September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.
"It's my fault," she said with a smile. "I showed since I was old enough to show in 4-H ... and I wanted to get the girls into it."
Today it's hard to tell who is more passionate about it - Nancy, her husband, Jason, or their two daughters, Ashley (17) Brittany (14).
The Bachmann family milks around 50 cows on their farm near Frazee, Minn. Over the last eight years, they've had a growing presence in the dairy show ring at their county fair. For Nancy, it's reminiscent of her childhood days; for Jason, it's been a learning experience; for the girls, it's a chance to shine.
Nancy grew up in an active 4-H family.
"Mom was a key leader for our club. By the time I was old enough to show, my sisters were done. So everything was passed on to me. I got the old show box, the halters, the clippers," she said.
Jason also grew up on a dairy farm but was never involved in 4-H. FFA was his thing, which Nancy was also a part of. In fact, that's how the two met. They graduated from high school in May of 1989 and were married that October. In 1992, they became the first married couple to receive their FFA American Degrees together.
Even with these backgrounds, the Bachmanns didn't see dairy farming as their future.
"We promised each other when we got married that we wouldn't milk cows," Jason said.
That promise lasted all of two years, until Nancy's dad's cows came up for sale. The young couple suddenly found themselves doing the very thing they swore they wouldn't do.
"We decided to milk cows so we would have something for our kids to do," Jason said, laughing.
They began milking Sept. 3, 1991, on Nancy's 21st birthday.
"All I got to drink was a glass of milk," she said with a laugh.
In 1993, they moved their herd to Jason's home farm near Frazee and began milking in a brand new barn, only to lose the barn and the entire dairy herd - including Nancy's old show cows - in a fire 10 months later, on Sept. 13. The next day, they found out they were expecting their first child.
"We made the decision right away to rebuild," Jason said.
Within nine weeks, they were milking cows again in a new 32-cow tiestall barn built on the same site - and same concrete - as the old barn. Their new herd was a mix-mesh of first calf heifers from several different places.
"It took a long time to get our genetics back," Jason said.
At that point, showing dairy cows hadn't even crossed their minds, and it didn't until their oldest daughter, Ashley, finished third grade. By that time the Bachmanns had joined Nancy's old 4-H club, the Woodside Workers, in East Otter Tail County, although they actually live in Becker County.
By the time the East Otter Tail County fair rolled around in 2003, Ashley had a winter calf named Angie ready to go. Even though Nancy had been an avid shower as a youngster, they quickly realized things had changed quite drastically in the realm of showing. Setting up in the show ring and clipping were two of the changes.
"When I showed we clipped the head and neck and blended into the shoulders, so we did it that way the first year," Nancy said. "When we got [to the fair], everybody else had done full-body clips."
"She (Angie) looked like a woolly mammoth," Jason said.
Regardless, Ashley proudly paraded her animal about the ring and came away at the top of her showmanship class.
"All I remember is getting showmanship. I remember the judge saying, 'Give it to the girl in the rubber boots,'" said Ashley, who had been wearing black rubber chore boots with her white shirt and white shorts. "... I was caught hook, line and sinker [into showing]."
The first couple years back in the show ring were difficult for the Bachmanns, who had to learn the ropes at times with little or no guidance. Ashley was soon joined by Brittany.
"I watched Ashley [show], and it was an automatic thing for me to get into it right away," Brittany said.
Knowledge and confidence gained over the last eight years has helped the Bachmanns become competitive in the show ring. In the last five years, they've focused on improving their show animals through genetics, mating several of their top cows to bulls such as Boss Iron and Ruby Red. Ashley and Brittany have taken over the task of mating their animals, learning about desirable quality traits through dairy judging and learning how to read bull books. Genomics is another tool they've recently implemented.
Showing is a year-long process for the Bachmanns, one that begins immediately after the county fair as they reflect on the judges choices that year.
"That's always the subject when we come home - what do we need to do to improve for next year," Jason said.
Choosing their show animals is a family ordeal.
"We (Jason and I) help pick animals," Nancy said. "We look at birth dates [and different traits they have]."
"Plus we look at the mother, and if she has an attitude, we don't use her," Brittany said.
Jason helps with the initial breaking of the animals. Once they lead decently, it's up to Ashley and Brittany to do the training, washing and preparing.
This year, Ashley and Brittany each took four animals to the East Otter Tail County Fair held in Perham. Brittany also participated in the FFA and open shows at the Becker County Fair in Detroit Lakes, Minn. And for the first time in over 20 years, Nancy donned show whites, participating in the open shows at both fairs.
"It was fun," she said.
The Bachmanns have made many memories during their years in the show ring, but some highlights include both Ashley and Brittany claiming grand champion showman in their respective classes in 2008.
"That was a good year," Nancy said. "They both did really well."
The ribbons are nice, but the people are what keep the Bachmanns coming back year after year.
"Every year we make new friends," Ashley said.
"We live for those four days when we get to those people," Nancy said. "It's a lot of work ..."
"But it's worth it," Brittany said.
With a few years left of 4-H, Nancy's dream is for each of the girls to come away with a grand champion animal. Jason's hope is that they will continue on even after 4-H.
"I'm hoping that, if they enjoy it as much as they seem to, they will keep showing in open class. That's what I would like," he said.
It's a hobby the whole Bachmann family has become passionate about despite the work involved, and one they can share.
"You have to have a sense of humor doing this or you wouldn't last," Nancy said of showing. "... Some days are challenging, and you forget how tired you get, but it's fun."
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