Archive for Youth Profiles

Life Lessons Learned from the Dairy Cattle Show Ring: A Guide for Young People

Discover how the dairy cattle show ring can shape young minds. Learn the 35 valuable life lessons from this unique experience. Will you let your child miss out?

Stepping into the dairy cattle show ring can be much more than an exciting challenge topped with the gleam of award ribbons for young individuals. It offers a profound learning experience that extends significantly beyond the boundaries of agriculture. Here, in this unique arena, young participants find an interactive educational platform where responsibility, discipline, and sportsmanship are moulded together with agricultural knowledge. The focus of this article, dear reader, is to illuminate the valuable lessons that are invaluable to our youth. We will uncover how the dairy cattle show ring shapes resilient, well-rounded individuals, equipping them with skills highly sought after in all walks of life.

The Foundations of Responsibility

Indeed, accepting the mantle of a caregiver is a central aspect of embracing responsibility, as we encourage our youngsters to do from the get-go. You see, the journey towards understanding responsibility begins with realizing the importance of being a caretaker. This role compels you to dedicate a significant amount of time and effort to nourishing, grooming, and monitoring the health of your dairy cattle. This obligation extends beyond a daily routine, inspiring a sense of commitment and consistency in young hearts. It serves as an intense reality check for our young people, leading them to understand that the dietary needs, health, and overall well-being of their cattle depend entirely on their caregiving abilities. 

The qualities of steadfastness and adaptability are essential when preparing a dairy cow for the show-ring. Every grooming session, each training regimen, and all tasks related to managing the cattle’s dietary requirements represent steps towards the anticipated goal. The demanding nature of these tasks helps youngsters grasp the fundamental importance of hard work. As they notice the positive transformation in the appearance of their cattle, they experience an epiphany: perseverance and hard work are the stepping-stones to success. This realization instills a strong work ethic within them—a trait that is likely to prove beneficial in several aspects of life. 

In the world of dairy cattle show rings, each decision made carries significant implications. The frequency of training sessions with the cows, the manner in which you display them – even the smallest choices can have a substantial impact on the overall performance. Recognizing this, young exhibitors quickly learn to shoulder the responsibility for their cattle’s preparation and presentation, and eventually, the final results of the show. The acceptance of this reality fosters an understanding that the keys to their success or failure lie in their own hands, delivering a valuable lesson in ownership and accountability. 

The notion of responsibility isn’t confined to merely preparing for a one-off event. One of the most relevant lessons learnt from the dairy cattle show ring revolves around the continuous health and welfare of the animals. The youth quickly understand that their role extends beyond the competition and encompasses the entire lifecycle of their bovine counterparts. This insight gives them a preview of long-term commitments and enduring responsibilities—similar to those they are likely to encounter in the journey of life. 

Discipline and Time Management

Indeed, you’re right in perceiving that the dairy cattle show ring encourages the fine-tuning of life-altering skills. One such significant area of development is discipline. The rigor and commitment that children have to put in to prepare their livestock for shows is remarkable. They need to abide by strict schedules for feeding, grooming, and training, which often involves waking up at the break of dawn and managing a multitude of tasks effectively. This stringent regimen is a testament to the development of discipline, and here’s why: 

  • Routine Development: Successful participation in cattle shows hinges on consistency. In setting up and maintaining a routine, children ensure that all elements of care and preparation are accomplished, paving the way for improved performance and well-being of the cattle.
  • Focus and Dedication: The discipline within the show ring goes beyond merely physically prepping the animals. It necessitates that young people fuel their tasks with undivided concentration and determination, thereby enhancing their ability to perform under pressure effectively.

Accompanying discipline in the mix of essential skills is time management. Given the breadth of responsibilities that come with readying a cattle for competition, young participants quickly learn the art of multitasking. 

  • Prioritizing Tasks: One of the key skills honed is the ability to discern urgent tasks from those that can wait. This not only helps to manage the overarching gamut of tasks but also turns the spotlight on avoiding the neglect of any crucial duties.
  • Balancing Commitments: Many of these young cattle exhibitors also juggle academic responsibilities and other extracurricular activities. These experiences teach them how to balance various roles and responsibilities efficiently, a valuable skill for managing life’s various demands.
  • Efficient Use of Time: Participation in shows provides a platform for learning to employ time judiciously. The need to maximize productivity to manage both academic and show preparations instills the habit of making schedules and setting goals.

The wonders of discipline and time management extend beyond the show ring, leaving a lasting impact on several facets of a young person’s life: 

  • Academic Performance: Skills honed while showing cattle remarkably transfer to better study habits and improved time management, contributing to elevated academic performance.
  • Career Preparedness: Employers prize discipline and effective time management, making young people who compete in dairy cattle shows highly sought after as future employees with a robust ability to manage time, prioritize tasks, and fulfil commitments.
  • Personal Growth: The duel of discipline and good time management tussles stress to the ground, fostering success in personal projects and relationships, thereby contributing to overall well-being and contentment.

The Power of Teamwork and Competition

The magic of teamwork and competition really unfolds when you dive deeper into the world of dairy cattle shows. Beyond the surface, these events provide an enriching and multidimensional atmosphere for learning. It’s not just about parading cattle – it fosters key life skills, specifically teamwork and healthy competition. The environment of the cattle show ring offers rewarding experiences that help build your collaborative and competitive abilities. 

  • Uncover the Dynamics of Cooperation
    At first, cattle shows might appear to be a solo endeavor. Lift the veil, however, and you’ll identify a complex and beautiful synergy of teamwork and cooperation at work. Active collaboration with others – peers, family, mentors – is a cornerstone of the whole preparation phase. In the process, the spirit of cooperation and mutual support are instilled in the participants, setting a strong foundation for honing their teamwork skills.
  • Step into the Arena of Healthy Competition
    As you take up the challenge to present your cattle, you’re also stepping into the realm of healthy competition. Such a platform allows you to keep a respectful attitude towards your competitors while fueling your passion to emerge victorious. It’s a stage where you master sportsmanship, realizing the essence of victory – not merely through winning, but by fair competition. This skill is not confined to the show ring but transcends into other aspects of life as well.
  • Fueling the Fire of a Winning Mindset
    Success is more than just adding new knowledge or skills – it also lies in nurturing the right mindset. Here, the relevance of positive psychological capital (PsyCap) cannot be understated. As you participate, you cultivate qualities like resilience, hope, optimism, and self-efficacy – the core elements of PsyCap. These traits enhance your productivity in the show ring and lay the foundation for your real-life successes. They help shape your outlook towards future endeavors.
  • Turning Setbacks into Setups for Success
    When you participate in these cattle shows, you also encounter setbacks. For instance, you might not always be the winner. However, these moments offer valuable lessons. They help improve your resilience and your capacity to manage disappointments. At this point, you learn to turn losses into lessons, using them to form better strategies for future contests. This resilience, this capacity to bounce back positively from setbacks, prepares you for life’s ups and downs.
  • Mastering Teamwork in the Show Ring
    Teamwork takes center stage in the world of dairy cattle shows. Your journey to showcase your cattle is replete with vital lessons in collaboration. Whether you’re collaborating with family and friends, or being mentored by industry veterans, you’re engaging in diverse social interactions. This creates a mosaic of common goals, shared responsibilities, and mutual support. Through this journey, you comprehend the true essence of success – it mostly germinates from combined efforts.
  • The Art and Arena of Healthy Competition
    Joining in dairy cattle shows naturally invites competition. At the same time, they provide impactful lessons in competing in a beneficial and productive manner. This is where you absorb the essence of fair play, while acknowledging the importance of ethical competition. By channeling your energies towards self-improvement, you cultivate a mindset that appreciates personal growth over just winning.
  • The Vast Influence of Teamwork and Competition
    The skills honed in the dairy cattle show ring aren’t limited to the arena. They significantly impact various aspects of life beyond the showground. Influencing areas from academic progress to enriching personal relationships and shaping leadership qualities, the ability to be part of a team and to compete ethically have far-reaching influences. There’s more to it than just skills – these are vital life lessons that the cattle show ring imparts. By nurturing these values from a tender age, participants are better equipped for future challenges, contributing to a more unified and competitive society.

