobbies like dance and skating but she found that she naturally gravitated towards working with animals. When she got involved with the 4-H club at the age of six she started off showing sheep, then moved on to goats and one of the years a rabbit and just fell in love with it.
It wasn’t until she began working with Tyler McCann and Gillian MacDougall at Rosbern Farms, that she became interested in the beef industry. In 2019 McCann and MacDougall asked her to show an orphan beef calf named Gorgeous at the Shawville Fair. She remembers telling them that she would, but only for that year. To her surprise she enjoyed it, and even though she came last in all the categories, that experience made her realize she wanted to continue showing Simmental cattle, explained Rusenstrom.
What she loved about doing shows with her heifer is the behind the scenes aspect of the preparation before the shows. Spending time after school on the farm, blasting her favourite songs and grooming and clipping her animals. What people do not realize is all the work that gets done, for instance, if your animal is quiet at a show, Rusenstrom explained, it’s because you put in the work at home.
She attributes gaining those skills to being a part of the 4-H club. During her 10 years as a member of the 4-H club, Rusenstrom was the president for two years and highlighted that it made her a better public speaker, taught her leadership skills and made her a much more confident person in general.
“I think that’s one great thing about 4-H, is kids learn work ethic right away,” she said.
In 2020 she partnered up with McCann and MacDougall and bought a Simmental which gave her the idea to come up with her own farm name to register under. That’s when the South Bristol Cattle Company came to fruition.
“They’re kind of like my second family, that’s what I call them. During the summer and winter, I work there and I’m there most of the time as well. When I’m not at my own house,” said Rusenstrom.
When covid hit, in-person shows moved to zoom and she participated in some for fun and to keep herself busy but all the while she reached out to people and tried to network to learn as much as she could about the Simmental cattle because she wanted to build her herd with that breed of cows. Covid allowed her to connect with breeders from different corners of Canada because everything went online.
“I got to network a lot with people. I wasn’t afraid to send messages to a breeder in Alberta. And most people were very willing and would answer my questions. I made a point to reach out to them to learn,” she said. Right now she takes care of her seven animals who reside on Rosbern Farm.
Taking every opportunity she can get Rusenstrom took her chances to grow her herd as its been a passion of hers which is why she entered the competition. The competition is annually held by Bohrson Marketing services. To enter, participants had to submit an essay. This year’s prompt was ‘who is your role model and how do they inspire you to be successful in the future.’ For her essay, Rusenstrom chose Jackie MacGregor and Fawn Jackson.
“Throughout the past few years, I’ve met so many cool people that I look up to and it was really hard to pick just a couple. But what narrowed it down was they were the ones that have helped me grow and expand my network, not just in Quebec, but across the country,” she said.
She met the two on separate occasions. One was during an expo when she was trying to get her heifer ready for a show and MacGregor came up to her and offered to help. She gave her pointers and advice on how to do things differently and that really stuck with Rusenstrom.
With Jackson, she got to meet her at a 4-H club event where she gave a talk on showmanship and confirmation of a beef animal. That day was memorable because she got to spend an afternoon with Jackson, who helped her clip her animals and taught her how she did it and gave tips on easier ways to do it.
“The part that made it memorable to me was them taking time out of what they didn’t need to do, and they just made time to help me and other young enthusiasts,” she said.
Winning third prize she got a cheque for $5000 to purchase frozen genetics to build her herd. It’s different in that rather than buying a live animal it’s buying frozen genetics, whether it be semen or embryos.
Getting awarded for her essay was encouraging because, through the process of writing it, she got to reflect on her growth and how far she’s come. “I’ve grown as a person because I am not the same person today as I was four or five years ago,” she said.
Her parents, Mike and Jennifer, are also really proud of her and have supported her in everything she has done, whenever there was a show in town or out of town they were always willing to take her, she mentioned.
After finding out she was a top-eight finalist she and her father went to Edmonton for the ceremony. The essay was the first part but upon arrival, they also went through an interview round where they were asked questions related to their essay to determine how they ranked.
The experience was a positive one and made her feel extremely grateful for how far she’s come and all the opportunities she has gotten so far.
Graduating highschool this summer Rusenstrom said she doesn’t know what she wants to be when she grows up. She knows that she wants to study something related to agriculture but is unsure what that path looks like yet. And down the line, she’d love to own her own farm and grow her Simmental herd she said.
“I’m super excited about graduation, and I’m super excited to keep growing South Bristol Cattle Company and seeing which path that takes me," she said.
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