An Eckville couple just getting started — with their farm and as newlyweds — have gotten a huge head start after winning the Ponoka Stampede and Exhibition Association’s 2023 Cattle Raffle.
Cole and Alyssa Kalev, who got married about a year ago, have a small Charolais cattle operation and they’re opting to keep the 50-pasture bred black Angus heifers rather than the $75,000 in cash.
“(I’m) blown away,” said Cole, adding he was in shock for a few days after hearing the news.
When he first heard they’d won, he was playing soccer with his nephew, and says his phone must have rung for a day-and-a-half from well-wisher’s who’d heard his name called.
With a herd of 16 Charolais on their property, Bluebird Valley Farm, the Kalevs say they’re going to integrate as many of the new heifers into their operation as they can and they plan to start a commercial herd with them.
“It’s life-changing,” said Cole of the impact of winning the first place prize.
The addition of the 50 heifers will allow their operation to grow a lot quicker, he said.
“It means I might be able to retire from my day job sooner than later.”
Like many Albertans dedicated to the farming way of life, Cole works a second job off the farm. He grew up on a farm around cattle and is an electrician by trade.
Winning the Ponoka Stampede Cattle Raffle also has some personal meaning to Cole, as his family have been long-time supports.
While Cole says he’s tried his luck entering the raffle for the last five years or so, his grandfather Allan Neumeier has purchased tickets for the raffle since it began in ‘93 or ‘94.
Cole said it’s a “big year” for him and his wife — they got hitched, are in the process of building a new house, and now winning the raffle.
Cole said the Heifers are of “superb” quality.
The bulls, which will stay with the Kalev’s herd for the summer, were donated by Brian and Judy Sutter of Atlasta Angus.
“We’re very excited to see the impact that the calibre of these bulls will have on our herd.”
It was another sell-out year for the Cattle Raffle, which sells 6,000 tickets annually, starting on Dec. 1 of each year, said Ponoka Stampede director Terry Jones.
About 50 per cent sold out before the Stampede, which is typical, said Jones.
Sales tend to get a boost when they first go on sale before Christmas, for the early bird draw at the beginning of May, and then there’s another push for Father’s Day.
The raffle was completely sold out by the fourth day of the Stampede, on July 29, a day earlier than last year, according to Jones.
The long-held tradition of the Ponoka Stampede Cattle Raffle will continue, with tickets for the 2024 raffle going on sale on Dec. 1, 2023, he said.