Respect for Animals and Nature

As they immerse themselves in the dairy cattle show ring, young participants garner a unique perspective into animal conduct, well-being, and rights. This experience deeply fosters empathy and nurtures an enduring reverence for livestock. By embracing these values, exhibitors understand that triumph isn’t solely centered around personal feats or rivalry. Instead, the well-being of their livestock stands as a fundamental priority. 

By attending to their cattle’s needs astutely; recognizing physical and emotional cues such as tail flicks or fluctuations in appetite that could indicate distress, discomfort, or disease, participants learn the vital importance of providing proper nutrition, hygiene, and veterinary care. This transformative experience molds them into caretakers in every essence. 

  • Fostering Trust through Kindness and Compassion
    A pivotal aspect of show success dwells in the rapport established between the participant and the animal. Through gentle handling, regular care, and utilization of positive reinforcement, young exhibitors grasp the profound significance of kindness and compassion towards all sentient beings. This propels the formation of a bond built on trust.
  • Ethical Treatment of Animals: A Lifelong Lesson
    Shows extend beyond competition by highlighting the ethical treatment of animals. They enforce clear rules and stringent regulations to protect animals from any form of mistreatment. This experience instills in the young participants an enduring respect for the graces of proper animal handling and treatment.
  • Creating a Positive Impact: Individual and Community Growth
    The teachings from the dairy cattle show ring echo well beyond their confines and shape not just personal behaviors but also communal attitudes. Young exhibitors often morph into advocates for animal welfare and environmental preservation, educating fellow community members about the primacy of respecting and safeguarding nature.
  • Career Aspirations and Cultural Shifts
    Bathing in the myriad experiences and learning, many participants find inspiration to pursue careers tied to animal science, veterinary medicine, agriculture, or environmental science. This enables them to apply the lessons of nurturing and stewardship they acquired in their youth. It’s intriguing to note how these insightful young individuals create ripples in the larger society. They infuse an ethos of respecting nature that influences local regulations, stimulating more sustainable, and animal-friendly community practices as they assimilate into their communities.

Building Confidence and Public Speaking Skills

Showing dairy cattle also builds confidence. Young people must present their animals in the ring, sometimes explaining their work to judges or onlookers. This develops their public speaking skills and self-confidence, as they learn to communicate effectively and assert themselves in public settings.

  • Cultivating Resilience and Assertiveness
    Plunging headfirst into a process that requires meticulous preparation and continuous performance, young participants of dairy cattle shows take the first step towards cultivating their resilience. The intensive process of caring for and training their animals, knowing their hard work will be displayed and judged, strengthens their resilience and assertiveness. The ability to handle criticism, maintain motivation amidst challenges, and persevere towards their goals is an invaluable asset that extends beyond the show ring.
  • Mastering Essential Skills
    Within this arena, young participants develop critical skills and build confidence in three unique ways. Managing dairy cattle; grooming, feeding, handling, and presentation, allows participants to gain a mastery of skills that triggers self-esteem. As they successfully exhibit these newly acquired skills, it instills a sense of accomplishment that prepares them for future challenges.
  • Learning to Thrive Under Pressure
    Presenting their work under the watchful eyes of spectators and judges, they learn to manage anxiety, unflinchingly performing under pressure, and navigating through tough situations with newfound confidence.
  • Achievement and Recognition
    Significant achievements and recognition of their diligent efforts, like earning a ribbon or achieving personal growth, infuse young exhibitors with a potent boost of confidence. This feeling of validation feeds their determination and acknowledges their talent and hard work.
  • Enhancing Public Speaking Skills
    What follows next is the enhancement of public speaking skills through purposeful interactions. Exhibitors often find themselves conversing with judges and spectators in dairy cattle shows. Explaining their work and imparting details about the care of their animals offers an environment conducive to refining their communication skills.
  • Articulation and Clarity
    The need to articulate and convey information succinctly allows the participants to foster remarkable persuasiveness and clarity in their communication.
  • Adapting with Audiences
    Adjusting their communication style in response to the audience reactions equips them with crucial adaptability skills, enhancing effective communication in diverse scenarios.
  • Handling Real-time Interactions
    Answering questions from judges about their presentation methods or their animals conditions fine-tunes the exhibitors’ abilities to think on their feet. This real-time dialogue cultivates their critical thinking and public speaking skills.
  • Life skills Beyond The Show Ring
    Nurturing confidence and honing public speaking skills at the show ring transcends its immediate context, significantly impacting multiple facets of an individual’s life. The skills developed can augment their ability to express academic ideas cogently or participate effectively in group discussions. It could also be applied professionally for engaging in clear and confident conversations and prepare them for future leadership roles. Personal growth is another significant area impacted by these skills as the boost of self-esteem prompts a proactive approach to personal challenges and opportunistic endeavors.

Networking and Building Relationships

Finally, dairy cattle shows provide a fantastic opportunity for networking. Young participants meet others with similar interests, leading to friendships and mentorships that can last a lifetime. These relationships often provide educational and professional opportunities well beyond their early showing years.

