Wisconsin Junior Holstein Association celebrates its members


FOND DU LAC, Wis. — The Wisconsin Junior Holstein Association celebrated the achievements of its members at its annual convention Dec. 29-31, 2023, in Fond du Lac. Junior Holstein enthusiasts gathered to take part in a variety of activities and contests during the event.

The top awards bestowed by the association, the Wisconsin Outstanding Holstein Boy and Wisconsin Outstanding Holstein Girl, were presented to Sam Mess of Rosendale and Clarissa Ulness of Valders.

Mess, the son of Austin and Deb, is a second-year student at Fox Valley Technical College. He will graduate next fall with an associate degree in agribusiness, animal science and agronomy. While attending school, Mess is working on his family’s 120-cow dairy farm in Fond du Lac County.

After completing his schooling, the 19-year-old plans to return to his family’s farm full time and eventually take over the farming operations and assume ownership.

Mess began as a dairy bowl competitor at the urging of county advisor, Joseta Halbur, whom he credits as continually pushing him to grow his skills and involvement.

“I started doing dairy bowl and attended Cow Camp when I was about 12 years old, and my involvement grew from there,” Mess said. “I started participating in dairy jeopardy and showing at state fair, and I show at our county fair each year.”

Through those experiences, Mess said he has grown personally and professionally.

“I have gained a lot of industry knowledge through practicing for dairy bowl,” Mess said. “More importantly, I’ve gained a lot of friends and contacts. I have met a lot of people I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet if not for my involvement with the Junior Holstein Association.”

Because of the benefits he has reaped, Mess said he would encourage others to embrace the opportunities a membership offers.

“You’ll never regret getting involved with as many aspects of the association as possible,” Mess said. “I wish I would have gotten involved sooner, but I am grateful for the things I have been able to accomplish as a junior member.”

Ulness is the daughter of Mark and Angie. She is a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin-Madison majoring in dairy science with certificates in life science communication and art studio. She is involved with the Association of Women in Agriculture, the Badger Dairy Club and Collegiate Farm Bureau. She is also a member of the dairy judging team.

“It was definitely exciting and always a dream of mine,” Ulness said of the award. “When Matthew (Gunst) began announcing the winner, his speech was very vague — it could have been any of us. My nervousness continued increasing until he began referencing things I wrote in my application. Then the emotion, the pressure and excitement just overwhelmed me. I don’t think I’ll ever have an experience like that, with that kind of build-up and excitement.”

Growing up on her family’s 80-cow Manitowoc County dairy farm, the 20-year-old said she was attending dairy bowl and judging practices and junior conventions before she was old enough to participate.

“I was very shy,” Ulness said. “Joining the Manitowoc County Junior Holstein Association and 4-H program, I was lucky to have many influential role models and mentors.”

Ulness developed a love for the competition that her junior experiences offered.

“I learned so much, not only about our industry but about myself,” Ulness said. “You are competing with your friends. In the moment you are all competitors, each trying to win, but it is really just friends pushing each other to be their best.”

Ulness has reveled in the travel her membership has provided.

“Through my dairy-related activities, I have had the opportunity to travel throughout the country,” she said. “I have attended National Holstein Conventions from coast to coast since I was 9, and I went to Europe with my dairy judging team after winning the national 4-H contest at World Dairy Expo.”

Ulness said all young people should find what it is they are passionate about and pursue that passion.

“If I were to tell my shy, 9-year-old self about the things I have been able to do and see, I’m not sure she would have believed it,” Ulness said. “The best advice I could give is to always stick with the challenges and to keep working toward your goals. Treat perceived failures as a learning experience.”

Distinguished Junior Member awards were presented to Emma Bangart of Stratford, Ashley Brandel of Lake Mills, Sara Dorshorst of Marshfield, Courtney Glenna of Amery, Catherine Gunst and Christopher Gunst of Pine River, Jacob Harbaugh of Marion, Madeline Hensel of Pittsville, Evan Jauquet of Pulaski, Ainsley Noble of Lancaster and Emily Stumpf of Appleton.

Mess, Ulness, Glenna and Jacob Harbaugh were selected to represent Wisconsin in national competition.

Younger Distinguished Junior Member awards were presented to Macie Abraham of Plymouth, Justin Brandel and Katie Brandel of Lake Mills, Kayla Buttles of Lancaster, Gavin Carncross of Lodi, Alison Gartman of Sheboygan, Madison Harbaugh of Marion, Vivian Lichty of Beaver Dam, Leah Mess of Rosendale, Abby Meyer of Chilton, Brooke Mueller of Brodhead, Rebecca Murphy and Peyton Voegeli of Poynette, Ella Raatz of Colby and Cameron Ryan of Fond du Lac.

Justin Brandel, Katie Brandel, Raatz and Ryan were selected to apply for national recognition.

The 12 and Under Member Recognition award was presented to Royce Booth of Plymouth, Evan Brey of Sturgeon Bay, Ian Brick of De Pere, Katelin Freson of Watertown, Elise Gilbertson and Naydeen Gilbertson of Hollandale, Rubi Klinkner and Lexi Metzler of Viroqua, Adella Loehr of Eden, Braelyn Sarbacker and Reagan Sarbacker of Verona, Madison Sarbacker and Melanie Sarbacker of Whitewater, and Chesney Speich of Orfordville.

Lauren Breunig, of Sauk City, was named the 2024 Wisconsin Holstein Princess and Madison Wiese, of Wrightstown, was named the Wisconsin Holstein Princess Attendant. 

Four representatives were elected to the Junior Activities Committee. Kelsey Hardy, of Dodgeville, was elected to join Paige Sweatt, of Dane, to represent the southwest district. Aspen Hagen, of Loyal, was elected to join Madeline Hensel, of Pittsville, to represent the northwest district. In the southeast district, Tessa Schmocker, of Whitewater, will join Ashley Brandel. Garrett Ulness, of Valders, will join Jacob Harbaugh in representing the northeast district.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here