WELLMAN — Sixth grade is the normal time for kids to start developing hobbies. Elijah Statler, of Wellman, has an unusual one: raising miniature cattle breeds.
“Three years ago when I was nine, my sister (Abigail) got two bottle calves to show and it looked like something I would want to do,” he said of how he got into cattle farming.
With several family members and even himself and his sister at one point all having goats, he decided to forge his own path. Contraire to goats, the calves calmed down the more time he spent with them and he liked their personalities better. At age 11 he got his first bottle calf and from there he was hooked.
“Once they get older you need to brush them and wash them and take care of them to get them to stay calm,” he said.
With his sister leading the back on bottle calves, Statler said she was a big influence for him to try his hand at raising his own.
“I liked how excited they were to see her and how cute they looked,” he said.
An active member of the Limecreek Limewires with Washington County 4H, Statler has made a name for himself with his unique cattle.
“We raise miniature Herefords and Aberdeens and a mix of the two,” he said.
After seeing them at the fair a few times, Statler decided to try his hand at raising them himself. Only growing to about 2/3 the size of a regular cow, he said they are much easier to take care of as on average they clock in “only at about 1,000 pounds.”
“One of the reasons I like them is because they eat less grain and hay so this is better for hobby farmers because we don’t have a huge farm, but this way we can raise more cattle,” he said.
Now in his second year of raising miniatures, Statler hopes to bring to the fair a bucket-bottle calf, a return and a third which he uses for breeding. Raising them by himself would be a challenge for most 12-year-olds, but not for Statler.
During the fair, he wakes up at 5 a.m. to begin washing, brushing and drying the animals to prevent them from getting sun. Too much sun will stop hair growth, he said.
“For fair, you want their hair to be long so they keep their winter coat and look nicer,” he said.
Currently, there is no category specifically for smaller breeds but Statler is looking to change that. Being an advocate is just another part of being a hobby farmer, he said.
Although most kids would find it difficult to be so young and work in such a big industry, Statler credits his support system for his success.
“It’s nice to have my sister there with me but I also have a lot of friends that do calves too,” he said. “