SKOWHEGAN – Deb Holmquist gets choked up when talking about her daughter Hannah’s accomplishments.

“I’m prouder than I can say,” she said.

At 25, Hannah has made a name for herself in the show cattle industry as a knowledgeable, talented showman. Growing up in Augusta and then on Freeman Ridge near Kingfield, where the family operated the prestigious Sugarloaf Dorsets in partnership with Warren Cook, Hannah honed her skills to become one of the best in the business.

“From the time she was 2 years old, she’d practice showing with our dog on the living room floor and setting him up,” said Deb, who grew up in a sheep family herself in New Harbor. “It 100 percent came naturally to her.”

“All we ever did was own livestock and compete on the national level,” Hannah said. “I did the county fairs, too. It’s a way of life. Mom grew up showing at these fairs.”

Hannah eventually branched out from the sheep and started showing cattle, a career choice that has treated her well.

On Wednesday, Hannah took time from her own showing and work schedule to help out some old friends by judging 4-H beef cattle classes at Skowhegan Fair, a place she knows well.

“It’s nice to do this,” she said. “I grew up showing at these fairs. This is the next generation. It’s nice to see that the families still do this.”

“It’s very honest,” she said of the lifestyle. “What you put into it is what you get out of it. It’s blood, sweat and tears. You put in a lot of money and a lot of effort, but it really does pay off. You can watch (your livestock) develop into champions. It’s all what you make of them. It’s gratifying to watch that whole process.”

And Hannah knows a thing or two about champions. After graduating from high school, she went to work for about five years for the McGee farm in Gardiner and had several successes there, including a bull that won its division at the Denver Livestock Show.

She stepped up to the next level two years ago when she was offered a job by a judge who also worked as the general manager of Legrand Ranch in Freeman, S.D., one of the premier Angus and Hereford operations in the country. She was in charge of the feeding, fitting and grooming of 50 head of show cattle and traveled to Reno, Fort Worth, Kansas City, Louisiana and elsewhere.

In 2005, the ranch had the Angus National Show Champion of the Year and the National Champion Angus Bull in 2004 and ’05.

“Out there, it’s a whole different world,” Hannah said. “Here, it’s on the family level; the families take their animals to the county fair. There it’s on the world level with Canadians and Brazilians owning … cattle.”

She said one cow can be valued from $50,000 to $100,000.

“The biggest challenge was to grow up in a man’s world,” Hannah added. “A woman has to work twice as hard to prove herself. You’ve got to be tough.”

Working for an operation like LeGrand was an invaluable experience for her, and she made connections and gained experience that will help her in her future endeavors. While it was gratifying to be a part of such an operation, it’s even more rewarding to be out on your own, she said.

In January, Hannah returned to the East Coast, moving to Northford, Conn., to start White Hollow Cattle Co. with her boyfriend and partner Michael Doody. The couple got together after Hannah sold Doody’s family a steer and followed up on the animal’s progress through phone calls.

They maintain about 35 head of Hereford, Simmental and Maine Anjou and show their own cattle as well as being hired to show others’. Doody also works in law enforcement, while Hannah works for his parents’ Featherlite trailer dealership.

“It’s nice to be back here and close to Mom and Dad, plus Michael and I get to do this together and have our own cattle,” Hannah said.

So far this year, they had a division champion in the country’s largest breed show for Herefords at the Junior Nationals in Kentucky.

“Of 1,600 competing, less than 100 get that honor,” Hannah said.

In March, they had two breed champions and one reserve champion at a national show in Pennsylvania, and at the Maine/New England Beef Expo, they had overall superior excellent steer.

Hannah and Doody head to Syracuse for a show next week, and then it’s on to the Big E in Springfield, Mass., and then Keystone International Livestock Exposition in Pennsylvania, followed by Louisville, Ky.

She said she goes to every show looking to win. “But losing makes you stronger,” she said. “You do what you’ve got to do to step it up.”


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