Progressive Farmer — NOVEMBER 2014
Angus Sisterhood
Boyd Kidwell

For this family, the beef business is in the genes.

Brooke, Marcie, Mattie and Catherine Harward (left to right) all say they’ve learned a lot about life showing calves from the family’s ranch.

When Marcus Harward asked his five young daughters which one wanted to go open gates while he fed cows, Catherine was always the first to volunteer.

“Cat’s the one that seems to naturally enjoy working with cattle,” says the 52-year-old rancher, from Stanly County, N.C. Fast-forward 10 years, and Harward says he now has five top hands ready and willing to help run the family’s Rocking H Ranch: Brooke, Catherine, LeAnn, Marcie, and Mattie. Thanks to a combination of show cattle competition and a little sibling rivalry, all the girls are passionate cattle people.

The Harward sisters can’t wait to get home from school to work with their calves. On show days, they are up before dawn to get their animals in tip-top shape for the judges.

“The girls are like bees around a honey hive. If you get in the way, you might get stung,” Marcus jokes. He shares chauffeur duties with wife, Patty, as the family travels thousands of miles every year for cattle shows.

A PASSION FOR CATTLE. Catherine’s family members all call her “Cat.” She was the first sister to try the show circuit and remembers winning her first championship ribbon as a 10-year-old. She also remembers some losses.

“I was so happy with my first championship ribbon. Then I cried when I lost in several shows. I learned a lot during my crying times,” says Cat, now a 20-year-old animal science major at North Carolina State University (NCSU).

Cat’s experiences encouraged older sister Brooke to start entering junior shows, as well. “Up until 13, I didn’t like cows or agriculture,” she says. “I was thinking about becoming a teacher or some other profession. After showing cattle for a couple of years, I developed a passion for beef cattle and agriculture.”

Brooke took that passion for cattle in a different direction, entering the Miss American Angus competition. She captured the title in 2012. Now, 22, she is a graduate of NCSU and helps run the family’s video sales company, Mid-Atlantic Cattle Sales. She also works in the operation’s three livestock sales barns.

Not to be outdone by her older sister, Cat won the Miss American Angus competition in 2014.

The third Harward sister is 16-year-old LeAnn, a high school junior. Another cattle show competitor, LeAnn has her sights set on a Miss American Angus crown in a couple of years. Sort of a Harward version of the “triple crown.”

TWIN WINNERS. The youngest Harwards are 12-year-old twins, Marcie and Mattie, and they show cattle but also bring an entrepreneurial bent to the ranch. They started a partnership with their three older sisters, Harward Sisters Show Cattle, to raise and sell calves for other youngsters to take to the show ring. Their experience had already taught them choosing a good show heifer is more than skin deep. All the sisters study cattle genetics and selected their own show heifers and AI sires.

Sometimes even a Harward has to step out of the box, though, so when Marcie started to show cattle, she opted for Red Angus. Her independent streak really shined when she decided to attend the 2014 Junior Red Angus Round-Up in California. She presented the idea to her parents with the caveat that she’d pay her own way. The rest of the family was dubious, but her parents gave her permission to go for it.

To pay for the trip, Marcie baked pecan pies, and one of her pals at the sales barn auctioned them off. Thanks to some Spirited bidding by order buyers and cowboys, Marcie earned enough money for her plane ticket, plus some spending cash.

“The hard part was keeping Daddy from eating my pies,” she says. To protect her investment, the junior entrepreneur made a small sign she placed with the pies as they cooled on the kitchen counter. It said: “Marcie’s California pies. Do Not Eat.”

ROCKING GOOD TIMES. The girls’ enthusiasm for the cattle business plays a role in Marcus’ long-range plans. Brooke is already hard at work, having finished college. Cat takes turns feeding the 350-cow herd and handling chores on weekends when she’s home from college. LeAnn is pegged to be the family’s beef cattle geneticist. And as for the twins, given the rapid changes in today’s beef industry, it’s hard to know where they will find their place, but the prospects look promising.

The girls’ dad, Marcus, admits it will take time for each one to find her role in the growing family business. But it’s clear these young women all share a sense of excitement and optimism about beef cattle. With opportunities abounding in today’s industry, it seems the sky’s the limit for well-educated young people with drive and determination.

For the Harwards, those long hours and travel miles spent hauling heifers and girls to cattle shows are investments no one regrets. There’s not much downtime, and the family couch is usually empty thanks to busy, full lives. But it’s all part of growing up country, a life they all agree they wouldn’t ever want to trade.

Miss American Angus:

Both Brooke and Catherine Harward have enjoyed their participation in The Miss American Angus competition. The program is hosted by the American Angus Auxiliary and provides one Angus junior an opportunity to serve as breed ambassador for a year.

During her reign, Brooke visited several states and attended the National Western Stock Show, in Denver, Colo. In addition to meeting leaders in the cattle business, the oldest Harward sister gained insight into the national industry.

Catherine is enjoying similar travel and leadership opportunities during 2014. For more information on the Miss American Angus program, visit