Jeremiah Haub plays the role of judge during a showmanship workout with kids – (from left) Emma Wiebold Carter Haub and Wesley Sharp with parent, Sara Sharp holding a heifer in the back – at his dairy near Boone, Iowa. The Haubs’ farm is the last dairy in Boone County, and 4-H members are part of a program allowing them to show the dairy’s cattle at the county fair.
Jeremiah Haub plays the role of judge during a showmanship workout with kids – (from left) Emma Wiebold Carter Haub and Wesley Sharp with parent, Sara Sharp holding a heifer in the back – at his dairy near Boone, Iowa. The Haubs’ farm is the last dairy in Boone County, and 4-H members are part of a program allowing them to show the dairy’s cattle at the county fair.

BOONE, Iowa – As a partner in the only dairy farm left in Boone County, Iowa, Jeremiah Haub was not surprised the dairy show at the county fair had dwindled in past years. But he was motivated to do something about it. 

That something was a program he started to offer the county’s 4-H members a chance to show dairy animals from the 70-cow farm he and his brother operate west of Boone. By 2019, after several years of growth, there were 18 kids who brought 40 of the farm’s animals to the fair.

“Five or six years ago, we had a boy in 4-H and showing against yourself is kind of boring. So, we decided to open the farm up to other people,” said Haub, who five years ago returned to the dairy established by his mother, Kathy, and his late father, David, in 1976. Haub’s brother, Matt, farms with him. Haub’s wife, Angela, is a nurse.

Haub had been dairy superintendent at the Boone County Fair for 15 years, during which the turnout for every species was shrinking. He spoke to 4-H leaders about his idea for letting members show leased dairy animals, and before long, a group had formed that was ready to learn. 

This year, 13 members are participating. Most of those involved live in town.

“These are kids who won’t clean out the cat litter box at home, and now they’re scrubbing poop off of cows,” Haub said. “You have the kids who come out the first time and don’t want to get dirty, and pretty soon they’re addicted to cows.”

There is plenty for each participant to learn. Beginners come to the farm to choose their animal about a month before the fair. Their first year, they are restricted to spring calves; those with experience can choose older animals, including cows. Those who stay in the program can show the offspring of their previous projects and choose new animals.

The Haubs’ 70-cow dairy herd provides a choice of several breeds; Haub calls it a rainbow herd. Milking Shorthorns and Holsteins have always been there, and there is one Ayrshire. There are also Jerseys from the Burkhart family who runs Picket Fence Creamery near Woodward. All the Haubs’ milk goes to Picket Fence Creamery. 

Once they have gotten a start with their animal, 4-Hers can visit the farm to work with their animal as often as they like. There are headlocks and chutes to make catching, washing and leading the cattle easier. Haub provides showmanship and grooming advice. 

“The big thing is the parents,” Haub said. “Some bring the kids out a couple times a week.”

Even when they begin with small calves, the kids work hard, he said.

“The kids begin to understand they have to make that animal walk,” Haub said. “They can’t expect it to lead automatically; they have to use some physical muscle.”

Like any youth who show livestock, Haub’s members experience disappointments. 

Kelsey Shakenberg, of Ogden, is showing for the fifth time, but her first year was ruined when her calf got ringworm just before the fair. 

Wesley Sharp, of Boone, had his first two animals die. 

Still, each participant at a recent showmanship workout said the opportunity is rewarding. 

“I just love animals, so when I found out I could do this, it was great,” Shakenberg said. “I have a real passion for my first cow, Opal. She’s a sweetheart.” 

Sophia Moorman, of Ogden, said she has enjoyed getting to know the people involved with showing dairy. 

“And I’ve done pretty well,” Moorman said. “I started to like being with cows.” 

Each 4-Her signs an official lease to be part of the program. The Haubs provide everything the 4-Hers need – feed, grooming equipment, halters – for a fee which began at $20 per member. This year, Haub increased the fee to $20 per animal. 

Beyond showing at the fair, members of the group often visit the farm throughout the year. They also do something fun as part of the county fair show each year. In 2020, when the fair went on despite COVID-19, parents competed in a contest showing their kids’ cattle. This year, a costume contest is planned during the fair, July 15-18.

While the Haubs have fulfilled their desire to create competition at the dairy show, it has not come without some grumbles from their own children, Sophia and Blake.  

“There have been tears; there have been feelings hurt,” said their mother, Angela. “Emotions can run a little high.”

Blake has since graduated, but Sophia remains involved. 

Since the Haubs’ herd is not registered, the 4-Hers are not able to show beyond the county fair. But the career paths of a few might be influenced by the experience. 

Shakenberg sees herself pursuing a dairy-related career in the future. Another Sharp sibling, Wyatt, would like to work in animal transportation.

Those ideas reinforce Haub’s vision. 

“I just get enjoyment out of teaching them about dairy,” he said. “It’s interesting to hear them say, ‘I didn’t know you had to work this hard to make food.’”