  • Creating a Network Surrounded by Shared Interests
    Dairy cattle shows are a natural gathering point for individuals who share a common interest in agriculture, animal care, and competition. This shared passion sets the stage for building relationships across several fronts:

    • Community Engagement: Show participants find themselves in a community filled with like-minded individuals, ranging from their peers to experienced farmers, distinguished judges, and industry representatives. This immersive environment promotes interaction and offers countless opportunities to connect with others who share their ambitions and interests.
    • Peer Relationships: Often, young exhibitors form ties with participants who are around the same age or at a similar experience level. These relationships can blossom into lifelong friendships, providing both personal and professional networking opportunities as they evolve.
    • Mentorship Opportunities: Dairy shows often attract experienced individuals from the agricultural sector. The knowledge and experience they bring present a wealth of opportunity for young participants to learn from, leading to invaluable guidance for personal development and career planning.
  • Nurturing Career Paths Through Networking
    Networking at dairy cattle shows can play a significant part in shaping young exhibitors’ career trajectories, especially for those drawn to agriculture and related fields:

    • Career Guidance: Conversations with seasoned professionals can introduce young people to various career paths in agriculture, veterinary medicine, animal science, and more. Understanding these options directly from someone in the field can provide precious insight and inspiration.
    • Professional Opportunities: Networking can open doors to internships, job offers, and other professional opportunities. Many agricultural professionals value the skills gained from dairy cattle shows participation, viewing them as signs of a robust work ethic and profound industry knowledge.
    • Skill Enhancement: Interaction with a diverse range of individuals helps youth develop soft skills that are vital in any professional setting, such as communication, negotiation, and interpersonal effectiveness.
  • Personal Development Through Building Relationships
    The relationships cultivated in dairy cattle shows also significantly contribute to personal development:

    • Support Systems: Solid relationships provide emotional support and practical assistance, particularly useful during challenging moments. Encouragement from peers or guidance from a mentor can significantly improve how young people face adversity.
    • Cultural Exchange: Dairy cattle shows often draw participants from diverse regions or even different countries, providing a forum for cultural exchange. These interactions enhance participants’ outlooks, fostering a broadened understanding of the world.
    • Leadership Development: As participants mature within the dairy cattle show environment, they often step up into leadership positions, such as event organization or team leadership. The relationships they have formed enable them to be effective leaders, drawing on their networks for motivation and inspiration.

The Bottom Line

In summation, the dairy cattle show ring transcends the simple realm of contest by serving as a profound training ground for invaluable life lessons. When young individuals participate in these contests, they walk away with more than just awards; they come out equipped with transformative skills and traits that fortify them against the trials of life. Instilled with rigour, responsibility, fortitude, and reverence for nature, these participants evolve beyond their competitive personas, developing into well-rounded, resilient community members primed for success.

Summary: The dairy cattle show ring is an educational platform that offers a profound learning experience beyond agriculture. Young participants learn responsibility, discipline, and sportsmanship through agricultural knowledge, shaping resilient individuals with skills highly sought after in all walks of life. Responsibility involves dedicating significant time and effort to nourishing, grooming, and monitoring the health of their dairy cattle, inspiring a sense of commitment and consistency. Discipline and time management are crucial areas of development, as young participants must abide by strict schedules for feeding, grooming, and training. The show ring fosters key life skills, including teamwork and healthy competition. Success in the show ring is more than just adding new knowledge or skills; it also lies in nurturing the right mindset. Positive psychological capital (PsyCap) is crucial in cultivating qualities like resilience, hope, optimism, and self-efficacy, which enhance productivity in the show ring and lay the foundation for real-life successes. Teamwork takes center stage in the dairy cattle show ring, as participants engage in diverse social interactions, creating a mosaic of common goals, shared responsibilities, and mutual support. The art and arena of healthy competition are also significant influences beyond the showground, impacting academic progress, personal relationships, and shaping leadership qualities.





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About The Author

About the Author
Andrew Hunt (1064 Posts)
Having grown up a rural dairy farm in southern Ontario, Andrew learned early in life the value of community and a hard day’s work. Leveraging that experience and work ethic, Andrew started his own Animal Genetics marketing company that launched some of the most engaging and innovative campaigns.


Cali Girl at #WDE50 – Day 2

Good morning and welcome to day 2 of World Dairy Expo! This morning, I will be watching the Jersey cows parade through the show ring. I competed in dairy judging all through high school and then for two years collegially at Cal Poly.

But just because my official judging days are over doesn’t mean I won’t test my eye on these large classes of Jerseys, currently 36 animals in the ring!

Follow this link to watch the show live and see for yourself the incredible animals WDE has to offer:

#WDE50 #Celebrate50 #CAdairygirl


Over 850 companies are represented here at World Dairy Expo so multiple walks through the exhibitors hall is necessary! Each company is specific to dairy in their services and provide anything from the the newest technology to nutrition consultants, and ranging from local to global businesses. And not to mention the amazing shopping opportunities! I’ll be heading back later today to continue exploring. #WDE50 #CAdairygirl


What would Expo be without ice cream!? A must try at World Dairy Expo is sampling the flavors of the day at the Ice Cream Parlor in the Exhibition Hall.

Each day hosts new flavors such as Cookies and Cream, Cookie Dough, and Door County Cherry. But any day of the week, you can try the special anniversary flavor, Caramel Expo-losion! That was my choice today and I’d have to say it sure hit the spot.

As an added bonus, all proceeds go to benefit youth in agriculture through the FFA program.  I will definitely be visiting again this week! #WDE50 #CAdairygirl #icecream


Cali Girl at #WDE50 – Day 1

Good morning and welcome to World Dairy Expo, 50th Anniversary Celebration!

My name is Katie Migliazzo, a California girl that is more than excited to me back at Expo for the second time. I grew up in the Central Valley of CA where my family milks 800 registered Holsteins. Throughout the years, I have taken part in anything cow related: showing, quiz bowl, judging, etc. I am currently a Senior at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo majoring in Dairy Science with interests in marketing and communications. Please join this #CAdairygirl as I explore the wonders of #WDE50 throughout the week!


World Dairy Expo is known for bringing people together. Whether it be old or new acquaintances, we love expanding our networks and bonding over our love for the dairy cow. I’ve had the chance to meet  my new friend, Jordan, who spent his summer interning at a dairy in California.

I also had the chance to hang out with my cousin, Deena, who competed in the post-secondary judging contest yesterday for Modesto JC.

 I may live 2,000 miles away but there’s quite a large dairy family beginning to gather here in Madison, Wisconsin. #WDE50 #CAdairygirl #newfriends


Friends for life — that is was the dairy industry has blessed me with!

Going way back to the years I competed at National Holstein Conventions, I met a girl from Pennsylvania, around 2009. Emily may have been a competitor at the time, but today we stood together on the sidelines of the show ring cheering on our favorite cows and discussing our future plans.

I’m so thankful for the dairy industry that introduced us and has allowed us to reconnect here at Expo! #WDE50 #CAdairygirl #friendsforlife

Pictured left: 2011 National Holstein Convention, Virginia   right: WDE 2016


Fearless or Fearful? Today’s Farm Kids are Both!

The kids are back in school.  Harvest season is swinging into gear.  Fall fairs are highlighting the 4-H and farm projects of future farmers. It seems that all’s well with the world until unfortunate headlines suggest that there is danger lurking behind the heartwarming scenes of farm kids, calves and trophies.


A recent discussion on The Milk House raised questions around 10 to 12-year-olds driving tractors, trucks and large pieces of equipment on the highway.

