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KASSON, Minn. (AP) — While Mollie Allen may live just two blocks from Kasson-Mantorville High School, her heart is on the farm.

Specifically, her grandfather's farm near Dodge Center where there are chickens, goats, a horse, ducks, rabbits and three heifers, two purchased by Allen in the last year. Both are pregnant; one will calve in February and the other in April.

The high school junior also is a winner in the Minnesota Beef competition in which she was awarded a Simmental-Angus calf to add to her herd. She won, in part, by writing an essay explaining why she needed a heifer and how it would improve her life.

"It was a hard paper to write — to explain all that stuff. But I just love it," she said Oct. 20 at Minnesota Beef Expo at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds.

Owning cattle is a big responsibility and Minnesota Beef makes sure its young winners raise their calves right. Winners must submit paperwork every three months, including farm records detailing feed, costs, veterinarian visits and other items. If the paperwork is not submitted, the calf is taken away.

"I can't imagine," Allen told Agri News , shaking her head slowly.

Allen's new calf, named Piper, will join Lonette and Windchime, on grandpa's farm and begin a regimen of conditioning that could lead her to the show ring. When she's 14 months old — she's 5 months now — she'll be old enough to breed. Two straws of semen for artificial insemination are part of the Minnesota Beef prize.

The show ring is where Lonette, a "blue" Simmental-short horn mix, was Oct. 21 for Minnesota Beef's competition. While Lonette didn't bring home any ribbons, Allen was happy to show the gray heifer.

"I love showing cattle," Allen said.

She credits Mark and Donna Moenning and their daughters Mary and Martha for mentoring her on how to show animals, as well as writing a letter of recommendation for the Minnesota Beef contest.

"She wrote a beautiful letter," Mollie Allen's mother Jean Allen said of the Moennings. "The things she said, just beautiful."

Showing animals has changed Mollie Allen, too, Jean Allen said.

"To see her confidence and her dedication change and grow as part of this is beautiful," she said. "To see your child transform so in a short time is something else."

The growing herd has created stronger ties in the Allen family which also includes Mollie Allen's father and cattle partner Lyle, and brother DJ Allen. While illness keeps grandpa from being the primary caregiver for the animals, he loves seeing them every day.

"He goes out and calls Windchime, and she comes up to him. It's so cute," Jean Allen said.

The cattle require a lot of attention from Mollie Allen. She washes them twice a day in order to get their hair to fluff and stand better in the show ring — blow drying a cow with an overgrown hairdryer takes at least an hour — getting them used to wearing a halter and walking calmly on a lead, as well as feeding.

Being that they are breeding stock, they get a dry mix of three types of feed and each heifer eats about 23 pounds a day. Lyle Allen guesstimates Lonette weighs 1,600 pounds now.

"The cattle have really brought us together," Jean Allen said. "We all spend a lot of time together with them, and that's time that we may not have spent together as a family."

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