With a Decade of Experience Under Her Belt, Teen Sets Her Sights on the Future
by TERESA SCHIFFER
photos provided by AMANDA SHIVER
For many in the agriculture industry, big dreams start small. For Kyleigh Criswell, the dream started when she was 3 years old.
Kyleigh, now an eighth-grader at Dundee Ridge Middle School, recently won honors at the Florida State Fair for her Grand Champion Bull. The aspiring young rancher is just 13 years old and already has a decade of experience under her belt.
“I’ve just always loved being around animals,” the Lake Wales teen explains. “I like to go out after school and take care of them. I wasn’t able to have a dog because I spent so much time with the cows, so they are like my dog or my cat or anyone else’s pet.”
Kyleigh’s mother, Amanda Shiver, shared her recollections of how her young daughter became involved with agriculture and showmanship at such an early age.
“My niece and nephew showed Brangus when they were in middle school and high school, so Kyleigh was just around it since she was small,” Shiver says. “That’s how she really got started in it. She just loved animals.”
Kyleigh was so enamored with the cows her cousins in FFA were working with that her family coordinated to help her get involved with raising and showing them herself.
“She started doing the pee wee shows and has been showing ever since,” Shiver says.
Kyleigh’s dedication to her animals is evident in the time she invests in them on a daily basis. She is involved in every aspect of raising cattle.
“Every day, Kyleigh goes out and feeds her cows. She walks them, brushes them, and spends several hours a day with them to train them how to show,” her mother says. “She’s involved in breeding her cattle and all of that. Then, when the calf is born, she automatically starts working with it to get the calf used to her.”
The support of her family has been integral to fostering Kyleigh’s passion and encouraging her success in raising and showing livestock.
Shiver, who juggles a busy schedule as a nurse, is sure to make time to ensure that Kyleigh has the resources she needs to pursue her agricultural interests. She’s proud of her daughter’s efforts and impressed by how much she has learned to do with the cows through her own diligence.
Shiver’s sister, Jennifer Williams, played a major role in helping develop Kyleigh’s skills. Williams was at Kyleigh’s side as she learned to tag cattle and pierce a bull’s nose while Shiver was attending nursing school.
Shiver is a firm believer in the agricultural lifestyle for children.
“It’s had a huge impact on her,” Shiver says. “She’s way more mature than a regular 13-year-old. Her work ethic surpasses a 20-year-old’s. Most people these days don’t want to work, and this child puts in 100 percent every single day.”
Kyleigh agrees, saying, “I’ve definitely learned responsibility. Raising cattle for show, it’s not something where if you have something to do, you can just put it off until tomorrow. You have to do it when you need to. It teaches time management.”
The hard work the teen puts in benefits the animals, too, forming close bonds between her and the cows.
“They’re really sweet,” Kyleigh says. “They have emotions themselves. So if you go out there upset or crying, they’ll come over to you and start licking you. They’ll try to cheer you up.”
Kyleigh takes great pride in her work with livestock.
“I have some cattle that I have bred that I’ve raised, and they continuously have good comments said about them at the shows by the judges and by other people. That’s important to me. Especially after they’re done showing, that they can go out and produce good calves.”
She encourages other youth to get involved with agriculture whenever possible.
“I think that if you can do it, that it is definitely something that you should do because these animals end up being your best friends,” Kyleigh says. “Even if it’s something small, like a chicken or a rabbit or a goat that you keep at someone else’s land, it just teaches you so much.”
And Kyleigh doesn’t plan on quitting the cows anytime soon.
“I plan to go to college and become a large animal veterinarian, and I would like to have a ranch of registered and commercial Brangus cattle.”
Her mother says that’s a dream she’s been working on since she was little.
“She’s always wanted to be a large animal vet,” Shiver says. “Hopefully, she follows her dream. But I think her biggest dream is to have her own ranch one day. My hope for her is to follow her heart.”
Kyleigh’s enthusiasm is contagious, and she looks forward to a time when she is able to share what she has learned with the next generation of ranchers and students.
“I’m excited to be able to pass on what I know to the younger generation when I’m older and have learned more. That way everyone can learn something.”