Harvey, Diesel and Emilee head to the fair

A handful for most, two 1,000-plus-pound steers are well-mannered prize contenders in the hands of Grafton teen whose love of animals inspires her 4-H involvement

FLANKED BY STEERS Diesel (left) and Harvey, Emilee Thiede walked the animals around the yard at Paul Jaffke’s Town of Grafton farm on Tuesday before washing them in preparation for the Ozaukee County Fair, which opened Wednesday. Below, an 11-year-old Emilee posed with her first dairy calf named Chloe. Photo by Sam Arendt
Ozaukee Press staff


Ozaukee Press staff

Sixteen-year-old Emilee Thiede may be feeling just a bit under the weather, but she won’t let it show this week.

After all, it’s fair week, and the Grafton resident is preparing to show her two steers  — and her quilting, writing and child development projects — and compete for the title of Miss Ozaukee 4-H.

“I’m a busy person. I like to stay busy,” said Emilee, who is also vice president of Cloverleaf 4-H Club and a dairy project leader. “I’m young. You don’t get these opportunities when you’re older.”

The work that takes up the majority of her time is her beef project. 

Emilee picked out, raised and trained two Holstein-Swedish Red-Montbeliarde steers since they were just a couple weeks old in October. Since she lives in the Village of Grafton, the steers are kept at Paul Jaffke’s farm on Ulao Parkway in the Town of Grafton. 

Harvey, a red-and-white steer, was about 675 pounds in January, when he was weighed, and is about 1,300 pounds now.

Diesel, a black-and-white steer, who was 750 pounds then, is between 1,300 and 1,400 pounds now.

“I call them my boys,” Emilee said. “They’re my family, too.”

She named the steers — Harvey because it’s an older, more settled name, she said, and Diesel because it’s a hard-working name that reflects a hard-headed attitude — and has since discovered that the names reflect their personalities.

Diesel, she said, is stubborn and challenging while Harvey is gentler.

“He’s a puppy dog,” she said.

Emilee, the daughter of Todd and DeAnn Thiede, said she’s always been drawn to animals, and that’s what got her involved in 4-H. 

“I was the little person who would feed the squirrels,” she said. “My mom would yell at me.”

Originally, she wanted to get involved with the 4-H horse project, Emilee said. “I didn’t have a horse, so I did cows.

“I fell in love with them, their behavior, the silly faces they make. I realized I wanted to put my work into this, and my time.”

She first showed a spring calf, then a winter calf, a spring yearling and a winter yearling, keeping those animals at the Paulus farm.

And she did well, last year taking second in class. 

  This is Emilee’s first year raising steers — she participated in the dairy category for the past five years but decided to move up when her dairy leader stepped down — and she’s loving it.

She said she learned a lot from Jaffke but also just by doing.

When the steers first came to the farm, Emilee said, she spent a lot of time just sitting in the barn with them. Then she started talking to them, sweeping the floor and generally getting them accustomed to noise.

“They weren’t used to people at all,” she said.

Slowly they got used to her. The first time she put a halter on them, it took 15 minutes, Emilee said.

Harvey started walking around with the halter immediately, but it took Diesel a month.

“It takes a lot of patience,” she said. “It’s really all about testing and patience and trust. It took a while to build that trust. You have to understand the animals. 

“You have to let them know who’s boss, but you also have to respect their space and them. Everything pretty much goes well after that.”

Training the steers took a lot of time, Emilee said, noting she’s usually at the farm four or five days a week for two hours at a time.

“They’re so calm with me now,” Emilee said. “They’re so sweet. They nuzzle into me. 

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it. I’m accustomed to barn life.”

If they are outside the barn without a halter when she arrives, Emilee said, they come up to her when they see her and she’ll spend 20 minutes petting them.

“I love that I have that bond with them,” she said.

That’s not to say it’s always easy, especially if the steers have their mind set on something.

“I have built a little muscle with them,” Emilee said, adding, “It takes three grown men to move Diesel sometimes.”

At the fair, Emilee said, her steers will be judged in several categories, including showmanship. She expects Harvey to excel in showmanship, she said, noting, “He’s more willing to work with me.”

Harvey is also going to be judged on how much weight he’s gained since the beginning of the year.

“Harvey, I think he’s going to do really well,” Emilee said. “And Diesel, with the way he looks, he’ll have a good presentation for the judges.”

She’s also preparing herself for the livestock auction on Thursday night, where Diesel will be sold.

“It’s going to be hard,” Emilee said. “I know I’m going to cry — I just hope I don’t shed tears while I’m showing him.”

Harvey, she said, will come back to live with Jaffke for a time.

It’s a sad reality, she said, adding, “they’re made for consumption.”

Emilee plans to use some of the money she makes on Diesel to purchase animals for next year’s steer project and put the rest away for college.

In keeping with her love of working with animals, the Grafton High School junior has her sights set on a career as a veterinarian specializing in large animals.


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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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