“Life begins at the end of our comfort zone” quotes Katie Kearns of Wisconsin, USA about her dairy exchange experiences. She explains. “Traveling or working abroad pushes me to continue with more experiences. Sure, it can be nerve wracking to move to another continent but that is what is exciting about it as well. It is a chance to immerse yourself in a new place, surround yourself with new faces and push yourself above your limits. What you know about dairy cattle can take you somewhere you have never been.” She concludes with her favorite sales pitch, “I promise you, you will never regret it.”
Out of Country Experiences
From the hosting side of dairy exchanges, Dianna and Dean Malcolm of Blue Chip Genetics (Read more: Dean and Dianna Malcolm: Forward in Five Gears! And Dean and Dianna Malcolm: Gobsmacked in Australia), confirm all that is good. Dean says “The reason why we considered hosting international guests was because when I travelled through North America the hospitality from everybody was phenomenal. I always thought if I was ever in the position to take someone in or share what we have with someone, I’d be all over it.” Dianna evaluates their success. “In the main, we have been incredibly lucky with the caliber of young people who have stayed with us.” She enthuses about several stand-outs who have lived with them so far.” Definitely Ben Yates (UK, Wyndford Farms), Sheila Sundborg (Suntor Holsteins, Canada), Darci Daniels (USA) and Katie Kearns (now at Gen-Com).” They have also welcomed guests during International Dairy Week who have developed into close friends and partners in cattle. “Chris McGriskin (Canada) has been with us for seven years. Jamie Farrell (Canada) is another regular and Thomas Deuschel (Canada) is another special member of our IDW team. They are now all part of our extended family and Dean considers Chris as his brother … he just loves those guys and appreciates their extreme ability with cattle, natural teamwork, sense of humour and deep friendship.”
Where Dairy Passion Meets International Opportunity
There are many good stories from both sides about how like minded people found each other. Sheila Sundborg’s story started with a picture. “While in Australia in 2010, I had taken some candid shots of Dean and Di’s Grand Holstein /Supreme Champion Bluechip Drake Whynot at the Royal Melbourne. I emailed the photos to share with them.” Friendly emails and a farm visit established their connection. For Darci Daniels the internet played a role. “I did a few Google searches for dairy farms in Australia and Bluechip showed up. I saw some of the cow families and genetics that they were working with and it looked like a beautiful place. I also saw their Journal, CrazyCow and read how passionate they were for their cattle and I knew I wanted to work there.” Di recalls how they met Katie Kearns through their network and connections with Ernie Kueffner and Terri Packard. “Katie had worked at Arethusa full time for three years and she was looking to spend some time in Australia and I believe she got our contact from them.” Katie had strong reasons for wanting to try an exchange, after her work experience at Arethusa Farm and because of her goal of always working with the best possible dairy cattle. “I wanted to find somewhere to work that had high expectations of themselves and employees.” Even though this meet up seemed very well thought out, Dean Malcolm attributes the matchups to “good luck” from their end of the deal. Dianna enthuses. “Dean met Chris McGriskin at the World Dairy Expo through his UK friend, Ben Yates (who was Dean’s best man at our wedding), and once they had a drink together there was no going back!!! Perhaps it is also a slight case of, ‘birds of a feather flock together’.” Serendipity or not, the Malcolm’s feel strongly about the results. “We wish all these people lived closer to us so that we could visit with each other much more often.”
One of the benefits for both exchange hosts and their guests is the opportunity of seeing yourself through each other’s eyes. Dean agrees.”It’s great to share experiences with such a diverse and talented group of young people.” Darci speculates. “Growing up and living my whole life in Wisconsin has led me to under appreciate the resources for the dairy industry that are in my back yard. We have such a wealth of knowledge, ideas and products. I met many people in Australia who would die for the opportunity to come to World Dairy Expo.” For Katie Kearns her expectations were very targeted. “One thing I knew about going to Bluechip was that Di was one of the best in the business when it came to raising calves, an area I was looking to gain more experience in. I was fortunate to spend a heap of time with her in the calf area. Being able to observe and work with her on a daily basis was a great learning opportunity for me.” Sheila Sundborg drew from Di’s marketing background. “I was able to learn a lot about marketing and the step-by-step process of publishing a magazine (Crazy Cow) including layout, stories and interviewing people.”
Eliminating Fears and Misconceptions
Those who haven’t had exchange experiences may have fears about the myriad details of dairy exchange logistics. Speaking for Bluechip Genetics, Dean outlines their cow focused philosophy, “We don’t try to jam our ideas into the visitors. But I guess we have our way of doing things. Our biggest thing is being kind to the animals and listening to them so they know them inside and out.” We have, of course, had a few young people that have not fitted with us. And in those instances we generally try and find them another gig, so their trip is still what they hoped it would be. We try to keep it all positive and we understand that not everyone gels with each other and the important thing is to be aware of it and fix it before it becomes more complicated.”
