Marea and Justin Malone display their farm sign at the Minnesota State Fair. The Malones milk 270 cows near Ottertail, Minnesota.
Marea and Justin Malone display their farm sign at the Minnesota State Fair. The Malones milk 270 cows near Ottertail, Minnesota. PHOTO SUBMITTED
    Ottertail, Minn. – To a young 4-H member, there may be nothing sweeter than winning a trip to the Minnesota State Fair; that is unless these 4-H’ers are the Malones and they get to attend the state fair as a crew of siblings.
    Brothers and sister Braeden, Brandt and Brielle Malone spent the last weekend in August showing dairy cattle Aug. 28 at the Minnesota 4-H Dairy Show at the state fair in St. Paul.
    “It was fun to go down to the state fair because you get a little break from the farm,” Brandt said. “It’s like a vacation, but you still are doing something you love. It takes some weight off your shoulder.”
    Brandt, 14, showed his registered 4-year-old Red and White Holstein at the state 4-H show. Braeden, 16, took a 5-year-old Holstein and Brielle, 13, exhibited a Jersey cow which stood second in its class.
    The Malones each won one trip to exhibit over the 4-H livestock weekend but took nearly 30 animals to their East Otter Tail County Fair earlier in the summer.
    “We filled one side of a barn ourselves at the fair,” Brandt said.
    The siblings, including brother Blake, and their parents – Justin and Marea – milk 270 cows near Ottertail.
    After the county fair, the family made arrangements to get themselves and their cattle to the Twin Cities. Braeden drove his truck filled with bedding, feed and other supplies, while his dad hauled the cattle.
    Because of the circumstances this year regarding COVID-19, the Malones stayed at a hotel nearby the fairgrounds and drove to and from each day.
    “I stayed down the week and barely survived,” Justin said, jokingly. “We brought the cattle down on Wednesday afternoon, got everything situated and washed, and didn’t come home until Sunday.”
    While the brothers have participated in the state show in previous years, this was Brielle’s first time experiencing the Minnesota State Fair as an exhibitor.
    “I showed in South Dakota before, and that was pretty close to the same experience, just not as many people,” she said. “I’ve gone down to watch my brothers before. I was nervous this year though.”
    Throughout the summer, Brielle and her brothers worked together to get their animals ready for the fair. Some animals were halter broke from previous seasons, but others had to be trained.
    “If any of the animals have a bad attitude, you just have to work with them a bit more,” Braeden said. “They settle down a lot because they have to learn how to hold their head up and walk.”
    Brielle walked her cow from the barn to the parlor every morning.
    “The three oldest will lead and clip our own cattle,” Brandt said. “If the younger ones need help, we show them the best we can.”
    Not only has the 4-H dairy project demonstrated to Braeden the importance of helping others, there is also a great deal of responsibility that comes with preparing animals for the show.
    “If you’re not responsible, you’re not going to go places with your cattle,” he said. “If you’re not taking care of them, they won’t produce milk or you won’t be able to show them.”
    The values 4-H instills in youth is not a new concept for the Malones. Justin and Marea grew up in the 4-H program as well. They were involved and knew the organization was one their kids should be a part of when they were old enough.
    The Malone siblings each began their involvement in 4-H when they were cloverbuds.
    “It’s a lot of work as a parent; you’re trying to help your kids and other kids in the club,” Justin said. “It takes a lot of work, but the kids are learning how to achieve a goal – win a class, win showmanship, win a trip to the state fair. It’s just like another step in life, teaching responsibility that hopefully they’ll carry on in life to be responsible in their job or whatever else it is they’re doing.”
    For Braeden, one of his goals is to do well in the showmanship portion of the competition. He took fourth with his cow in his class and then went on to do well in his age division of showmanship.
    When the Malones were not busy in the show ring or in the barn caring for their cattle, they were found interacting with fairgoers and making fun memories with fellow 4-H members.
    “We usually prank a lot of people,” said Brandt, when the family and their friends are watching the string of animals. “We tie a fake snake to a fishing line and drag it across the alleyway.”
    But there are also more meaningful times spent at the fair.
    “I like talking to new people, especially about farming,” Brandt said. “When they ask to pet your cow and it makes their day, that’s a great experience.”
    The state fair has also allowed the family to develop new friendships in the dairy industry.
    “We’ve made friends beyond our county,” Brandt said.
    Brielle agreed.
    “I’ve met people from West Otter Tail County who are now my friends,” she said. “They’re a brother and sister who are showing at the fair.”
    Another state fair has come and gone, and for the Malone siblings, it will be another year they remember as showing dairy cattle together.
    “The kids have a lot of fun,” Justin said. “It lets them showcase what they worked hard on. They should be really proud.”
    Mark Klaphake contributed to this article.