Five years ago, Glen and I stood with Dan and Monika outside our baby calf pen. Dan and Monika were picking calves to show at the fair. We tried to guide their decision by explaining which calves the judges might like best. Monika, who was three years old at the time, didn't care what the judges might think. She wanted to show the little brown calves - our first two grade-up Jerseys.

Glen grew up on a farm with both Holsteins and Jerseys. So when we ended up with a couple of Ho-Jos in our herd, Glen decided to keep breeding them to Jersey. Glen has been breeding our herd for higher component milk since we started farming; Jerseys contribute nicely to his goal for more butterfat and protein.

At first, I tolerated the Jerseys in exchange for Glen tolerating my Milking Shorthorns. But then I began to see how beneficial it is to have petite calves for the kids to show and petite cows for them to practice milking in the barn.

We have a number of Jersey (or mostly-Jersey) cows and heifers in our herd now, but two little brown calves named Star and Sandy were the ones who started it all. And that day, picking out calves for the fair, Monika started something none of us could have guessed.

Monika took Sandy to the youth show in June and then showed Star at our county fair in July. It turned out that the judge liked Star as much as Monika did, so our little girl went home her first purple ribbons.

Two years later, there was another little brown heifer calf in the newborn pen. Monika named Star's first calf Sparkle. Sparkle followed in her mother's footsteps - on the show halter, walking next to Monika.

Last year, Star gave birth to her second heifer calf. Monika named this calf Stephanie. Stephanie went to the fair, too, as Monika's Cloverbud 4-H project calf.

And this year, Monika will parade another little brown calf around the ring in the Open Show. (Unfortunately, she won't get to lead her calf for the 4-H show because of Cloverbud livestock rules.) Sparkle delivered a heifer calf in April. Monika named the calf Starlight and we marveled at having three generations of Jersey show girls in the herd.

Star had her first bull calf this spring, which was OK, because then Monika didn't have to choose which calf to show. But someone has a little sister who wants a little brown calf of her own, so maybe next year we'll be lucky and get two Jersey calves.

At one point, Monika announced that she wanted to take all of her Jerseys to the fair - Star, Sparkle, Stephanie, and baby Starlight. I explained that showing a cow is a big job for a 7 year old, but I did let her work with Stephanie a couple times. She quickly decided that the yearling was too big for her and opted to stick with her baby calf for now.

I've been watching Monika lead Starlight around the yard, preparing for the fair next week. I can't help but think that Monika sure struck gold when she picked Star for a show calf five years ago. Starlight took to the halter just as well as Star and Sparkle did - like she was born to show. She follows after Monika, head held high, her stride as smooth as can be. I think Starlight would show herself, given the opportunity.

Monika overheard me telling someone that Starlight is like a little show queen. Now, beaming with pride, Monika tells everyone who will listen that Starlight walks like a princess.

I think my little girl might have been born to show, too. I can't tell you how many times I've heard, "Mom, can I walk Starlight?" Monika walks her and brushes her and brings Starlight treats while she's tied to the silo.

After the youth show last month, Monika looked a little sad for a moment. When I asked her what was wrong, she said, "I only got to take Starlight into the ring twice. I wanted to show her more."

I assured her that she would have more opportunities at the county fair. And she will. Since Monika's cousin is showing both Sparkle and Stephanie, Monika will get to lead Starlight out for the daughter-dam class and the best three females class in the Open Show.

It's pretty crazy to think that we'll be showing all these Jerseys at the fair this year - and that it all started with one little brown calf.

Who knows how many we'll be showing next year. Monika's herd of Jerseys could be nearly doubled by then. Star, Sparkle, and Stephanie are all due to calve next spring with another crop of Jerseys.

With any luck, there will be a couple more little brown heifer calves in our calf pen. If so, Monika might have to share her Jerseys with her brother or sister.

References available upon request.

Sadie and her husband, Glen, milk 75 cows near Melrose, Minn. They have three children - Dan, 9, Monika, 7, and Daphne, 3. Sadie also writes a blog at www.dairygoodlife.com. She can be reached at sadiefrericks@gmail.com.