Expanding Dairy Insights
Katie provides her viewpoint and compliments Dean and Di and the effort they put into their cattle. “They consistently turn out cattle that are quiet and easy to work with. It makes for an enjoyable experience when you work with animals that are properly taken care of.” Darci also appreciates the influence that the Malcolms have had on her (and now her husband too),”I admire how Dean and Di have the softness to raise such calm animals, yet have the strength and the drive to set big goals and accomplish them one after another.” Sheila zooms us out to the big picture, when talking about her bigger viewpoint. “Working in Australia and visiting NZ showed me how dairying is without a quota system and barns. It also gave me a better perspective on global marketing and trade.”
Travel is the Great Teacher
“You learn so much about yourself when you travel and completely commit yourself to soaking up every opportunity.” says Katie Kearns. “After I finished university, it didn’t take me long to figure out that as long as I was willing to work hard and find some connections, showing cows could take me around the world and then some.” Sheila concurs. “Working abroad with local farmers/breeders for me is the best way to travel and learn. You get a different perspective than if you were just passing through as a tourist.” She has had work placements during college that took her from the Maritimes to the Rocky Mountains in Canada and travel experiences in the UK, Europe, and Australia. Katie also participated in two different study abroad trips: the first to Ghana, Africa and the second a combination trip to Egypt, Tunisia, and Spain. She sums up her experience. “Since then I have been hooked on traveling and seeing the world. I can find myself and discover what I’m made of.
Lasting Life Lessons from a Once-in-a-Lifetime Experience
Because of the relatively brief time that hosts and visitors spend living together it is important that they share interests and are on the same page regarding their expectations. Di sees it as win-win situation for both sides. “We like genuine people, who love animals, who are hard working, fun and willing to learn. And we learn a lot from them too.”Sheila encourages anyone who has the opportunity to go for it and make the most of it. “You only live once so make the most of it. Everyone has positive things to offer. Learn from those you work with.” Katie Kearns is building a considerable resume of work experiences with memorable time spent with people and cows. “I have had great opportunities to work for many different show strings and sale crews – all giving me valuable working experiences and creating awesome connections in this industry.” Darci’s advice is emphatic. “Go do it and don’t let anyone talk you out of it.” Exchange has meant a lot to her personally. ‘It taught me how to live in the moment because I knew that on many of the journeys I took abroad it would be the only time in my life that I would be able to experience that.” Darci seconds Katie’s enthusiasm for exchange and encourages those with the opportunity to “live in the moment.” She expands on the theme. “When you’re 10,000 miles away from home, you probably won’t get to go back to many of those places again and will never get those moments back.”
Building International Bridges
The Malcolms hope others will take the opportunity to host a dairy exchange. “As an example of young people forging their way in the world, we are routinely blown away and inspired by Katie, Darci, Justin and Sheila’s intelligence, focus and work ethic. Katie is just so together and fun to be around; Darci and Justin’s push to buy their own farm and stock it with good cattle is single-minded and Sheila’s talent in so many areas (including photography) tells us that we have actually been the lucky ones to have these exciting young people in our lives. To be honest, our time in this industry would be much less interesting without our regular contact with them.
“They are incredible people to be around, whom, we have no doubt will excel in whatever they do. We were just lucky enough to be a port of call in their journey of life.”
Dean summarizes by saying that hosting young people has been very positive for them.
“We couldn’t recommend it more highly. This is one of the reasons our industry is so global. It’s a fantastic experience and you often make connections and friendships for life. North American young people universally have so much understanding of the work involved in show cows and developing young cattle, often thanks to the 4H program. We’re so jealous it’s not in Australia. We find the young North Americans intelligent cattle people who understand the detail work that it takes with high-end cattle. It has made it so easy to welcome them into our home.” Speaking as a young person who has had opportunities to travel extensively in Canada and parts of the US, Sheila Sundborg says “It was just natural to want to explore more of the world.” She confirms that connections are relatively easy to make in the dairy business. “Through working with Reece Attenborough (of Australia) at Rapid Bay Jerseys, I made close contacts in Australia.” Now she enjoys the two way street that exchanging offers. “My travels have allowed me to promote Suntor genetics and the farm has received many visitors over the years from people I have met while working or traveling.”
The Bullvine Bottom Line
Katie Kearns expresses what exchanging to Australia meant to her. “I cannot even begin to describe how thankful I am to Dean and Di for giving me the opportunity to travel to Australia and have an amazing six months with them. My experience there has reinforced my belief and my love for the show cow industry. What other profession could I have that would allow me to travel around the world doing what I love, create life-long friendships and give me experiences and memories to last forever? Sheila Sundborg concludes that a dairy exchange always boils down to one thing. “It’s the people you meet along the way. The further you go the smaller the world gets. It’s a great industry to be a part of.” All three exchangers endorse her future plan. “I am using my network to give the chance to other young dairy enthusiasts to have similar experiences.” Obviously they all agree that a great dairy exchange is definitely a change for the best!”