Building a passion through FFA

Simone tops dairy production proficiency

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MARSHFIELD, Wis. – A love for registered Holsteins was instilled in Rainna Simone by her grandparents at a young age. That love carried her throughout her youth and earned her the winning dairy production entrepreneurship proficiency at the Wisconsin State FFA Convention June 13-16 in Madison.
The award was based on the application Simone submitted to the state detailing the growth of her Supervised Agricultural Experience. This year marked the fifth application Simone submitted in the proficiency category. Previously, she had obtained both gold and silver awards as well as ranking fourth in the state in last year’s contest.
“The purpose is to show growth in your project,” Simone said. “Since my project doesn’t make a profit, it is different than some other ones that are submitted. I have to show my growth through experience and involvement.”
Simone’s SAE started long before her FFA years.
“My grandparents gifted me a show calf when they sold their cows when I was little,” Simone said. “That is how my herd got started.”
Simone’s current herd is four milking cows and two heifers, all descending from that original calf. Her animals are housed at the farm of her cousin, Brandon Pankratz.
“I started out keeping my calves and heifers at my house,” Simone said. “I struggled a little with that, having just one or two at a time. I never felt like I could get them to grow well enough, and sometimes being by themselves, they did not cycle well. Having them all here on the farm has worked out much better.”
Simone, 19, will enter her sophomore year at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, studying dairy science with hopes of becoming a calf consultant or nutritionist following graduation. At school, she is involved in the dairy club and plays intramural sports.
“During high school, I worked on a local dairy farm as part of my SAE, caring for calves in their new auto-feeder barn,” Simone said. “Working there, watching the calves learn and adapt to the new auto-feeder sparked my interest in becoming a calf specialist.”
Simone works closely with her cousin to make the mating decisions for her animals. She said she feels gratified seeing the results of those mating decisions as calves are born and develop.
“I make each mating decision based on the individual animal, but the udder is a big factor in my decisions,” Simone said.
A large part of the growth she can demonstrate in her proficiency application comes from the results she has in the show ring. Simone exhibits her animals at the Central Wisconsin State Fair, the Wisconsin Junior State Fair and at the District 4 Holstein Show.
“My cow, Bree, was reserve supreme champion at the Central Wisconsin State Fair in Marshfield in 2019 as a 2-year-old,” Simone said. “That has been my greatest accomplishment in the show ring.”
Simone took Bree to the District 4 Holstein Show in Neillsville with hopes of another win for the red cow.
“Bree was being very difficult at the show,” Simone said. “She would put her head down and just run. I made the decision not to show her that day because of that. I am hoping she will be better behaved at the Central Wisconsin State Fair in August.”
Simone said her involvement in the dairy industry and her successes in FFA have truly taken a village of mentors. From her grandparents planting the seed of interest; to her parents allowing her to grow and nurture that interest; to her cousin allowing her to build her herd within his own; to her FFA advisor for turning that interest into a career passion; to all the others who have helped her along the way, Simone expressed gratitude.
“My family, friends and my teachers have all played such a role in who I have become by allowing me to build and grow my love of the dairy industry,” Simone said. “Their support will carry me a long way into the future.”

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