Here at Huntsdale, I look over the top of my computer screen, whenever something passes on the concession road.  It is still rare enough to be interesting!  Lately, I have become more aware of how young the tractor and equipment drivers seem to be these days and how fast they are moving down the road.  When my children were pre-teen, it seemed “okay” for them to drive a truck or tractor between the lanes and field entrances on the farm.  As a grandmother of eight city kids, I am much more concerned about everyone’s awareness.  Not just my own.

City kids have expectations of safety whenever they walk down a sidewalk.  Country kids (and adults) are not always aware of walkers, joggers, and bicyclists who don’t seem to respect the size, speed and blind spots of modern farm tractors and equipment.

Then comes the question of experience.

Some of the modern equipment and the size of the loads can be a handling challenge even for an experienced (aka adult) farmer.  Reaction time is something that takes repetition and judgment to master.  From the opposite perspective, these days we have to take into consideration the fact that there are non-farm drivers who are not paying attention or who are more and more often distracted by texting and cell phones.

Safety of our children and the public is the first priority.

Many kids start to learn to drive on the farm property itself.  However, knowing how to drive and being able to move around in traffic are two different skill sets. Keeping everything in the family, while overlooking the insurance risks, could be a sad way to lose everything, including the family. Everyone should take safety training. All decisions should be within the law.

Do you know the legal limit for drivers in your area? Is playing the odds making you reckless? Responsibility should be taken by everyone – grandparent, parents, children, staff and suppliers. As one contributor wrote on The Milkhouse “It only takes one accident to change everything for life” Another gave his heartfelt support. “To me, it is not worth putting my children’s lives in jeopardy. They are too precious.”


It is sometimes enlightening to look at things we take for granted from the perspective of those not involved in agriculture or dairying.  Almost everyone waxes nostalgic about their romanticized visions of life on the farm, but they come down hard on the idea of children being pawns in the search for profit.  Of course, if you’ve ever heard a farm kid lamenting pre-dawn chores or harvest season backaches, you might not be blamed for assuming that farm offspring are being taken advantage of.  Milk House comments acknowledge that there is a fine line between working with children and overworking them.  “Honestly, if you cannot afford to hire older experience help, perhaps it’s time to reassess the sustainability of your operation.”  One stated emphatically, “We should be allowing children to be children and not making them free slaves.”

It is best when everyone shares a mutual goal and a vision for a successful sustainable farm. As with any logistical situation, however, there are several ways to get to the same end result.  Good communication will make sure that everyone experiences the passion and success of working on the dairy farm, without sacrificing their personal development.  Children raised on farms often look back and acknowledge how their farm work experiences benefited them in their job searching and securing of employment.

When the experience is positive, it is usually possible to point to the way in which inter-generational teamwork, discussion, and open communication solved problems before they could become urban legends or scare-inducing newspaper headlines.


It is only natural for parents to want to protect their children from the unpleasant aspects of life. Sad experiences are part of the package that comes with raising food producing animals.  It seems unfair that the closeness that develops in selecting, training, showing and raising a farm animal can also include illness, sale or (death). The upside is that farm kids can learn and participate in gaining a realistic view of the process and purpose of raising animals for food production.  They can experience justifiable pride in taking responsibility for doing a good job with their animals. Nevertheless, at some time or other all dairy kids experience seeing their beloved first calf sold or auctioned off to a different farm or sent to market for beef.  It was a heart-wrenching experience for all of us when the Huntsdale dairy herd sold. Even at age 10 Andrew was there videoing the memories, while tears streamed down his face. Sometimes unexpected illness has a devastating outcome.  Once a calf had a heart attack and died while being led around the barn yard. The times when there isn’t a logical explanation are the ones that are hardest ones to help young family members to deal with. Avoiding the experience isn’t the answer. It is good to talk frequently about the full range of outcomes that may happen. At the end of the day, everyone looks forward to participating in the next new beginning. Celebrating successes is part of making the goodbyes easier to handle.  Unfortunately, not everyone sees life and death on a dairy farm as natural or even acceptable.

img_2211Farm Youth Are Being TARGETED by Animal Rights ACTIVISTS

When animal rights activists attack the dairy industry or its associations or even particular farm practices, we are becoming practiced at projecting a Teflon image and letting the extremist viewpoints run off while, hopefully, taking constructive steps to address any potential problems.  Having said that, we don’t have such a balanced viewpoint when we are presented with the rising reports of animal rights activist groups disrupting agricultural youth events and activities. Their claim is that “animals are being denigrated, enslaved and killed.” While espousing that they are concerned about the care and respect shown to animals, they have no problem throwing blood on contestants. It is happening often enough, that proactive groups are preparing media statements, appointing spokespersons and establishing and posting animal welfare policies

It would be easy to end our discussion with the feeling that life on the farm is more down than up. That simply isn’t true.  And there really is truth in the idea that we can learn and benefit from the hard times that we find our way through.  As mentioned previously, actual experience in dealing with problems …. good work ethics and intergenerational teamwork and communication means that farm children who grow up actively involved in the dairy operation, also grow up better prepared to enter the workforce – whether it’s on or off the farm.  There are many groups such as the Animal Agriculture Alliance ( that are prepared to provide resources and advice. A key message that they endorse is “If you do end up confronted by protestors, remember that their goal is to provoke you into conflict and create a scene. They thrive on publicity of any kind – avoid giving it to them by not engaging.”


When it comes to the emotional side of farming, there will always be a full range of experiences.  Teamwork and good communication can often sway the potentially negative results toward the positive. It is always better to be prepared by acknowledging that there is a fearful side to dairy farming.  Sometimes it can be controlled by good training, setting safety protocols and establishing animal welfare practices. Other times, we face a challenge that is outside of our own control, and we must respond to unexpected and unpleasant attacks. At all times, we need to proactively support each other and, especially, our youth as we work together to maintain safe learning experiences both on and off the farm.

Teaching our kids to show dairy cows – toxic or worthwhile?

As we roll into fall, there is a whole smorgasbord of competitions to get excited about.  Sure the Olympics are over, but the American election, baseball season and football are just getting underway.  Of course, most of us aren’t part of those races, but we love being armchair quarterbacks and statistical analysts.  We have loud and often heated discussions about the basic dishonesty of the candidates, the players or the league themselves. Likewise, when it comes to the dairy industry that we are part of, there is huge debate about whether the competitive aspects of the dairy show ring are worthwhile or toxic.  Beneficial or detrimental?

This year, as in every year up until now, as show season heats up so do the arguments about why competition is bad, pointless or fixed. “There’s no way we are going to win at that show! “some say. And, of course, they’re right! They’re not going to win…because they have already eliminated themselves from the competition. Their bias against competition has guaranteed their defeat.  At Huntsdale we’re biased too!  We love competition.  Kids! Calves! Trampolines or Vacuuming!  Give Murray and I something that needs doing and we will find a way to make it into a competition. (Read more: For Love of the Ring)

Murray teaching three of his grand children to show calves.

