Veteran ag student recalls livestock shows

MERCEDES — He’s done it again.

But it’s no surprise. Jake Rhyner has been winning events at the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show for years.

“This year I showed a lamb, a goat, a steer and two heifers,” said Jake, 17, a senior at Rio Hondo High School.

“I got third place with my lamb, and I got reserve breed with my Brahman steer,” he said.

But the clincher?

“I won the goat show,” he said with satisfaction. “My one goal was to win a market show in Mercedes. I’ve gotten reserves before, but my goal was to win one, and winning that goat show was pretty exciting.”

Winning livestock shows seems to be a family tradition around the Rhyner household. His brother Ty, who is now in college, has won numerous events. Jake has shown all manner of livestock in his career as an ag student.

There’s a simple answer to the question about why he’s raised so many animals.

“Just to try it,” he said. “I’ve done it since basically I first started showing since third grade. I’ve done a bunch of animals.”

He would normally be raising hogs, too. But this isn’t an ordinary year for Jake, who also played offensive lineman for Rio Hondo High School’s football team.

“I didn’t have enough time to do the things I was doing right now because I was in sports, and trying to keep up with FFA and 4H and showing animals and traveling to colleges,” he said.

He’s been offered football scholarships to several colleges and universities, including Hardin Simmons University in Abilene and Southwestern University in Georgetown where his brother Ty attends.

One of the most memorable experiences in Jake’s career in livestock shows took place two years ago.

“Me and my brother Ty, he won the lamb show and I won reserve lamb show,” he said. “And I won champion American Breed Class heifer and he won All Other Breeds heifer.”

Jake has such a broad range of experience with so many different kinds of animals he can speak as something of an expert in the industry.

“The most time-consuming and the most work you have to put in would be lambs and goats by far,” he said. “You have to do so many exercises with them every day and you can only feed them a certain amount. You have to work with them so many hours a day. I probably worked with my lambs and goats like three hours a day on a regular basis.”

His mother Stephanie admired how livestock shows had molded both her sons’ characters.

“This has made men out of boys, just the responsibility,” she said. “Everything that they do, it’s from the heart or they wouldn’t do it. They wouldn’t take care of the animals as they do. They truly turned into wonderful young men because of this.”

Whatever college Jake attends, he plans to study something involving animals such as wildlife management or agribusiness. And so the work continues, again, and again, and again…