Gina and Roy Grewe stand with a Guernsey heifer. The Grewes milk 160 cows with their son, Brandon, and daughter-in-law, Kim, near Cumberland, Wis.
Gina and Roy Grewe stand with a Guernsey heifer. The Grewes milk 160 cows with their son, Brandon, and daughter-in-law, Kim, near Cumberland, Wis. PHOTO SUBMITTED
    CUMBERLAND, Wis. – A string of cattle will once again be featured at the Minnesota State Fair as part of the Moo Booth’s dairy showcase herd. However, this year, those cattle are coming from a bordering state.
    For the first time in the known history of the event, a Wisconsin herd will represent the dairy showcase.
    “In the Moo Booth, it’s always been our purpose to represent the dairy industry in the best way possible with the best resources we have available,” said Doris Mold, milking parlor superintendent and Moo Booth Coordinator at the Minnesota State Fair. “We have to showcase good dairy, and it doesn’t matter where that good dairy comes from.”
    The Grewe family is bringing a 16-cow string of mostly registered Guernseys from their Valley Gem Farms of Cumberland, Wis. They are also planning on featuring a handful of registered Jerseys in the showcase during their time at the Minnesota State Fair Thursday, Aug. 22 through Monday, Sept. 2.
    “We knew this was going to be a lot of work, but it’ll be worth it,” Brandon Grewe said. “My mom is a teacher and loves the idea of showing the public how our family takes care of these dairy animals. Also, we love the fair atmosphere and being surrounded by friends, dairy breeders and others in the industry.”
    Grewe milks 160 cows on his family’s Barron County farm with his wife, Kim, and parents, Roy and Gina. Grewe’s brother, Brock, helps care for the 500 acres of cropland.
    The herd consists of 65 registered Guernseys, 40 registered Jerseys, and the remainder a mix of Holstein, Brown Swiss and Milking Shorthorn.
    “The Jerseys at Valley Gem are the elite genetics of Mi-Will Farm of Missouri, which is Kim’s family,” Grewe said. “We own them in partnership with her dad, Mike Wilson, and sister, Shannon Kleiboeker.”
    Valley Gem Farms has a longstanding history of Guernsey cattle, and both Grewe and his wife are involved in the breed association at the state and national level.
    The family decided in late spring they would take on the task of being the featured herd at the state fair.
    “As soon as we agreed to this, Kim and I immediately got on our phones and asked for help. We pieced together who could be at the fair and who we would need at home,” Grewe said.
    Grewe and his wife will spend most of their time at the fair, while Grewe’s parents will keep the farm running in Wisconsin. They will rely on the support of their hired help to pick up where others cannot, and they are also looking forward to friends helping maintain the showcase and fitting the cattle for the exhibit and open class show.
    When deciding which cattle would make the trip, Grewe said he wanted to feature his best of the breed.
    “We’ve always taken a big string to shows, but nothing to this magnitude,” he said. “I’ve had to really look at our herd and choose 16 cows that are worthy of the state fair.”
    The Grewes are no strangers to the Great Minnesota Get Together. In 2018, they had the supreme champion of the open class show with their Four Winds GG Activate Heaven.
    They plan to exhibit at the open show again this year, which is why they are also bringing Jerseys.
    “We have to have cows available for the milking demonstrations, so it’ll be nice to have the Jerseys available for that during show day,” Grewe said.
    Since 1984, the farmers of the dairy showcase herd have served as cattle ambassadors at the fair as their animals are used for milking demonstrations, educational interactions and media requests.
    “These cows are also used for hand milking,” Mold said. “We know some people may wonder why we do that. It gives people the chance to get up close to a cow, who otherwise would not have the opportunity and it serves as an entrée to having a discussion of how things have changed and how modern agriculture and modern dairy provides clean, safe and wholesome food.”
    While the original purpose of the showcase was to feature a single breed, that has since changed. The first mixed breed showcase was in 2018.
    “While it’s beautiful to showcase a whole string of one breed, it is nice for fair visitors who are not familiar with dairy animals to see differences,” Mold said.
    With less than two weeks until the event, the Grewes are making final preparations – washing and painting boards, gathering supplies and putting together a display.
    They will use about six truck and trailers for the 1.5-hour drive to the fairgrounds, and also plan to bring an ample amount of feed. The 16 cows will go through a bale and a half of baleage a day, Grewe said.
    “We’re just finishing up figuring out the logistics,” he said. “There is a lot to plan for in order to pull this all off with cows that belong at the state fair and can look the part.”
    The Wisconsin family is eager to showcase their animals in a different manner than they have in the past. And for the Minnesota State Fair, this might be the new normal.
    Mold said when the Moo Booth began in 1991, there were over 15,000 dairy herds in Minnesota. Now, that number is less than 3,000.
    “The way the industry keeps moving, we have to stick together and work together to survive,” Grewe said. “That’s from breed to breed and state to state.”
    Mold agreed.
    “It’s been nice to feature a Minnesota herd, but we should really look at it as a way of coming together as a dairy industry,” she said. “There are fewer and fewer of us in agriculture and it’s important to work together and put on the best showcase we can.”