Murray teaching three of his grand children to show calves.

“You Can’t Find Excitement if There isn’t a Contest.”

As long as I can remember, for me both fun and work incited passion, if competition was involved. When I had children of my own, this began to change. Most adults reading this article will have been touched by the “competition is unhealthy” trend.  As a teacher, I was strongly discouraged from using competition as a motivator. As a parent, I have watched children completely lose interest in entry level sports where no one keeps score, there are no league winners and no 1st, 2nd or 3rd place trophies.  Everyone gets the same participation ribbon and the end-of-season pizza party. And everyone is bored! The theory is that this avoids the anguish associated with competitive sports for young players. It also bears no resemblance to what they see their parents getting passionate about. Is it any wonder that video games hold so much appeal?

“If you want to Win, you’ve got to be focused on the Goal”

We aren’t so far past the Olympics in Rio that we have forgotten seeing what it takes to be the best in a competition.  Winning Olympic athletes eat, breathe and sleep their sport.  Competitive, dairy farmers and their families are also familiar with the 24/7 lifestyle that is needed to achieve success. And, like athletes, the training begins early in life. In one case, it’s to become the best at a sport.  In the other, it’s to produce the best dairy animal in the ring.  From the outside looking in, it may seem that this desire to win, borders on obsession.  For those young dairy exhibitors who achieve the highest level of success, passion is needed.  Those who “settle for average” or “I got the t-shirt” or “I’m in it for the experience” have never taken their dairy passion to the next level.

“You’ve got to Train and Be Prepared”

Those who reach the podium do so because they have a focused plan and routine. There are daily repeated actions.  You don’t suddenly enter the show ring on show day and automatically have a calf that exhibits proper head carriage, and that is under control at all times. The kind of style that sets winners apart from the group takes training and preparation.  Champions, in any field, take the time to discover what is required to perform at a higher level every day.

“There’s no such thing as effortless competition.  Winners are average dairy people who have made above average effort.”

I thoroughly enjoy working with young people with agricultural backgrounds who compete in speaking or writing about agriculture or by showing their calves at dairy shows.  The challenge for them and I is to stop thinking about the reasons why they won’t win: “I’m too young” “I’m not well-known” or “The judges don’t recognize how much I’ve put into this.” The challenge is to think about how hard the judge’s job is.  I tell them, “Judges have a short amount of time to separate the best from the rest.  Your job is to make their job easier!” Whether it’s speaking from a stage or walking around a show ring, you have to demonstrate what makes you stand out from the crowd.  And by that, it’s not how you draw attention to yourself.  It means that you have done everything in your power to make sure that your calf is the center of positive attention.  Well-trained.  Effortlessly set up.  Your speech is polished, entertaining and unique. Winners gain a competitive edge by doing all those little things every day that the competition doesn’t.

“Don’t Blame Your Results on Bad Judging”

We all know, there can be what appears to be biased judging. However, to use that as an excuse for poor performance is only hurting yourself and your show ring goals.  In the big picture, judges only have their reputations to fall back on, if they want to continue judging and make an impact on the dairy industry.  In the show ring, there is one judge, but everyone at ringside is watching and judging the outcome too.  Leave the excuses at home.  The judges don’t know that you practiced with your calf every morning for three months.  They don’t know that your calf has just recovered from a severe hoof trimming job.  All they see is what is in front of them.  This isn’t about what you did at all the local shows leading up to this competition.  It’s not about how well you do most of the time.  It’s about giving 110% right now.

“It’s not about how far you have come. It’s about where you’re going from here!”

We all know our story.  We are aware the obstacles we have overcome.  We usually have a great support team who build us up with encouragement for everything we have achieved. As we rise to higher levels, we need to remember that that competition is also increasing. The greatest success happens when we do well against those we recognize as being a good or better than we are. Having said that, it’s not about beating particular opponents.  This is no time to worry about who you are up against.  In reality, you are always in a fight against your biggest opponent…yourself.  The weaknesses that could make you lose are your fears, your doubts, and your poor preparation.  Don’t run from identifying these chinks in your armor.  Knowing your weaknesses and those of your calf is the best preparation you can have if you are determined to make it to the podium. Do the best with what you have. Don’t settle for anything less! And when you win, be humble and then…. prepare for your next challenge.

“Nothing is a sure thing.  Problems happen.  Learn how to handle defeat.”

It is especially discouraging when you feel you have given your absolute best effort and still did not win.  It seems trite but sometimes we learn more from failure than from success.  We all feel for athletes who carry great expectations on their shoulders and then face defeat.  The same thing happens in the dairy ring.  Learning how to handle failure builds character.  We get to admire those who accept the better taste of loss and move on—no matter how difficult that might be.  If we want the next generation to be successful in the dairy industry, this is probably one of the most important things to help them to understand. You’re never too young to learn to face challenges and test your will to persevere. It doesn’t matter how many times you get knocked down, you’re never out for the count until you fail to get back up!

Three Ways to Change the “Win at All Costs” Attitude

As much as I would like to proclaim that there is no downside to competition, we all know that isn’t true.  Some evidence suggests that competition can promote anxiety and damage self-esteem.  It takes courage against this evidence to prepare children for the reality of the real world and particularly for the challenges of the dairy industry.

It seems that we seek a middle road that encourages conditions that make competition enjoyable while still enhancing performance. While seeking the podium or the trophy, we want to encourage our children to see the bigger picture of how excellence helps the larger dairy industry.

Our peers are not our competitive enemies.  Instead, they are setting higher benchmarks that we all seek in raising and showing better dairy animals. Three simple steps to make competition healthier include

  1. Encourage more children to get involved in competition.
  2. Recognize excellence and effort when others achieve it.
  3. Be a resource for training and support for those who seek to improve.

These basic steps are aimed at a spirit of cooperation even in the midst of competition. When our children lose, as they inevitably will, they will learn to accept encouragement for the next time.  The goal is to take the emphasis off winning and put it on mastery. In this way, the individual, the team — the dairy — will grow in the process.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

I am always trying to improve my ability to seek cooperation over competition so that I can build stronger teams at home and in the community. One morning recently Murray and I met at the coffee maker after we had been working in separate rooms preparing articles for The Bullvine.  I’m writing on “competition in the show ring.” I said.  “I’m nearly finished the one I started!” bragged Murray and added, “I will send it off soon!” Hmmm. “Not if I send mine first!” I replied. The coffees were forgotten, as we both hastened back to our desks. Competition.  For sure! Cooperation. A work in progress.



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FARM BOOTS and CAREER MOVES. Ag Grads Juggle Multiple Job Offers.

If you have an agricultural background, there are three things you need to know about university and the post-graduation job market.

The GOOD NEWS:                  This year nearly 2 million college students will graduate from college with a bachelor’s degree.
The BIG QUESTION:                Will graduates find a job?
The SIMPLE ANSWER:            Yes…if they majored in agriculture.

