Hunter Aggen, son of Matt and Jessica Aggen, recently took home a host of awards during the Minnesota State Fair for showing his Simmental heifer OMF Heather Z36. The heifer took Supreme Champion Female in the FFA Show, which won the Aggens a one-year lease of a 20-foot Kiefer Deluxe II trailer.   SUBMITTED PHOTO
Hunter Aggen, son of Matt and Jessica Aggen, recently took home a host of awards during the Minnesota State Fair for showing his Simmental heifer OMF Heather Z36. The heifer took Supreme Champion Female in the FFA Show, which won the Aggens a one-year lease of a 20-foot Kiefer Deluxe II trailer. SUBMITTED PHOTO
"I'm definitely learning and beginning to pick up tips and tricks," explained Hunter Aggen, son of Matt and Jessica Aggen of Harmony, who has already shown significant understanding in raising and showing beef cattle.

Hunter, 14 and a freshman at Fillmore Central High School, returned to school a couple weeks ago just after achieving several victories at the Minnesota State Fair.

Hunter has been showing beef as a member of the Harmony Helping Hands since he was in third grade. As a member of a family that lives and breathes the breeding beef industry at Oak Meadow Farms, Hunter himself has found a passion for what he has been doing for several years.

"I really enjoy it. I find pleasure in showing cattle the more work I do with them," he said. This is a good thing for Hunter because he spends a lot of time and effort with showing cattle. Already, he is preparing for next year's county and state competitions.

Once summer hits, Hunter begins a full-time job in raising his show beef. This year, he was working with Heather, a Foundation Simmental Junior Yearling that was home raised at Oak Meadow Farms.

Waking up in the wee hours of the morning, Hunter would walk Heather for 45 minutes. He would feed her and then proceed to rinse and brush her, which would take up most of the morning.

Following working with several other animals, Hunter would return to give Heather some exercise at night before returning home for food and sleep before doing the same thing the next day.

"I put in a lot of hours at home practicing," he said.

The work paid off at the Fillmore County Fair where he received third overall heifer in the beef show and won his class of Foundation Simmental. "It's a pretty tough show at the county fair," Hunter remarked.

The first and second place winners chose other animals to take to the state fair, opening up a spot for Hunter to take his best animal. During the month prior to the state fair, he continued to do what he had done the entire summer.

The state fair was not a new experience for Hunter as he had been there the past two years. However, this was the first year he was able to enter the FFA show. In addition to the 4-H show, Hunter entered the Open Class Beef show, the 4-H Showmanship competition and the Beef Interview competition.

Hunter's younger brother, Garrett, was also showing pigs at the state fair. The entire family essentially moved to the fairground from Aug. 21 through Labor Day, only coming home for a few days here and there.

One of the things Hunter focused on most upon arriving was getting Heather comfortable in her new surroundings. He did get to enjoy the other aspects of the fair, but spent most of his time working with Heather and preparing for each of the six times he showed her.

"They get fatigued," he said about the animals at the fair.

The warm temperatures during the fair were dealt with cold water mists and rinses.

There was no rest for the weary human or heifer as Hunter showed for the 4-H Beef show on Aug. 22. Finding out he had placed in the top five, he showed again and ended up taking home Reserve Champion Foundation Simmental Heifer. Even though it wasn't first place, it gave him a good idea that Heather might do well in the other competitions.

"I felt pretty good. The heifer was really improving over the summer," stated Hunter.

Through attending other beef shows, the Aggens also had a pretty good idea of what was out there for competition. "Cattle have been getting more competitive, but we know that we usually have a decent competitor," said Jessica. However, according to Hunter, it's always a surprise whenever you do well. That surprise was something he had to get used to this year.

When all was said and done, Heather had been crowned Champion Foundation Simmental Heifer in the Open Show, FFA Champion Overall Heifer and Supreme Champion of the FFA Beef Show. Hunter also won Champion Beef Heifer Showperson in the Intermediate Division and was a finalist in the Beef Interview contest.

Whenever Hunter stepped into the ring with Heather, he tuned everything out. "I'm almost in a different zone. It's probably one of the coolest things in the world, especially when in a championship drive," he recalled.

In the Beef Show, Hunter showed Heather on Sept. 1 and then found out he was in the top three. The results were already known to the judges, but to build suspense, they announced the results on the last day of the fair.

The results were given on Labor Day and it was just Hunter and his heifer. In the ring, Hunter and Heather were standing at one end of the ring with the other two competitors standing at the other. The judge continued to build suspense as he walked between the cattle. Then, after acting like he would walk away from Hunter, he suddenly turned around and slapped Heather on the back.

The traditional declarative sign of a winner flooded Hunter with relief. "I thought, 'I did it,'" he said. Out of more than 400 cattle, Heather was the best. The FFA awarded the Aggens with a 20-foot Kiefer Deluxe II for a free lease throughout the next year. The trailer has Hunter's name printed on it.

The win of Supreme Champion at the state fair signaled even greater awareness for Oak Meadow Farms.

"We don't breed to show, but it's nice to get your name out there," said Jessica.

Hunter will continue to prepare for entry in the Minnesota Beef Expo in October. He is also involved with the competitions in the American Junior Simmental Association.

All the experiences in beef showing, judging and interviewing has helped Hunter develop communication skills. He shared that it has also helped him understand more of what his career will look like. Though he is just starting high school, he already knows that will attend a four-year college or university and pursue an ag-related major. His family is gradually teaching him more and more about the business side of owning a herd and Hunter is looking forward to being able to start his own herd and be held responsible for choices regarding breeding.

"You can't slack or it shows in the end. I've learned discipline and responsibility," he explained.

Hunter has made plenty of connections throughout the state and nation through showing beef. He expressed thanks toward his parents, grandparents, fellow 4-H members and his friends for teaching him so much.

In his own eyes, Hunter realizes he may still have much to learn, but he is also enjoying the success that has come from what he already knows.