Kailey Wirsta has been a member of her family’s central Alberta cattle business since before she was six years old.
Now at age 17, she’s preparing to take over K-Cow Ranch in Elk Point from her dad, Kevin and mom, Janice.
“Once I’m done my post-secondary education, I plan to grow my herd and expand… improve what we already have,” she said.
The prospect of inheriting 260 cattle could seem overwhelming for some young adults, but for Kailey, it’s something she’s been preparing for her whole life.
“It’s a business. Lots of kids in this barn are nine and starting their herds,” Kaily said. “I got my first cow when I was one. She was born on my birthday, so mom and dad gave her to me. That’s part of how my herd started.”
Yellow, red and purple tags distinguish which cow belongs to which family member. That includes the youngest Wirsta, 15-year-old Lexi.
The family breeds three varieties of cattle: Angus, Charolais and Hereford. Some of those cows are brought to Farmfair International — one of Canada’s top agricultural shows where international guests come to the Edmonton region to showcase livestock. Kevin admits it can be a challenge to breed all three types, but the payoff is worth it.
The family’s hard work is also being recognized by their own community, as they were recently named recipients of a BMO Farm Family Award.
“We do a lot of volunteering. We are big in the 4-H program, we’ve been involved in that for many years. We’re teaching our kids to volunteer and be a part of the community,” Kevin said.
The care and attention the Wirsta family provides to their animals is a testament to their dedication to farming.
“We take pride in presenting them to the world. We look after these cattle very well and they are very special to our hearts,” Kevin said.
That means when the cattle go to events like Farmfair, they get the royal treatment before their trip.
“You start with washing them. Then you bring them back to the stall and you blow-dry them, get their hair going in a nice direction, a nice flow. Then you put in a styling spray, to give them some sheen and shine,” Kevin explained.
As for the emotional attachment, the heart of the business runs in the family.