GRANGEVILLE Love of cows leads to showring, 4-H, FFA, Purina and business opportunities
For Sydney Rylaarsdam, it’s been cows since day one.
Born into a cattle family and helping feed almost since she could walk, the Grangeville 16-year-old is immersed in cow culture.
It may interfere with school sports, friendships and other extracurriculars; however, Sydney knows where she stands.
“Cows are my priority,” the Grangeville High School junior smiled.
She has helped her uncle, Bob, on the family farm and showed her first steer for 4-H when she was 9.
“I actually started with a goat as a Cloverbud the year prior, just to get the feel for showing and managing an animal,” she said.
But it was that first step into the showring with her steer that solidified her love of showing cows.
“I was hooked – I had a huge smile and I just loved it,” she said.
That’s been evidenced by not only her continuance with 4-H, but also with Grangeville’s FFA and privately in the Junior Angus Shows, which she started about two years into 4-H.
Her mother, Marilyn Rylaarsdam, also showed in the junior shows when she was a preteen and teen, so she encouraged Sydney to try it. The family now travels all over Idaho, Washington, Oregon and beyond.
Sydney has showed heifers, cows, pairs (cow and calf) and even shows 2,000-pound bulls. They are all bred-known, meaning she knows their exact lineage as she has bred and raised them herself.
“I love to show the heifers, but there is also something about the bulls – they are so big, so powerful. It’s a real challenge,” she said.
She has been fortunate, she explained, to raise animals with good dispositions. It is evident the amount of time she spends with them as each animal comes to her, nuzzles her and even stands in show position with very little prompting.
“You don’t win a show on show day,” she emphasized. “It’s all about the time you put in.”
“She spends a lot of time with her animals,” Marilyn acknowledged. “She is very responsible with them.”
Aside from being an award-winning showman, Sydney has also done well in the 4-H and FFA arenas. This year she will show her cow-calf pair in livestock breeding in 4-H, then in the market category she will show and sell her steer in FFA.
Also, in FFA, she has three supervised agriculture experience (SAE) projects: one for her steer, one for her cattle, and one as a Camas Prairie Angus Ranch ranchhand.
“FFA has been an amazing experience and I really appreciate Ms. [Katie] Mossman [agricultural sciences teacher and FFA advisor]. She is a great role model,” Sydney said. She said Jim Church with the local extension office and veterinarian Helen Rowland have also been a huge help, as have her mom and mom’s boyfriend, Pat Sullivan.
“Without all these people, I definitely couldn’t do what I do,” she said.
As a breeder, Sydney has the responsibility of running a business, which is also helping prepare for her life following high school.
“She’s really good with her money, very careful,” Marilyn added.
The passion Sydney shows her craft got her noticed by her feed representatives at Intermountain Feed in Lewiston.
Intermountain Feed, as the Purina dealership, recently sponsored a trip for Sydney to Purina headquarters outside of St. Louis, Mo. She, Marilyn and Pat all made the trip June 11-13 to the 1,200-acre facility.
“It was amazing,” Sydney said, a sentiment echoed by both her mom and Pat.
While there, she got in on classes discussing the science that goes along with each type of Purina food for the various animal species.
“They explained what different feed does for the right muscling, finishing and performance, and told how and why,” Sydney said. “I learned a lot I brought back to utilize with my own animals.”
Sydney knows the end game is obtaining a scholarship for her past high school education.
“Besides my love of it, that’s also why I do it – so I can get an education in the agriculture field and pay for it without student loans and debt,” she said. “Then for whatever I end up doing I will get to continue with what I love.”
Sydney also hopes her love of cows is something other young kids can see and emulate.
“Doing something like this opens so many doors and affords you so many opportunities,” she said.
That thought is why she is already planning her senior project.
“I want to do a county agricultural fair,” she said. “It’s not all worked out yet, but I’m thinking about it and how it could help other kids become involved in 4-H, FFA and more.”
Aside from her cows, she is an honor student, will attend the Idaho County Light and Power youth rally this month and has been involved in volleyball, basketball, track and Lively Livestock 4-H Club.
“It’s been busy, but it’s good,” she smiled. “I get to do what I love.”