September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.
"I was shocked," Ranae said, "because my heifer misbehaved."
Instead of presenting a perfectly seamless image of human and bovine working in concert, for a little while, Jetway Vivian displayed a bit of a naughty streak. While passing the barn's open doorway, Vivian decided she'd had enough and tried to exit. That resulted in Ranae having to remind her heifer that they were in the midst of the final round of showmanship, and that she really did need to stick around.
Thankfully, Ranae said, Vivian also acted up a smidge when another participant was leading her. That must have told the judge that the first misstep lay with the heifer and not with the handler.
"We let out a sigh of relief," said Linda, Ranae's mom. "At least she did it for both of them."
Randy, Ranae's dad, said, "It's normal for animals to act up a little bit, though. It's how you contain and control and move forward from what just happened. If you keep everything together, it might not hurt you too much."
Ranae had little idea how well Vivian and she were doing until the very end. That's because the judge pulled several exhibitors and their cattle out, but did not say much or rank them right away.
"They were playing with the minds of the better showmen - how they were going to react to not getting picked," Randy said.
It wasn't until the judge walked to the microphone to announce her final selections that the Holthauses knew Ranae and Vivian had won the event.
"First they said, 'the young lady from La Crosse County,'" Linda said. "Then we knew she had won before they said her name."
This is the best Ranae has fared at the Wisconsin State Fair, although she has been a regular at the event with cattle from her parents' AR-Line Dairy herd for several years. Ranae took home reserve supreme showman honors two years ago, and this marked the fifth year in a row that she exhibited the champion Brown Swiss of the junior show. Her heifer also won this year as the reserve grand champion in the bred-and-owned category.
Ranae's state fair winnings included a purple ribbon and banner as the supreme champion showman of the junior show. Her earnings included a check for $1,000 from the Wisconsin State Fair Dairy Promotion Board, along with one for $200 from Case IH.
Brown Swiss have performed well for Ranae. In 2010, Vivian's dam, Oak Forest South Slope Viv, scored Excellent 91, was selected as the Brown Swiss junior champion.
Although the Holthaus farm has been home to registered Holsteins for decades, the cattle from the land of the Matterhorn are more recent arrivals.
Said Randy, "We've only been raising Brown Swiss for 13 years this fall. When we were expanding the herd in 2000, we needed some more cattle. I couldn't find the quality Holsteins I wanted, so a guy, locally, had some Brown Swiss springing heifers for sale. We bought those and they turned out well, so we proceeded to buy more."
Ranae, 19, is a showring veteran. She has been at the halter 10 years, and at the state fair seven.
Back when Randy and Linda chaperoned the La Crosse County contingent at West Allis, Ranae itched to be in the ring with the older kids. "She was just a little peanut, but she still wanted to show then at age five or six," Linda said.
Ranae began working with her Brown Swiss while Vivian was still a calf. They competed in local shows last year.
"She just grew and showed really good this year, so I took her again. She was trained as a calf, so she kind of knew how to behave," Ranae said.
Ranae has a pretty good eye for cattle that she inherited from Randy, according to her dad. That being the case, she selected Vivian for exhibition purposes herself.
Nor did it hurt that Vivian has grown well. Randy described the fall yearling as long, tall, dairy, pretty good ribbed and possessing good feet and legs.
Of course, Ranae was pleasantly surprised when her name was announced as supreme champion showman. And, she was flattered when the judge called her cool, calm and collected.
Those words did not surprise Linda. "Ranae is usually that way when she's showing," Linda said. "They walked around like they were friends. She set up smoothly and quickly, and when she was told - didn't second guess anything."
Exhibiting at the state fair is something of a tradition for the Holthaus family. Randy's father, Arlan, showed a heifer and a hog there in 1953.
Randy and Linda have three children besides Ranae. They are Rachel, Reed and Ross. Reed showed the first-place two-year-old Holstein two years ago, and Rachel led the first-place fall yearling several years ago. What's more, Randy was a regular at the state fair before them.
Along with Vivian, Ranae took to the fair a four-year-old Brown Swiss, AR-Line Madison Hillbilly. She won her class and was also selected as honorable mention grand champion.
A few days after returning from the state fair's junior show, Ranae and Reed were preparing to exhibit in the open show. They were preparing five Brown Swiss for the Wisconsin State Show, which took place at the fair, and one Holstein.
World Dairy Expo is less than two months away, and that means more cattle showing for the family. Last year, Ranae's winter yearling Brown Swiss was named Reserve All-American at the Madison event.
AR-Line Dairy is home to 370 cows. Thirty are Brown Swiss and the rest are Holsteins. They're managed as one herd that has a rolling average of 28,897 pounds of milk, a 3.74 percent fat test and a 3.06 percent protein test, on three-times-a-day milking.
The family crops 500 acres of owned and rented ground, growing alfalfa and corn. Arlan and his wife, Saundra, are on the home place, about 2.5 miles distant. They helped Randy purchase the second place in 1979. Sixteen years ago, Randy and Linda bought his parents' cows, moved them to the second farm, and built a double-9 parallel milking parlor.
Ross, 26, and Reed, 21, are integral to the farm's operation. Ross is the main milker, while Reed manages the youngstock, handles breeding, and assists with milking.
Ranae feeds 50 to 60 calves morning and night. Rachel, lives in Oklahoma. Besides family members, AR-Line Dairy has five employees, full-time and part-time. Randy said he expects two or three of the children to one day join the business.
In the short term, AR-Line Dairy is building a heifer facility where Arlan and Saundra live. The idea is to bring some of their heifers home and rely less on custom raisers.
Three years ago, the family remodeled a machine shed into a freestall barn. That relieved the overstocking of the first barn.
Doing well at the state fair helps AR-Line Dairy publicize its registered cattle.
"We plan on making some more Vivians. We'll do some embryo work with her mother," Randy said.
But showing their cattle is more than part of the business. Randy and Linda agree that's it's also their hobby.
"Our big joke," Linda said, "is that we don't go on vacation unless there's a cow at it. We went away on vacation for a while once, but we didn't know what to do."
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