Rocco has always been a little stubborn.
At 1,388 pounds, the European crossbred steer has an attitude and a “presence,” said 15-year-old Mikala Grady, who showed him Friday at the Fort Worth Stock Show.
But for a few minutes Friday afternoon, he was surprisingly well-behaved and earned the title of grand champion steer.
Rocco won the heavyweight class of the European crossbred division before being named grand champion by judge Doug Husfeld.
It marks the 35th consecutive year that a European crossbred has been named grand champion in Fort Worth.
And it was another big honor for Mikala, a ninth grader at Grandview High School and a member of Grandview 4-H.
Last month, she won two reserve grand champion titles — one with a barrow, another with a steer — at the National Western Stock Show in Denver.
Two years ago, she won a grand champion prize with a barrow in Fort Worth. She also showed the grand champion barrow in Houston in 2014.
The 2017 Sale of Champions, which features the top junior steers, barrows, lambs and goats, begins at 9 a.m. Saturday in the West Arena.
But Friday — her first win with a steer in Fort Worth after three tries — was even more special.
“I never really thought I would get here,” she said, “and this was the goal. It’s so big and it’s such a feat to get it done.”
Friday was only her second time showing Rocco, but she’s raised him for the last 18 months.
She and her father, Brad Grady, bought him from Bonham Show Cattle in Newcastle, Okla. She could tell early on that he would be big.
“He stood out like a sore thumb,” she said.
Now, Rocco is “monster-legged” with a smooth coat of reddish-brown hair, Mikala said.
“He’s the best calf Mikala has ever shown by a mile,” her father said.
Rocco grew antsy toward the end of the show Friday and didn’t much care to have his picture taken backstage, where winners and their families pose for official portraits.
“He’s kind of hard to handle,” Mikala said.
But in between, as Mikala received her winning prize and talked to reporters, Rocco stood calmly by her side, even ignoring a nearby steer who was running loose.
Prize money coming
Mikala should expect a hefty check for her steer at Saturday’s Sale of Champions.
Last year’s winning steer was Big Boy, a 1,362-pound European crossbred that earned $210,000 at the Sale of Champions.
Other past winners have brought home up to $240,000.
From her winnings in Denver alone, Mikala amassed $145,500, and her grand champion barrow in Fort Worth in 2015 sold for $55,000.
We do pigs 365 days a year. So this gives her a break from that. She has been very successful with pigs.
Jay McCormick, father of Claire McCormick, who showed the reserve grand champion.
Her prize money should easily pay for her college tuition. She wants to study to become a veterinarian.
“Money is not going to be an issue for her as far as college goes,” said her father, who works as a private equity investor.
Now, she can learn how to manage her winnings.
“I can teach her about compound interest with her own money,” Brad Grady said, “so the little girl will have something one day.”
Runner-up takes victory lap
Claire McCormick, 16, of Canyon, took second place honors with a 1,343 pound European crossbred steer named Pedro. And surprisingly, it was a runner-up showing that was made sweeter for McCormick because of who finished first.
“My best friend [Mikala Grady] won the grand,” said McCormick, who is a sophomore at Canyon High School and a member of Randall County 4H.
This is not the first time the young exhibitor has won big at the Stock Show. It is just the first time she has had an impressive finish with a steer.
“I won the [junior] barrow show here in 2014, when I was 13,” said McCormick, explaining that her family’s business, McCormick Livestock, is all about pigs.
“We do pigs 365 days a year. So this gives her a break from that,” said her father, Jay McCormick. “She has been very successful with pigs. But she loves the cattle, so she wanted to try a different barn.”
That venture into “a different barn” promises to pay big dividends for McCormick, who hopes to study agriculture at Texas Tech University. Last year, the reserve grand champion steer sold for $170,000 at the Sale of Champions.
But even though she is no stranger to victory in the arena, Friday’s events left McCormick a bit stunned.
“I don’t even know how I feel right now,” she said.
Everyone else seemed elated, including Pedro. Shortly after being named reserve grand champion, the steer broke away from McCormick and enjoyed a carefree romp around the arena.
Announcer Terry Starnes assured the crowd that it was “just a victory lap.”
Correspondent Punch Shaw contributed to this report.