By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support local journalism.
Dawson County teen nurtures passion for showing cows
Olivia Graham 1
Teenager Olivia Graham earned accolades for her Belted Galloway heifers Holly and Hazel during last year’s Georgia Nationals Fair.

Dawson County Junior High School eighth grader Olivia Graham’s love for showing Belted Galloway beef heifers through 4-H has brought national opportunities her way. 

This story continues below.

Recently, Olivia was selected to participate in the Belted Galloway Society National Junior Council Board. Only six students in the country are selected to be on this council. 

“We’re pretty proud of her. We’re pretty honored,” said Olivia’s mother, Maggie as she smiled at her daughter. 

“I know that showing cows is not the normal activity for girls that are my age. But it is something that I love, and something I can do that I think will help me later in life,” Olivia said in a letter about her personal journey. 

When she was five years old, she was diagnosed with cancer, and thankfully, she’s in complete remission now, she wrote. However, chemotherapy affected the strength in her feet and hands, making playing ball sports difficult. 

“Showing cattle is something I can do instead of something like playing a sport,” Olivia wrote. “Also, when I was sick, animals [were] what helped me feel better. So, I love spending my time with them.”

She was fortunate enough to have grandparents who own a small pasture where she can keep her cows. Five years ago, the teen began showing dairy cows, which her elder brother also showed, before she moved on to showing an Angus steer calf for a year. 

For the past two summers, Olivia has been able to attend a show cattle camp in Oklahoma, where she learned a lot about showing, fitting and raising cattle, including how to grow her own herd, maintain the cows’ health and breed them, she wrote in her letter.  

Throughout her first few years showing cows, she always enjoyed riding by a pasture of Belted Galloways, which are not as common in this area of the country. 

“She wanted something that nobody else had…something that was a little bit different and stood out more. The community is small, and they’ve been watching her shows and her success,” Maggie said.

Of course, part of the appeal with showing Belties was “because they’re big and fluffy,” Olivia said, grinning. 

She used money saved from winnings showing dairy and the beef steer and some help from her parents to purchase her first two registered Belted Galloway heifers, which she named Hazel and Helen. 

Olivia has encountered challenges showing Belties, such as her cow Helen passing away from illness, acquiring a calf named Holly from the same farm as Helen and working to get the new cow ready for shows. 

Olivia Graham 2
Olivia Graham tends to one of her Belties, Holly.

The teen has showcased her cows in the “All Other Breed” class at local and state shows due to there not being a Beltie-specific class, earning first and third-place wins for both Holly and Hazel in their classes at last year’s Georgia Nationals Fair.  

Since purchasing her first two cows, Olivia has been a member of the Junior Belted Galloway Society. Their junior program provides straws for her to artificially inseminate her heifers. 

Her heifer, Hazel, is pregnant and is expected to give birth in October. Then, Olivia will own her first farm-raised show calf from birth, the teen wrote in her letter. 

Olivia repeated her excitement about the junior council opportunity. She plans to compete in November’s national 4-H show and conference in Kentucky, where the council will also meet.

To help her and her show cows get to nationals, Olivia is seeking sponsorships to help with attending nationals. People interested in sponsoring her can contact 4-H Program Coordinator Samantha Graves with the Dawson County UGA Extension Office at (706) 265-2442.

Olivia sees herself tending to cows for the long term, as she aspires to become a large animal veterinarian in the future. 

“She’s always wanted to be a veterinarian,” Maggie said of her daughter, “but now that she’s been in the cow world, that’s really a specialty she’s drawn to.”