The judges who interviewed this year's Master Stockman applicants at the recent Wisconsin Livestock Breeders Association annual meeting found they were "extremely impressive young people."
One of those judges, Leah Mindemann, said their accomplishments were noteworthy and their plans for the future "are mind-blowing. I'm extremely excited to see what they will do in the future."
In the past the association has chosen a Master Stockman scholarship winner in each of the species — sheep, beef and swine — but changed the program this year to offer three top scholarships to three youth with experience in any species along with two runners up.
That worked out perfectly this year, said Mindemann, since there were five applicants.
Winners of the Master Stockman awards and scholarships included Shea Esser of Bloomington; Jed Dallas of Shawano and Mikayla Wehrle of New London. The runners up were Jessica Alf, Edgerton and Jessica Taylor, Arlington.
Esser, 20, a graduate of River Ridge High School, is now a student at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, where he is majoring in animal science and ag business. He is the son of Pat and Kim Esser and has been active in showing his Lowline Angus at the WLBA Spring Preview Show in Jefferson.
He has also shown his beef, sheep and hog project animals at the Grant County and Blake's Prairie Fairs for the last eight years. This past year at World Beef Expo he swept all the awards for a particular breed, exhibiting the champion heifer, cow/calf pair, bull and reserve champion heifer.
Esser has also shown at the North American International Livestock Exposition (NAILE) in Louisville, the American Royal in Kansas City, National Western in Denver and the Houston Livestock Show in Texas. He had the division champion bull in Denver and the reserve champion bred-and-owned heifer at the American Royal.
Dallas, 18, is the son of Terri and Chuck Dallas, and has been an active sheep exhibitor since 2003 showing at numerous WLBA Spring Preview, Northeast Livestock and Summer Spectacular shows.
His showing resume also includes club lamb shows all over Wisconsin as well as state fairs in Iowa and Wisconsin, the NAILE in Louisville, the American Royal in Kansas City and jackpot shows in Michigan and Minnesota.
He is now a student at the UW-La Crosse majoring in biology with the goal of working some day as a geneticist. He credits his mentors, Doug and Roy Wilson for allowing him to work with sheep. "Everything I have learned and gained from the sheep project started at Corner View Club Lambs," he said.
His family doesn't live on a farm so he relied on the Wilsons to allow him to keep sheep at their farm and in return he worked there every day to feed, work with and take care of the sheep.
Wehrle, 18, is currently attending UW-Fox Valley where she is a freshman. She plans on transferring to UW-River Falls to complete a four-year degree in animal science. She is the daughter of Rick and Ann Wehrle.
As a youth exhibitor, she has shown swine and beef at the WLBA's Spring Preview and Summer Spectacular shows as well as the Waupaca County Fair, Wisconsin State Fair, National Barrow Show and Wisconsin Show Pig Association. She has been a member of the Sandy Knoll 4-H club for 12 years.
This summer she was the U.S. delegate to Tanzania with 4-H and she says she would like to work for 4-H International by building educational programs with the purpose of teaching good agricultural practices in countries like Tanzania.
Her family's farm is home to 15 sows and a boar with crossbred, Berkshire and spotted hogs. They have converted an old dairy barn to use for farrowing and raising hogs. This year, she said, they converted an area in their garage for a heated nursery and additional farrowing.
Jessica Alf, 18, is the daughter of Jill Alf and is currently attending the UW-Whitewater, majoring in accounting and finance. The Edgerton youth's major project has been sheep and she's been showing since 2003 when she first attended the WLBA Spring Preview Show.
Alf has been active in 4-H and at the Rock County Fair. She also represented Wisconsin at the National Make It With Wool competition in 2011, 2013 and 2014.
She has leadership experience with the Southern District Leadership Conference and National 4-H Congress. She has also served as FFA chapter officer in the Milton chapter and attended state and national FFA conventions.
Her family's flock started in 1996 with the purchase of four crossbred ewe lambs. The family spent the next two years rising, selling and showing market lambs with the ultimate goal of starting a flock of purebred Hampshire sheep.
In 1998, after painstaking research on genetic lines, the Alfs began their purebred flock, building that genetic base over the next five years.
Jessica Taylor, 19, is a student at Northeastern Junior College where she is majoring in agriculture education. She is the daughter of Todd and Lynnette Taylor.
Taylor has been showing in WLBA shows since 2003 and has exhibited sheep at the National Columbia Show. She has also shown hogs and sheep at the Lodi Agricultural Fair, Columbia County Fair and Wisconsin State Fair.
Taylor's dad has been the shepherd at the UW-Madison for the past 11 years and served in that same role at Texas A&M for seven years before that, so she is well-steeped in the sheep business.
She got her first ewe when she was about three years old. "I never showed her, but ever since then I have shown Hampshire and Columbia breeding animals and Hamp-Suffolk crossbreds and Columbia market lambs at the county, state and national levels."
Her first experience showing was when she was about four years old and her family had taken some of the A&M sheep to a show in Houston. As her dad showed the older ewe, which had lambed at the show, she and her sister showed the newborn lambs.
She says she immediately fell in love with the sheep and the experience and wanted to continue to do that as she grew older.