4-H dairy dreams coming true

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I continue to be amazed by all of the ways the 4-H dairy project positively affects young peoples’ lives.
Megan, a young woman in our club, made her debut showing dairy cattle at our county fair last month. Megan’s dairy story makes my heart swell with pride and brings back many fond memories.
Megan’s story parallels my own. I didn’t start showing until I was in high school. My parents didn’t have any experience with showing, so I relied on an adult leader in our club to help me get started.
As an adult leader now myself, 4-H is about giving back. Helping Megan get started in the dairy project has been one of my most meaningful opportunities to pay it forward.
Unlike me, Megan doesn’t live on a dairy farm with countless calves and heifers to pick from. Megan bought her heifer as a bottle calf, housed her on her family’s small farm, and raised her up to become a beautiful Holstein spring yearling.
I answered Megan’s questions about what gear and supplies she needed to bring along to the fair. We stall by clubs in Stearns County, so, thankfully, she didn’t need to invest in all of the equipment required for showing.
Monika and I also helped Megan clip her heifer and set her topline. Megan’s dad joked that Megan had worked so hard to get her heifer’s flanks white — and they were pretty darn white — but when she clipped the hair off, the heifer was super white. “Who knew it was so white underneath,” he said.
By the time Megan’s heifer was ready for the ring, she looked great. But, being a May calf, she was a little smaller than the other heifers in her class and ended up with a red ribbon.
My first show heifer was a Holstein spring yearling who earned a red ribbon as well. I told Megan that the experience mattered more than the color of the ribbon. Megan’s smile told me she understood.
Later, when the judge was talking about the highlights of the day, he mentioned Megan’s mega-watt smile and how she told him about everything she’d learned this year.
Megan’s future in dairy is as bright as her smile. In addition to 4-H, Megan works on two dairy farms and is involved in FFA. She’s already making plans for showing next year, and I can’t wait to see how those plans unfold.
One of Monika’s dairy dreams will be coming true later this week. Since she was a little girl, Monika has dreamed of showing one of her beloved Jerseys at the state fair. At our county fair, she earned a trip with Sunlight, her aged Jersey cow.
Monika didn’t just earn a trip with Sunlight. They won the whole 4-H show. When both Sunlight and Monika’s 4-year-old Holstein, Galadriel, were named senior champions of their breeds, Glen and I were fairly certain the overall senior champion title would go to Galadriel. We were wrong. Sunlight took the banner and went on to be named first in state fair lineup — the first Jersey to win the 4-H show in as long as I’ve been present. Placing first in state fair lineup was a dream-come-true of its own for Monika. The best description of her joy that day would be overflowing.
I’m as happy for Monika as she is. Monika showed Sunlight has a spring calf, spring yearling, 2-year-old, 3-year-old (virtually, during the pandemic), 4-year-old, and now as a 6-year-old. Showing cows year after year is as much about good luck as it is good care and hard work, but it’s so rewarding when it does.
What makes it even more special is that Sunlight is Star’s daughter. Star was the very first Jersey calf Monika showed when she made her show ring debut 11 years ago. Monika developed a special bond with Star and now has a similar bond with Sunlight. Just like Star did, Sunlight waits to leave her stall until you’ve scratched her poll and neck. She’ll find you in the pasture for a dose of affection.
I’m excited to see Monika take Sunlight to the state fair. For me, this is the best of 4-H: watching your daughter achieve her dream with a cow who’s been with her for the better half of her 4-H experience.
If you, or a young person you know, are interested in showing dairy cattle in 4-H, send me an email and I would be delighted to connect you with a dairy project leader in your area. You don’t have to live on a farm or own dairy cattle. Minnesota has a great dairy lease program.
P.S. Thank you to the nice couple who stopped by our cattle at the county fair to ask Monika about Casa Verde. You made her day. And, yes, the air conditioner we added to Casa Verde saved the week.
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 [email protected].

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