CUBA CITY — Mark and Rita Weigel were primarily dairy farmers when they began farming in the early 1980s. They milked cows for about 30 years as well as produced feeder pigs. They also raised a few Herefords and showed beef calves. She milked while he showed at various fairs, Rita Weigel said.
“I always wanted to raise beef cattle, but we needed dairy to pay the expenses,” he said.
When the couple’s two sons – Matt and Miles – were old enough to compete at fairs they began showing Maine Anjou-Angus crossbreeds. At what is now Weigel’s Steer Pit, the family’s passion for beef cattle is reflected in the championships they’ve won, and the cattle bred and raised.
The Weigels have added to their beef herd through the years, selling club calves to 4-H and FFA members. Mark Weigel began selling cattle semen about 10 years ago for Cattle Visions, a multi-breed semen distributor based in Missouri. He has customers in southern Wisconsin as well as in Illinois and Iowa.
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“I currently have about all of the business I can handle,” he said.
Weigel’s Steer Pit is currently comprised of about 125 head of cattle. Miles Weigel helps with calving in addition to running his custom-farming business and managing the family’s cropping operation. The Weigels grow corn, soybeans and alfalfa. They have about 520 acres, which includes pastureland, Mark Weigel said.
The couple’s other son, Matt Weigel, owns and manages Darlington Feed and Ag Center in nearby Darlington, Wisconsin.
Jeff Hodgson is an agriculture teacher and FFA adviser at Belmont High School in Belmont, Wisconsin. The Weigels have exhibited or sold steers for showing at the Wisconsin State Fair for the past 40 years, he said.
“Integrity is what stands out to me about the Weigels,” he said. “They stand out for great ethics and they help others through the educational process of raising beef cattle. Countless families have benefited from them and many can credit the start of showing cattle to them.”
Weigel’s Steer Pit is one of five farms that helped establish about 22 years ago the Friends of FFA in Belmont. The group hosts an annual fundraiser that generally raises about $12,000 annually. Products and services are donated by area agribusinesses. The Weigels have donated cattle semen from cattle Visions, Hodgson said.
“The Weigel family started us on our wonderful journey of showing cattle; we couldn’t have done it without their help,” LeAnn Leahy said.
She credits the family and Weigel’s Steer Pit the success her kids had for many years while showing beef cattle. She and her husband, Randy Leahy, live near the Weigels. Olivia Leahy was 13 years old when she told her parents she didn’t want to show pigs anymore. Instead she wanted to show a steer at the fair.
“We were row-crop farmers,” LeAnn Leahy said. “We didn’t know anything about cattle. But my husband knew that Mark and his sons had done very well at the state fair.”
The couple promptly paid a visit to the Weigels. Mark Weigel helped Olivia choose her calf. He continued to help her with her FFA beef project through the year. He advised her on feeding rates, equipment she would need and so on, LeAnn Leahy said.
Weigel told the youngster she’d have some hard work and long hours.
“But he also encouraged her to learn and have fun,” her mother said.
Having fun must have been contagious because Olivia’s four siblings also decided to show cattle. She and siblings are now all in their 20s and no longer eligible to show in junior shows, but they all competed at one time.
LeAnn Leahy said, “All my children have won either grand champion or reserve champion beef at the Lafayette County Fair.”
The Leahys’ son, Myles, now 26, as well as Olivia, now 25, and twin daughters – Katie and Claire – now 20, all participated in the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Livestock Auction at the Wisconsin State Fair. The family’s oldest daughter, Jenna nee Weigel Wedig, is now 29. She showed at the county fair.
“Mark has had such a tremendous impact on my family and especially my children,” LeAnn Leahy said. “All of them enjoyed working and learning from him. His experience in the show-cattle industry and as a show dad himself helped keep the fun of showing and competitiveness balanced.”
Jake Adams recalls several years ago that Mark Weigel showed him how to fit, clip and prepare cattle for show. Adams was involved with both 4-H and FFA projects in Wisconsin’s Grant County.
“My mother had showed, but it had been years and the industry had changed,” he said. “Mark helped me, starting with the basics.”
With Weigel’s help, Adams would show at the Grant County Fair, the Blake’s Prairie Fair and the Wisconsin State Fair. His brother Cody Adams also learned about showing cattle from the Weigels. The brothers have since “aged out” of junior shows. But during their years of showing they bought about 16 head of cattle from Weigel’s Steer Pit, Jake Adams said.
“They’re great people to work with and we’re still close with them,” he said of the Weigel family.
Ashlynn Norgard of Darlington, Wisconsin, in fall 2021 purchased two club calves from Weigel’s Steer Pit to show.
“Mark and Matt (Weigel) check in to make sure I have everything I need to succeed in the show ring,” she said. “Whether it’s feeding adjustments, preparation tips or showing advice they make an effort to talk to me, or stop and look at my cattle at least a couple times a month.”
In 2022 she purchased Angus and Simmental market steers.
“In the past I had shown crossbred market steers, but the Weigels gave me a lot of confidence to step out of my comfort zone and try something different,” she said. “I’m so glad they gave me encouragement because it has brought me many new experiences.”
Through raising show steers she has learned about managing responsibilities, she said.
“I’ve learned how to manage my time between school, sports and caring for my steers, how to write checks and how to communicate with people,” she said.
Never far from his beef cattle is Mark Weigel’s commitment to helping youth, Leahy said.
“Through the years I’ve watched him mentor, guide and support youth about the various aspects of caring for and showing cattle,” she said. “He’s never seemed to lose sight of the opportunities and positive impacts showing cattle can have on youth.”