“I want a combine for my sandbox.” This is what a three-year-old Erika Kenner told Santa Claus with great sincerity close to 30 years ago. From that peek into the past, it shouldn’t be a surprise to find present day Kenner with her sleeves rolled up, hard at work in not only making a living in the cattle business, but making a difference.
Kenner possess the caliber of depth that cattlewomen and men need to move an industry forward – grit to handle countless hours of work in any of Mother Nature’s elements, intellect to make sound business decisions, and a certain kind grace to work collectively with stakeholders in an large organization.
After graduating from North Dakota State University and working for the American Simmental Association (ASA), Kenner wound right back up where it all began on her family’s third generation in Leeds, ND, Kenner Simmentals. Along with playing an essential role in the operation’s day-today activates, she’s also a key component to the marketing plan.
On top of serving on ASA’s Board of Directors, Kenner also joined the Drovers CattleNetwork advisory board. She and other key players in the cattle industry will give editor’s boots-on-the-ground perspective to help provide the best information to stakeholders throughout the entire industry.
- How did you get started in the beef industry?
My father already had cattle, and I was an animal lover, so I was outside with him as much as I could. We were selling some heifers in a consignment sale when I was 10 years old and my grandfather had come along to the sale. One heifer we were consigning I had fallen in love with as she was very tame. When she came in the ring (my dad was in the ring with her), I began to tear up, so my grandfather felt so bad and started bidding on the heifer. We ended up purchasing her, but I had to pay him back with interest. She was the start of my herd and was around until she was 15 years old. She was the traditional Simmental, so she was used as a recip for an embryo each year towards her later years, but she was at the farm!
- One interesting fact most people don’t know about you.
I danced ballet, tap and jazz for 10 years growing up. I continued my classes as an adult when I moved back to the farm.
- What do you think is the beef industry’s biggest challenge:
The way the industry operates
I believe the cost of the new technology will be the biggest challenge in the industry. Right now, the prices are high so it is working, but when the time comes the prices fall, it will be difficult for the producers to afford everything that we’ve all come to expect anymore. We want more information and we can get it, but it all comes with a price.
- If you were President for a day…
Lock Congress up in a room with no food, water, or any way to communicate with anyone outside the room. They would not be able to leave until they could compromise on something!
- Horse or ATV?
Horse, but I appreciate the ATV at times. I always do everything horseback, but some of our employees do everything by ATV and we work as a great team!
- What is your proudest accomplishment?
I’m definitely proud of what we have accomplished on the ranch, especially lately, but for me personally, something that I did all on my own was qualify for the Morgan Nationals with my horses when I was in high school & college. I purchased my first Morgan horse when I was 12 and trained her myself, she only had 30 days on her as a 2 year old. I worked for a trainer at numerous shows to learn more and attended every 4-H camp & workshop I could. It took so much time and dedication to compete at that level and many did not think I would be able to qualify. By the time I was done competing, I had competed in Western, English, Driving, Jumping and Trail. I had placed in the Top 10 at Nationals in several events between 2 horses! All of my competitors had trainers that did everything with their horses. Once I graduated college, I did not have time to compete anymore, but I still am so proud of what I accomplished with a lot of work and time. Now all my horses are put to work on the ranch with our cows and we trailride a little in Montana each summer. I still own both of the horses I showed, my first Morgan is now 28 and is still used on the ranch for easy work!