You may be surprised to hear this, especially if you are aware of the challenges that face some branches of agriculture and the world economics of dairy farming in the past several years.  If you have college age children who are graduating, you may also be swayed by the “graduating gloom” that pervades these young people, as they leave higher learning to enter the workforce, often accompanied by debt.

Yes!  There is a shortage.  But it’s a shortage of graduates NOT a shortage of jobs.

According to a report released nine months ago by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture and Purdue University, employers have 57,9000 job openings in agriculture and related fields each year.  But just 35,400 students graduate annually with a bachelor’s degree or higher in agriculture.  That means there is a shortfall of 22,500 ag graduates! If you’re graduating this year or selecting courses in university, it’s a good plan to customize your resume or your curriculum to make the most of your agricultural interests and assets.

The grass is greener on the Ag side of the career fence.

All employers face a catch 22 situation.  They look for entry level employees but find that it’s a challenge for them to find someone with practical experience before that graduate has had a chance for hands-on experience.  A farm background is like the ‘farm league’ for a major sports team.  Employers look here to see who has the skills, work ethic and passion to contribute to their business team.  Many “ag” kids have those attributes in spades!  These grads are known to cross the urban/rural work line easier than those who don’t have comparable hands on experience. Farm life, 4-H, and multi-tasking from an early age means they have experience that will translate well into project management, work logistics, business analysis and commitment to starting and finishing what they start.

Growth in job opportunities will vary.

The facts reported by the USDA study don’t mean that the picture is rosy for everyone.  Some employers will struggle to find enough graduates to fill jobs.  In a few areas, employers will find an oversupply of job applicants.  As well, companies will continue to face the challenge of hiring a diverse workforce reflective of society as a whole.  Generally speaking, this is good news for Ag graduates.  By it’s very nature agriculture is all-inclusive when it comes to practical training to manage climbing the career ladder.  Employers recognize how important self-motivation, work ethic, and passion is to moving their businesses forward, and ag graduates have had numerous practical experiences in learning and applying these skills. Being able to relate to employer’s needs is one of many opportunities that ag graduates have to differentiate themselves in the competitive job market.

“The agriculture workforce is shrinking with age.”

The modern agricultural workplace is not immune from the major changes that are affecting all businesses.  One of the major ones is the aging workforce.  About 25 percent of the existing professional agriculture and food workforce is 55 and older. Inevitably retirement will become the next step for this large group.  Simultaneously this will mean that there will be new opportunities for a steady flow of young people. Discerning employers and human resources departments are planning and preparing ways to handle this migration so that outgoing and incoming changes don’t negatively affect their workforce and financial sustainability.

“Ag students need to be prepared for these opportunities!”

Those who don’t prepare for the job market, even if they have the right background and skills, are overlooking ways to get themselves to the front of the pack.  Practical experience is always an asset.  Many ag students work as summer interns in areas where they have or want to gain expertise.  Graduates who are mobile will also have more job offers, especially if they are willing to use their technical and professional skills in other states or countries.

“How much ag background is needed?”

Full-time employment for new graduates in the agriculture industry spans dozens of fields with nothing more in common than that they work with crops or animals at some point along the production chain.  No wonder knowing what to expect from this industry is tough.  Throw into the mix the fact that there are ever-changing demands from consumers and society, and it is clear that ag careers are raising the bar to a place where job skills include fielding hard questions and media challenges. Once again many ag raised grads have had experience with this aspect of modern society’s not always friendly focus on the food production industry.

Having said that, there are still many significant areas that the USDA research is reporting as having great potential for job seekers between 2015 to 2020.

Here are five areas that are reporting needs for Ag grads.

  1. Veterinarians
    “Graduates with expertise and experience in traditional food animal production will be in demand, especially in poultry, dairy, and swine operations.”
  2. Nutrition
    “Consumer demand for nutritious and safe food will contribute to the high demand for food scientists and technologists in new production development, food processing, and food safety. Food-animal nutritionists will see a continued strong employment market in research and development programs connected with feed and animal health”
  3. Technology.
    “As companies explore the precision ag space, they will be looking for job candidates with experience with software, hardware, and agriculture to develop and enhance their offerings.”
  4. Sustainable
    As the number of specialty producers of fruits, vegetables, and organic products (to name a few) grows, so will the need for knowledgeable workers and advisors. “Graduates with degrees in sustainable crop production and management will likely fare better in the employment market than will those with degrees in animal production and management.”
  5. Management and business.
    Almost 50% of the new ag-related jobs each year are found in this area. “Most graduates with bachelor’s degrees in business management will enter sales and technical and service jobs.  Those with advanced degrees will more likely begin careers as economists, financial analysts, lending executives, marketing managers and human resources specialists.”

Where do you fit in best?

College graduates with an ag background or an ag degree will no doubt find they can make the best of both worlds.  Long gone is the narrow view of agriculture that only saw it as a production industry.  Everyone from the farm gate to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack is singing the praises of ag. “It’s not just production agriculture now, but this is an expanding, entrepreneurial, creative, opportunistic aspect of our economy that I think will continue.” One of the consultants in USDA’s job study summed it up perfectly, “People realize that this sector isn’t our traditional ‘cows, plows and sows’ industry anymore.  It’s tremendously diverse.”

“Show me the money!”

We’ve covered a lot of positive aspects of getting a job offer upon graduation.  Last, but far from least, is a quick overview of what kind of remuneration can be expected. According to Mike Gaul, career services director for Iowa State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences “The average starting salary for ag college’s 2014 grad was about $48,000-with around half going out at about $50,000.”

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Regardless of whether you are entering or graduating from university, make sure you consider to emphasize your agricultural background as you look at the broad range of opportunities within agricultural business. Not only will you be warmly welcomed by employers but you will also have the satisfaction of working in a field that addresses the world’s most significant challenge…food production. Great work!



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Kids and Calves Grow Better Together!

Do you want kids who are confident?  Kids who are responsible, hardworking and reliable?  Are your kids able to communicate their future goals?  Do they openly share their experiences and express their questions and concerns? If you answered, “Yes!” to any of these questions, maybe your kids need a calf project! The hypothesis is that doing a good job of raising one, will set a pattern for raising the other.


Dairy managers understand the importance of getting dairy calves off to a good start if they are to fulfill their potential later in life. The same is true of children.  The ultimate success is realized in dairy operations when young from both sides of the farm have the opportunity to work, learn and grow to their fullest potential….together!


Raising a Calf brings Respect for All Ages and Stages

A united front. Dairy families wake together and work together and during those days there is a joining of different viewpoints and experiences that  teaches them early on that there are many ways to get to the goal and often it is better, easier and faster when all minds chip in to make a plan.  It is also where the legends begin: “When I was a kid, I remember the time …..”  Soon they will have their own stories to chime in with. For siblings, it’s a great way to have them teach and learn from each other. Getting an early start happens when they watch older kids working at home, training their calves and showing them. This builds respect and trust between all ages.


Showring Success for Calves and Kids Starts at the Farm!

