7/24/2017 9:31:00 AM A day in the life of the Meyer family Sisters take part in Winona County dairy show
The Meyer family – (from left) Connie, Kate, Megan and John – spent a large portion of July 14 at the Winona County Fair for the 4-H dairy show, where Kate and Megan showed animals from their 800-cow dairy near Rollingstone, Minn. PHOTO BY DANIELLE NAUMAN
Megan (left) and Kate Meyer tie up their animals on the wash rack in order to start fitting them the morning of the 4-H dairy show at the Winona County Fair in St. Charles, Minn. PHOTO BY DANIELLE NAUMAN
ST. CHARLES, Minn. - When the sun dawned on July 14, it may not have been a typical day at Quarry Hill Dairy, but it is a typical one that comes around each year for many families of 4-H and FFA members. Bright and early around 5 a.m., John and Connie Meyer and their daughters, Kate and Megan, headed to the Winona County Fair in St. Charles, Minn., for the 4-H dairy show. John and Connie own and operate Quarry Hill Dairy, an 800-cow herd near Rollingstone, Minn. Kate, 15, and Megan, 14, were exhibiting three heifers at the fair and participating in showmanship classes as part of the Silo Happy Hustlers 4-H Club, the largest dairy club in Winona county. Kate and Megan spent the morning in the dairy barn, preparing their heifers for the show under John's watchful eye. The girls have been preparing their fair projects for three months. "We've had some really good people to learn from," said Kate while blowing up the topline hair on her winter calf. Kate and Megan have been clipping and preparing their own show heifers for two years, and get some extra practice in at home by clipping heifers that aren't going to be shown. Both Kate and Megan place a great deal of importance on showmanship and take pride in doing well in that competition. "Showmanship is more about you. It doesn't matter how good your animal is, it's about how you show it," said Kate, explaining why she like showmanship. Megan added her thoughts on the importance of showmanship. "Usually I get so nervous, worrying about everything being right and being perfect," she said. John said he grew up showing pigs and dairy, but enjoyed the dairy project more. He's glad his daughters have an interest in working with the cattle. "It teaches them responsibility, caring for the animals," said John, noting that they are lucky to live in a county with a very active dairy project. Their county has a dairy showcase where youth can earn extra money for meeting various criteria in their project. The Meyers began the girls' show herd by purchasing a few registered animals and then flushing them to start breeding their own show heifers. These are the only registered animals in the Quarry Hill herd. "It keeps the girls interested," John said. In addition to the Winona county fair, the girls participate in the Youth Dairy Classic show in Iowa, as well as their local district Holstein show in Rochester and the state fair when a trip is earned. As the morning's show began, both girls placed well in their showmanship classes, despite not winning the top prize. Their heifers did well in their individual classes as well, and the girls will have a good chance of earning trips to the state fair. "The fair is all about the kids," Connie said, beaming with pride. "They really take pride in showmanship." After the show wrapped up, John and Connie headed home to take on the daily routine on the farm. They employ 22 people, and the herd is milked three times per day with a bulk tank average around 105 pounds per day. The herd is housed on two different farms. All cows are calved in on the home farm, and then when they are checked pregnant, moved to the second location. Heifers are raised by a custom grower near Utica, Minn. A typical day finds John beginning with a walk-through of the barns around 6 a.m., followed by meetings with his shop crew, herdsman and calf manager. "I love the challenge of dairy farming," John said. "Everything is always changing. I like fine-tuning everything to get the most milk from the cows. Cow comfort is the key. All our management decisions are based on cow comfort." Cow comfort is evident walking through the freestall barn, which was nearly 20 degrees cooler than the humid July afternoon outside on July 14. John said their tunnel ventilation project was finished last spring, making a big difference in the environment for the cows. "It's amazing to see how things have evolved over the years," John said. "Small improvements can make a big change." Connie serves as the bookkeeper for the operation, and also takes great pride in the appearance of the farm, keeping flower beds and the lawn neatly manicured. Each month, she holds employee meetings, trainings and reviews. She brings in a Spanish-speaking veterinarian to help translate for the meeting and offer information for her employees. Both John and Connie feel agvocacy is important to the future of the dairy industry, and are raising their girls to be vocal agvocates as well. The girls both have aspirations to join the butterheads as Princess Kay of the Milky Way finalists in the future. "Letting people visit and know what is going on with their food production is very important," Connie said. The Meyers ship milk to Land O'Lakes and have worked with the LOL food bloggers to educate the public. In their spare time, the Meyers keep busy with sports and FFA activities. Kate will be a sophomore in high school this year, while Megan will begin her freshman year. They also relax by spending time at their cabin near Chetek, Wis., where they enjoy boating, tubing and other watersports. But on July 14, their day was kept busy at their county fair - an event they look forward to every year.