Cole Xander is used to showing all sorts of animals: cattle, poultry, even ducks. But following the auctioneer’s instructions was slightly more difficult when he was showing a Wisconsin Brown Swiss heifer at a fair in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, in March.

“I was walking around in the ring and the auctioneer was speaking all Spanish,” Xander recalled.

The then-senior at Oregon High School went through his normal routine – setting up the heifer’s back feet, keeping her head up and moving around the ring – and eventually the auctioneer started to give Xander instructional asides in English.

Even though it was “pretty nerve-wracking,” Xander – and the heifer – did well enough to secure a new home for the Swiss with a Dominican family.

Xander was there to help his boss Bryan Voegeli sell the heifer at auction, which Voegeli had sent down ahead of time after raising it on his farm in Monticello.

Xander worked at Voegeli Farm through his senior year at OHS as an agriculture apprentice through a school-to-work program.

This meant that instead of showing up when school started, he got the first two hours off. He wasn’t slacking: his work on the farm started long before he would normally be staring at the blackboard in a math class.

Xander said his advisor, Jillian Beatty, was instrumental in taking care of the logistics and making sure it was a worthwhile experience.

“I got up at 6 (a.m.) and then worked ‘til 8 (a.m.) and came to school,” Xander explained. “(Beatty) made my schedule up so I could get everything in, in later hours.”

In addition to her work as an agriculture education teacher, Beatty is the OHS agricultural apprenticeship academic supervisor, which meant she oversaw Xander’s studies on the farm and often made field trips to check on his progress.

“She would come out to the farm and see how was I doing and how I can make improvements, working on my work skills,” Xander said. “She would come out and ask my boss, ‘Could he be doing say, giving cows medicine or giving calves medicine, or maybe working the field more?’”

Xander said he learned a lot in the program and “I honestly wish I would’ve done it my junior year, too.”

“It’s nice to have the first two hours off school,” he added.

In the family

Xander has been involved with animals one way or another since he was young, following in his sister Emma’s footsteps.

Six years his elder, Emma Xander was interested in animals from a young age and soon started “walking cattle” with Patrick Caine Farms in Oregon. Cole decided he would, too, and he still shows with the farm at the Stoughton and Dane County Fairs.

Xander is also heavily involved with the Brooklyn Mighty Mites 4-H club, showing animals and competing in shooting sports.

“I pretty much shoot every gun I can,” Xander said, adding that he likes shooting skeet and trap and especially .22 rifles.

He has been named a champion at the Dane County Fair in shooting sports and represented Wisconsin at the National 4-H shooting sports competition. Xander graduated in June from OHS, but has chosen to stay involved with the club for another year, the last of his eligibility.

Dominican experience

While showing animals may be old hat, it’s clear doing it in the Dominican Republic made an impression.

For one thing, the show barn was air-conditioned, a first in Xander’s experience. And instead of the all-white costume customary to showing dairy at home, in D.R. “you really dressed up.”

“They actually gave me a black shirt with a collar that said ‘Dominican Republic’ with a cow on it,” Xander said.

Plus, the city itself was something different.

“(Santo Domingo) was really cool — like a whole new world. It’s all crazy, there are so many more people … (and) there was history right downtown, big castles where Christopher Columbus and his brother had been,” Xander said.

He said he’s still figuring out what the future will hold, but in the meantime he plans to do his general credits at Madison College in the fall with an eye toward transferring.

As to whether he plans to seek a career in farming, Xander said he’s “not 100 percent sure what I want to study or become.”

But with graduation in the rear-view mirror, and looking at a summer on the farm and his freshman year of college coming up, Xander was sure about how he felt.

“I’m really excited,” he said.

Contact Alexander Cramer at alexander.cramer@wcinet.com.