The work must be done first. For kids doing chores builds a repertoire of experience that will help them deal with whatever situation arises in the ring. For calves, the repetition and familiarity of working with their child handler further reduces the expectation of something unusual happening on show day. There is much to learn:  proper set-up; dealing with crowd noises; unfamiliar animals in nearby proximity. At the end of the day, there may still be problems.  The elusive trophy is not within reach.  Sometimes that means teaching your child about courage. That can be as simple as them learning from example and experience to say, “I will try again tomorrow!”


Learning to Weather the Hard Times is a Base to Build on.

This is when parental courage must step in to avoid taking over the project in order to “guarantee” success.  When we as parents cover up a child’s work with our own, we are teaching them that their best isn’t good enough. You have to lose to appreciate winning.


Let them learn from their mistakes. And then occasionally success may seem to come easily.  Success brings the other half of a valuable lesson: “Don’t let your victories go to your head or your failures to your heart!” Winning it all in year one, without putting in the effort can be a recipe for future failure.


Practicing Grace Under Pressure

The first lesson.  “The Judge is always right!”  Kids learn that the final lineup is just one judge’s opinion, but it is the only one that counts on show day. Part of the showring learning experience is that great kids learn to walk in other shoes.  They see the competition from the judges’ perspective and realize they must stand out from the crowd.  They watch other kids and learn from them.  They watch new kids and give them help.  Great kids learn to keep smiling even when the animal is acting impossible. Great kids learn to appreciate when their calf is doing its best under unfamiliar conditions. There is always something to appreciate.  Finishing the class.  Being a gracious winner and, even more importantly, learning to be a gracious loser. Great kids are always considerate of the calf, and they always thank the Judge.


Being Consistent is Good for Kids and Great for Calves

Consistently repeated routines of feeding, housing and handling build a firm foundation for future productive milking cows.  Calves learn to trust their human handlers, and this is invaluable when dealing with the events of their lives from breeding to calving to showing and all the myriad logistics of dairy cattle handling.  This nature of oft repeated and refined skills teaches kids too.  Over time, they learn how important it is to be consistent.  Whether it’s holding on to a halter or feeding their calf or clipping or training, kids learn that must be done with consistency. Even more important …. Never give in or give up.  This not only ensures success with your calf project, but it contributes to success in life as well.


Setting goals and aiming for possibilities. Kids and Calves need benchmarks.

Every calf born has potential. From picking a name to hearing that name called in the showring, taking responsibility for a calf is a process that is great for the calf and the kid. From the first time around the barnyard with a halter, the process is one of excitement.  From the short term goal of drinking from a bottle to eating grain, to halter training …. And loading up for the Fair.


Learning Good Judgment

Great kids learn early that they must focus on the calf. Depending on the teamwork between the kid and the calf they will enjoy the celebration and pride of achievement. Some are great at managing a frisky calf (overcoming the fear of being dragged), keeping heads up (calf and handler) and watching the judge.  Some just love the experience and find that is reward enough.  Furthermore, great kids learn from the whole process, which sets a good pattern to draw on in other areas of their life.  The same pattern setting is positive for calves too!


Kids accepting responsibility.  Calves on an aggressive growth path.

It takes a year to earn the rewards of a well-trained and cared for show calf. Kids work 365 days to feed and prepare for that short viewing by a judge in the show ring.  It may seem inconsequential to have someone else feed your calf, clip your calf, train your calf and then step in with style and attitude to take the halter only on show day. But the consequences are enormous.  Lost opportunity for the child.  Lost opportunity for the farm to build new strengths.


Kids who show calves learn how to handle themselves in public. We often hear how hard it is for anyone to speak in public.  Showing their own calf begins the process of learning how to become confident communicators.  The first time they are questioned by a calf Judge or an MC with a microphone, they are will build confidence. The first time they enter the showring at a local fair, they are in a non-threatening, supportive environment.  The “future farmers” class at our local fair has become a featured event, with competitors as young as three years old.  These partners in potential eagerly wait their turn to parade in front of the judge.  A kid-friendly MC gets down to their level.  With the questions about calf age, name and training taken care of, much is revealed to observers about the path this future dairy person took to winning a ribbon. We learn a lot from:  “Mom makes me do it!” to “Dad does the clipping!” The little calf handlers gain confidence in themselves and in the recurring event that will build their self-esteem and their calf-showing abilities. They may not be officially placed in these early events, but they do receive well-deserved recognition for a job well done! A cherished memory from Huntsdale goes back to when Andrew finished his first pre-4-H class. He walked out of the show barn and crossed through crowds on the fairgrounds to enter his calf in the “Pet Show”. He and his calf definitely stood out among the largely dog and cat turnout, and he earned a first place ribbon too!


Learning Good Judgement

Competition is a fact of modern everyday life.  Too often, we try to shield our offspring from the disappointment or effort involved. Yes, you could buy a winning heifer.  You could take over the training or pay an acknowledged expert to do it.  Nothing positive is gained for the child from these scenarios, even if it does capture first place in the line. At the other extreme is the cop out which states, “Just have fun. That’s all that matters.” Once again, that doesn’t build skills. Later on avoiding stress and being in it for the fun won’t pull them ahead in job hunting or problem handling skills. There is only one way to compete.  Give 100%.


Not only Training for Showring Success but Preparing for Success in Life too!

Ultimately the goal is to have a great milk cow.  Trophies and ribbons add color to the journey but, at the end of the day, the dairy business must take first place. That is why there are many young breeders who take justifiable pride in having bred and trained calves that helped finance a college education or gave them a start developing their own herd or both! Both kids and calves need to be trained in practical life skills. The logistics of calf training from chores to walking smoothly on a halter helps with this.  If we allow calves or kids to be unruly when they’re young, we can’t plead surprise when we have a teenager who is out of control.  Early training works for milking lines too.  Learning to obey, listen and follow rules works for children and calves. Make sure they receive the recognition for making their calf project something they can do well at and take responsibility for. Then, when they are out of sight of their parents, the lessons they have learned will see them through other choices.  That is the true reward of growing great kids and great calves.


A Shout-Out to All Dairy Moms and Mentors!

There are many who leave their mark on our herds and our families because of their dedication to dairying. Thankful for others who help influence your kids.  Thankful for those who know calves.  Thankful for the Moms, who wrestled kids, diaper bags, and strollers so that “being at the show” was part of their young children’s life events. So that there is a picture record of the whole family supporting each other. Here again, a pat on the back from Mom is where they learn how great it is to encourage others.  It’s worth the long hours and missing actually seeing the classes, to come home from the show and hear a young voice say, “That was the best day ever!”


The Bullvine Bottom Line

Congratulations to all those who recognize that our dairy future depends on our dairy youth – kids and calves together!!! Raising great calves means you’re giving them training that will prepare them for production as part of your growing herd. Raising great kids means you’re empowering their achievements and growing a family.  Raising both means you’re counting your dairy blessings and achieving dairy dreams!



