Our fair season was truly one to remember. In addition to the tales of Daphne and Daisy and Monika and Galadriel, which I shared in the first chapter of this column, there were several other moments worth memorializing.
When one door opens, another closes. This was Daphne’s first year as a full-fledged 4-H’er, but it was our nieces’ last year. Hailey and Kallie have been showing our cows through the 4-H lease program since they were just a little older than Daphne is now. I spent the entire fair season blinking back tears whenever this finality popped into my thoughts.
Not only was it Kallie and Hailey’s last year, it was the last year for Cherry and Cobbler, our Holstein cows. Kallie showed Cherry for the past five years; Hailey showed Cobbler, Cherry’s daughter, for the past three years. Both pairs had remarkable success during that time, both in the ring and in showmanship.
Hailey and Kallie capped the experience with two last trips to the Minnesota State Fair, two more purple ribbons, two spots in the final round of showmanship, and lots of bittersweet, grateful tears. Taking Cherry and Cobbler’s halters off after that last trailer ride home from the state fair and watching them walk out in the yard will forever be etched in my memory.
For Dan, this was the year his luck finally turned. As Dan had so desperately hoped coming into this show season, his Milking Shorthorn 2-year-old, Glitzy, bloomed into a beautiful cow. They showed their way to the third spot in our county state fair lineup and earned two champion ribbons at the state fair: overall and net merit. Glitzy sure made up for all of Dan’s show heifers who never made it into a cow class.
Dan found success in dairy judging as well. Last year, as an intermediate, he ended up on the wrong side of a tie for 10th place overall and missed out on a ribbon. This year, he aged up to the senior division and its three sets of oral reasons. When it was all said and done, Dan placed the classes well enough and delivered his reasons well enough to take 10th place overall. As one of his dairy judging coaches, I saw first-hand how hard he worked on improving his reasons this summer and couldn’t be more proud of his success.
I also saw how hard all of the 4-H’ers on our county’s dairy judging team worked this summer. I shouldn’t have been surprised – but I was a little – that Dan’s teammates did well. With one teammate placing fourth overall, another 12th, and another 22nd, Dan’s team placed first in the contest. They also placed first in oral reasons, an incredible feat in its own right.
The dairy judging team’s first-place finish meant our season didn’t end at the state fair. The tale continued with the National 4-H Dairy Cattle Judging Contest at World Dairy Expo.
For dairy kids, the most magical place on earth isn’t Disney World; it’s World Dairy Expo. For Dan and one of his teammates (and his sisters, who got to come along to watch), our team’s berth in the national contest earned them their first trip to Expo. It was a delight to watch them take in the sights and experiences of the cattle shows, barns, and trade show.
The national contest itself, with 10 classes and five sets of reasons, is a daunting prospect. Dan and his teammates were nervous but composed. And when the awards were announced, they were rewarded for the extra time and effort they put into practice. Their team placed third overall and first place in oral reasons. Dan placed 17th overall and was named an All-American. I couldn’t be more proud of Dan and his teammates.
And, so, just when we thought the tale was going to end, the page turns and the story keeps going. The team’s third-place finish earned them a spot in the international dairy judging contest at the Royal Highland Show in Scotland next summer.
In this next chapter, our fairy tales will become a lot like real life fairy tales. The International Dairy Judging Tour will include flying away to a far-off place, a foreign quest, journeying to ancient castles, and more seemingly unbelievable experiences.
I can’t write the ending yet, because there’s more to come. But, I can say that the 4-H dairy project, with all its facets, is a place where dairy kids go on fairy tale level adventures and dreams come true.
    Sadie and her husband, Glen, milk 100 cows near Melrose, Minnesota. They have three children – Dan, Monika, and Daphne. Sadie also writes a blog at www.dairygoodlife.com. She can be reached at sadiefrericks@gmail.com.