EPHRATA, Pa. — Ephrata-based Weaver Show Cattle is a name well-known around Pennsylvania for its champion Angus animals. But the Weaver name recently received further acclaim nationally when 18-year-old Madison Weaver brought home the title of 2019 Miss American Angus.

A 2016 graduate of Cocalico High School, Weaver lives on her family’s 140-acre preserved farm with her parents, Fred and Tammy Weaver, and younger brother, 14-year-old Hayden.

The whole Weaver family has long been an ambassador of the Angus breed, with a herd that currently numbers 30 cows and calves, including some Angus-Charolais crosses.

Weaver’s Angus breed experience equipped her to pursue her long-held goal — competing in the Miss American Angus scholarship contest. She began this quest by winning a scholarship at the state level and with it, the Miss Pennsylvania Angus title. Then, she advanced to the first step of the national competition at the 2018 National Junior Angus Show, held in Madison, Wisconsin, during the second week of July.

After placing first, Weaver and the other top five contenders advanced to the final competition held at the 2018 Angus Convention in Columbus, Ohio, in early November. The five finalists had to demonstrate their qualifications during a lunch with the judges, take a knowledge exam with short essay questions, do personal interviews and give a speech on the topic, “Believing in Better.”

While Weaver has become an accomplished public speaker through the years, she still found the speech portion of the competition to be the most challenging. It was not the topic she found daunting, but rather because she saw a lot of people she looked up to sitting in the audience. They included her mother, but also her livestock judging coach and members of Penn State’s Block and Bridle Club, who came to show their support.

Weaver’s presentation involved a three-pronged approach: better cattle, a better product and being our better selves. Her talk ultimately paved the way to her getting the national title.

Now, as Miss American Angus, Weaver is looking forward to a year ahead filled with travel and connecting with Angus producers. She will be meeting with consumers to promote “how great Angus beef really is.” January will find her traveling to Denver for the National Western Stock Show, followed by a trip to Texas for the Fort Worth Stock Show. In April, she’ll be in Reno for the Western National Angus Futurity, before returning to the National Junior Angus Show in Louisville in July. She also plans to put in appearances at places like the Farm Show and grocery stores to reach out to the general public.

In addition to beef cattle, Madison Weaver’s family also owns 30 dairy cows, including Holstein, Red and White, Jersey and Brown Swiss breeds, which are milked at the Berks County farm of her uncle, Randy Balthaser.

Weaver is currently president of the Pennsylvania Junior Holstein Association.

Madison’s grandparents, Carol Weaver and the late Fred Roy Weaver, raised beef cattle on their Lancaster County farm for years, but it was their son, Fred, who developed an affinity for raising and showing the Angus breed. Fred Weaver went on to have a successful career in the show ring and, in the process, became an accomplished fitter — a skill which still serves him and his family well on the show circuit. He’s also fitted a number of national champions through the years.

Madison Weaver is no stranger to the show ring either. “I’ve been going to shows all my life,” she said.

At first, she accompanied her parents. Not only did Fred Weaver show Angus cattle, but Madison’s mother grew up showing Brown Swiss dairy animals. Tammy Weaver is the daughter of Wilson and Laverne Balthaser, owners of Northkill Creek Farm, a dairy operation in Bernville, Berks County.

Madison Weaver made her first show ring appearance at the Pennsylvania Angus Breeders Show in Huntingdon as a 5-year-old. Since then, she’s continued showing beef, dairy and pigs, with numerous opportunities to do so as a member of Lebanon County’s NoSoAnn 4-H Dairy Club and 4-H Livestock Club. Her 4-H leaders have included experienced livestock leaders Debbie Tice, Ginger Weaver and Brenda Crouse. Judging coach Dan Seaman has taught her about cultivating top traits in her own animals.

Madison Weaver has enjoyed good success at the Lebanon Area Fair, taking champion steer honors there three times, as well as reserve champion steer twice.

Weaver has also earned honors at the Keystone International Livestock Exposition and in 2014 showed the supreme champion Angus at the Pennsylvania Farm Show. She and Hayden attend the National Junior Angus Show every year, too. However, she said they attend “more for fun, and then compete in other contests” such as essay writing, speech competitions and the quiz bowl.

Madison Weaver prefers the Angus breed because, she said, they’re “very competitive on the show circuit” and provide a high quality of beef, almost always producing prime, choice and select grade cuts. And, she said, Angus cows are good mothers to their calves.

Like any show cattle owner, Weaver is involved in the daily routines of cattle care, including feeding, as well as those extras that show animals require, such as daily washings. She also practices walking her animals every day, which she said is “to be sure (that) when they’re in the ring, there’s no complications.”

As January draws near, she’s focusing on the herd members she will be showing at the Farm Show. They include four Angus heifers and two crossbred Angus-Charolais steers. All Weaver’s heifers are bred and owned.

She’s had plenty of experience with fitting her animals for the show ring. These days, however, she often relies on friends and family to handle those duties. She especially looks to her dad and brother, who have the special expertise to help her cattle look their best.

Weaver wants to use her new Miss American Angus title to serve as a role model for younger girls, just as other older girls did for her. Ultimately, she hopes to help a new generation of young women reach their goals. On the flip side, Weaver expects that the most challenging part of her role representing the Angus breed will be talking to consumer audiences. She knows not everyone is a fan of meat products, but hopes to win doubters over by sharing facts about Certified Angus beef and its health benefits. Weaver also recognizes that not everyone will become a convert, but she philosophizes, “If you don’t change their mind, at least you’ve made a friend.”

Weaver is a student at Penn State Berks campus, majoring in animal science with a business option. She’s leaning toward going on to do graduate work in ruminant nutrition and making that field her career.

Sue Bowman is a freelance writer in southeastern Pennsylvania.