This month we’re featuring Kirk Stierwalt. Many of you know of Kirk from his fitting demonstrations and line of show supplies, but we wanted to know a bit more about Kirk and what drives him to be so active in the show industry.
Thanks Kirk for taking time out of your busy schedule to visit with us!
Share a little bit about your livestock background.
I?m from southern Iowa, but I grew up in town. However, my granddad had Hereford cattle, so I spent a lot of time on the farm, and was a product of the 4-H and FFA programs. I went to college and ended up working at Hartmans, then for Wises in Brownwood, TX and then for two years for Harrells in Leedey, OK. I liked Oklahoma so much, I stayed.
When did you start putting on fitting clinics?
We started our clinics in 1987, so we?ve been going strong for 27 years. For the first clinics we rented out the ag barn in Leedey. We cleaned up the barn in exchange for the space. The most we ever hosted was 20 people at once, but they kept getting bigger. Later, we started doing them at our place ? 7 clinics per summer. People came from everywhere, but it seemed that coordinating travel became more challenging after 9/11. We then decided it was easier to go to the people, rather than having them out to our ranch. I was Purina?s first Cattle Ambassador. The most challenging event for me was a demo I did for Purina ? when I started talking there was nobody in the audience. I just had to go on talking and demonstrating for no one. Thankfully things have changed! Today, I have a few different sponsors including Purina, Weaver Livestock, Andis, Cimarron Trailers, Eric Drager Photography, Cinch, Electric Cleaner, MultiMin 90 and Sta- Sound For a Stride.
Tell me about your line of show supplies for Weaver. What makes them different?
Weaver wanted to create a line, and we agreed there was no reason to do more of the same thing that was already on the market. These aerosols have no methylene chloride, giving consumers a different, safer formulation from other products. We offer more choices to help you build a ?toolbox? for each calf. A ?toolbox? has all the pieces for a successful feeding, clipping and grooming regimen ? and every calf is different.
When teaching kids to prepare their animals for the ring, what?s the most important part?
Daily care is the most important part. I believe that daily care drives the competitive spirit. The work has to happen at home, and the more time spent in the barn shows in the end with the young person?s showmanship and knowledge.
What?s your favorite part of the fitting process?
Clipping is my favorite part, but I think my son Ky would say fitting. I know it?s all got to get done, but I like clipping the best. I will say that fitting tailheads and flanks are my favorite part of a calf to fit.
At a show, where can we find you?
Back in the barn, or at a booth for a sponsor. I like being in the barn where the action is. Growing up, that?s where my granddad made me watch in order to learn, he said I?d learn more there than at the show ring.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to be a top-notch fitter?
Take one calf at a time ? they?re all different and all a new challenge. Attitude is everything, it?s one thing to have a lot of talent, but you have to keep going and keep doing because people will notice. Don?t give up ? keep your eyes and ears open. Creativity can pop up anywhere, you just need to be watching. I still watch others and ask questions. This business is growing and changing constantly.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
I enjoy helping someone accomplish something they didn?t think they could do. That?s a pretty big reward! And the people. I?ve got kids coming to my clinics now whose parents were some of the first clinic attendees. I probably tell them more of what I did wrong that what I did right, this seems easier for them to retain. I don?t mind using myself as an example of what NOTto do.
Who is your role model?
My mom and dad supported me, and my granddad with his Herefords. He and I got really close and they all encouraged me from the very beginning.
If you could go back to your junior show days and tell yourself one thing, what would it be?
I might laugh at myself now ? in a good way. The whole grooming process and industry in general has evolved since I was showing. It was just scratching the surface, and we thought we were at the cutting edge!
Anything else you?d like to tell our readers?
We need to stop and think about 4-H and FFA. These are 100+ year old programs, that are not only generational, but wholesome. We?re raising our kids with livestock, and this project is good for the whole family. Sure showing has changed, but 4-H and FFA are still based on the same ideals and we need to do our part to keep them going.