Kalli is Keen on cows
If having her mother and grandfather in the 4-H wasn't enough to make Kalli Keen love cows, it doesn't hurt that she was born during the Douglas County Fair.
"I love the Douglas County Fair," Keen said. "I was born during the Douglas County Fair in 1986. I would have been at the fair, except I was born during the fair. But I did go to a show two weeks later, being only two weeks old."
Keen, a Baldwin native, is in her final year of 4-H as she prepares for the Douglas County Fair which begins Saturday.
"I wouldn't miss the Douglas County Fair for anything," Keen said. "I love it. I will come back to it year after year after year."
Keen said she will miss 4-H and the Douglas County Fair.
"I guarantee I will cry at the sale when I sell my steer, because 4-H has been my life," she said. "Ever since I can remember, I have been at the county fair. I will come back every year for it, there is no doubt. But I will miss the Douglas County fair."
This year Keen will be showing her dairy cattle and beef steer at the fair, along with modeling clothing.
"It's a lot of fun," she said of modeling clothing. "I've learned a lot as a consumer, like what to buy and what not to buy."
Keen was raised around cattle and the 4-H, since her mother and grandfather both participated in the 4-H.
"My grandpa and mother were in 4-H when they were kids, and I just kind of followed in their footsteps," Keen said.
Keen's grandfather, Robert Bigsby, showed cattle most of his life and Keen's mother also showed cattle for many years. Keen also has cousins involved in the 4-H.
Keen's mother, Carol Keen, said she is glad Kalli has been involved with 4-H for so long. So has her dad, Skip.
"It's my dreams to have my children be involved with 4-H for a long time," C. Keen said. "I'm just very proud of her."
Keen took a liking to cattle at a very young age and still continues to learn about them.
"I was probably the only 3-year-old around that could name off every breed of dairy cattle when you are driving down road," she said. "I was probably the only 7-year-old that could name all four stomachs of a cow and how they work. I pay attention to what I learn and if it has to do with cows, I remember it."
Keen went to her first cattle show when she was two weeks old, and has been around cattle her whole life. When Keen was 7 years old, she joined 4-H and is in her final year of it at age 18.
Keen has been involved with 4-H so long, because she enjoys talking to people and visiting different areas of the country.
"I like meeting all of the new people and getting to travel all over the United States," she said.
Showing dairy cattle
Keen has traveled all over the United States showing her dairy cattle. She only shows Holsteins. Most of her shows are on the East Coast, because that is where Keen feels the competition is.
"There just isn't as much competition here in Kansas as there used to be," Keen said. "That is why we go to the East Coast so much."
Keen even has cattle across the U.S. She has several cows in Ohio and Oklahoma, and even has one stuck in Canada right now after the border was closed.
Showing cattle is something Keen enjoys very much and she has no plans of ever stopping.
"I love it," she said. "I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. If I could, I would travel everyday and show cows."
On days leading up to a show, Keen's daily routine is very busy and requires waking up early.
"We get up at 4 a.m., wash all of the cows, put new bedding down for them and feed them," Keen said. "Then one person has to stay and wash them while everyone else goes and gets cleaned up and eats. Then, that night, you feed them again and the next morning you are up at 4 a.m. again."
The days before a show, Keen must wake up at 4 a.m., but on the day of the show, she wakes up at 2 a.m. The first day of the shows are usually the craziest, according to Keen.
"The first day is usually a mess," she said. "Everybody is getting the hay ready for their cattle. Then a lot of people set up big displays for their farm. The first day is hectic."
Last year, Keen had six heifers nominated for All-American. Keen had two cattle win the All-American Summer Yearling and the Junior All-American Spring Yearling. Both of those cattle also placed second at the world show.
"It was an absolute honor," Keen said. "Not very many juniors win All-American heifer. It was a surprise winning the summer yearling, because it's not often you take second at the world show and win All-American."
In March, the Holstein World, the National Holstein magazine for the U.S., named Keen the U.S. leader in junior member nominations. The Holstein World also named Keen winner of All-American, Reserve All-American, High Honorable Mention and Honorable Mention honors for the animals she and her partners exhibited last year in shows in Kansas, Oklahoma, Ohio, New York, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Massachusetts and Toronto.
Keen has also represented Kansas the past few years at the National Holstein Conventions as a member of the quiz bowl team, in the senior speech competition and this year will compete in the dairy jeopardy competition. Keen has held several offices in the Kansas Junior Holstein Association and is currently the vice president.
Carol Keen said she is very proud of her daughter.
"I'm very proud of her," Keen said. "It's hard to put into words how proud I am. She has accomplished a lot and has worked very hard. She deserves all of the honors she has earned."
Keen participates in the junior class at the cattle shows, because she is under the age of 21. She knows when she turns 21, she will begin competing in the open class.
Keen said she does have goals for herself and what awards she wants to win.
"My mom won Supreme Cow at the world show in 1990, and I am hoping to follow in her footsteps," she said.
Keen knows how much work it will take to follow in her mother's footsteps.
"I am going to have to buy cows with pedigree and watch their pedigree and their show line," she said. "I can't buy something I think is cute. I have to watch the characteristics of the actual animal."
Keen went to school in the Baldwin School District until she transferred to Lawrence for a year. But Keen didn't like Lawrence, so she went to Ottawa High School for one-and-a-half years, because Ottawa had an FFA program. She then graduated from OHS in 2004.
Keen will be attending Oklahoma State University this fall and will be studying agricultural journalism.