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Photographer Laurens Rutten “A Rising Star”

Laurens Rutten is only 19 years old but, already, he has garnered recognition in the world of dairy photography. He is both humbled and amazed at what he has achieved in under three years. “Whenever I see one of my photos passing (on the Internet or in magazines), I look back with a heart full of passion. They all contributed tremendously to my incredible journey.”

Little Laurens

Laurens Got His Start with Dad and Dairy Shows

Since he was a child, cows have always been part of Laurens’ life. “My dad has always been actively involved in the dairy industry. He has been the best mentor I could wish for to teach me about the business.” Laurens explains how broad that exposure was. “Back then my dad used to fit a lot of cows in Belgium and sell semen. I regularly went with him to the cow shows and farms to see my dad clipping and showing lots of his own cows/heifers.” Very soon Laurens took a more active part. “When I was six years old (2001), I participated for the very first time in a junior showmanship competition in Battice, Belgium.” That was the start. “After my first experience in the ring, I was so passionate about cows that it kept on growing.”

Dad and I2

Setting Up for Success

Not every dairy photographer starts in the show ring however Laurens has a good foundation there. “In 2004 I became reserve champion handler in Battice and Champion handler in Roeselare (Biggest showmanship competition in the Flemish part). I continuously kept participating at shows, my lifetime highlight in showing was at the European Young Breeders School in Battice, Belgium with my team “Flanders Future”. I ended up 3rd in my class of the showmanship competition, 2nd in the class of the best participators under 16, 3rd with our team and eventually a 14th placement in total out of the 125 participants.”

Roccafarm Windbrook Zaninda

Valued Training

Although he is very young, Laurens already recognizes the importance of getting dairy experience. “Besides showing and helping at shows, I have been doing training during my summer holidays in order to improve my knowledge about cows, travel abroad and improve my languages. I started doing this at an age of 13 years old. Currently, I have trained in Belgium, France, Switzerland, Spain and Italy. My first training was at the well know Italian Farm M.E.dal Farm Ladina in Pandino. When I was 15, I did training at Ruegruet Holsteins where I was able to work with some of Switzerland’s best-known cows such as Mox Kite Maryrose. For the last four years, I have been to Spain to farms such as Ganaderia CID, Ganaderia Blanco, Ganaderia La Benera. All of them have been very successful in the show ring with cows such as James Gretta, James Rosalia and Pebi.” One other thing stands out for Laurens in this list of valued achievements.” I was one of the first 3 members in the junior panel of Holstein International.” He describes this experience of having the opportunity to share his opinions about dairy topics in one word – “Awesome!”


Laurens Begins His Quest for the Very Best

It isn’t surprising to learn that Laurens has always sought out something different. “I was looking for a new challenge besides showing cattle and helping at the shows, so I thought, why not start taking photos and showing my passion through them?” He describes his mindset at the time “I want to make the best photos of the best cows in the world” He immediately took steps to achieve his goal. “I bought myself a professional camera. I bought iPhoto on my IPad and started visiting international shows to seek out the best cows in the world.”

Butz Butler Gold Barbara back

Reaping Recognition from the Right Shot at the Right Time

Part of Laurens’ always-ready-attitude, relates to technology. “I always carried an IPad with me where I always saved side photos of the best cows in the world.” This was a significant undertaking. “I remember having around 800 photos of cows and heifers of which I could nearly name all of them by name, classification results and show results.” His very focused passion paid off. “During my visit at the National Show of Italy in Cremona (2012) I shot a couple of photos for fun. Afterwards I published 2 of my photos on my Facebook profile and got instant reaction from M.E.dal farm Ladina which used them in an ad and were also used by an All-Breeds dairy magazine in it as their show result. This resulted into massive support and positive comments from lots and lots of people. This was the start of Laurens Rutten Photography.” reports this young entrepreneur.

Voorpagina Hotspots kopie

From Covering the Shows to Capturing the Cover Shot

Laurens describes what happened next. “Things got serious when I took photos at the European championship: Afterwards I made a Facebook page and published a series of photos. Hotspots contacted me to see if I had a photo which would fit for their front cover. I couldn’t find a photo until I looked in my garbage can on my computer. There I found a great photo of O’Kalibra that would later become one of my most seen and famous photos ever!” That was just the beginning. “I have had many fantastic opportunities since providing them with that Jun2013 Hotspots cover.”  Including covering World Dairy Expo and Swiss Expo and many sales.” Things were moving quickly for the young man who was a high school student at that time. ‘I decided for myself to try and cover only the biggest shows or the shows, which were during the holidays to stay focused on my studies.’


Laurens Has Favorite Shots in a Growing Portfolio

Photographer Laurens is passionate about which of his photos are his favorites. I absolutely love two of the early photos that I made of O’Kalibra. I still get goose bumps when looking back at the great moments captured in these pictures. These photos truly gave me tears in the eyes the first time I saw them!  I find them to be so special!” He appreciates what it means to him and his future “It gives me great pride I had this chance to capture this amazing cow in this amazing setting. Both photos just show the fantastic quality of O’Kalibra all the way through combined with the great atmosphere of the European show.”

Laurens "The Pretzel" Rutten

Laurens “The Pretzel” Rutten

Young Talent Nurtured by Family

One has to ask how such talent seems to blossom overnight.  Laurens attributes it to his parents Karel Rutten and Anne-lies. “My parents have been the persons, best friends and mentors who have helped me so much in my life and are the reason for where I am today. My dad has a huge network, which helped me tremendously to build up my own network. Besides, without him I would probably never have done anything with cows. Everything I know about cows to preparing and showing cattle is because of him, and I am so happy we share the same passion. Whenever we are together, we talk about it and share our opinions about the dairy industry. My mom has been a great help giving feedback on my work making me more critical and making me more aware of details. Their support has been outstanding, and I cannot thank them enough for what they have done for me and for what they have meant to me in this story.”

1st side photo

Building an International Network of Support

Laurens’ passion and experience continue to grow thanks to the wonderful mentors, advisors and friends that he hasThrough Karen Knutsen I was able to cover my first show, which was the European show. Thanks to her trust I had the incredible opportunity of photographing Europe’s best cows. Thanks to Eurogenes – Holstein Plaza – Hotspots and the people behind these companies such as Jan de Vries, Arjan Van Der Vlis, Jennifer Dingbaum, and Steve Mower.  They have been terrific supporters of my work and were one of the first ones back then that had confidence in my work even though I was rather unknown as a photographer.” Laurens also credits others who helped him to grow his network. “Another person that comes to mind is Isaac Lancaster, who introduced me to Andrew Hunt of The Bullvine. Andrew has been a fantastic help for me with his advice and trust in my work. The Bullvine commissions most of the shows I currently cover for which I am gratefully thankful for.” Laurens continues to hone is photography skills. “Giorgio Soldi has been a great mentor to me on the photography side, through him I learned more about cow photography. Especially on the branch of side photography he has shared incredible amounts of knowledge with me. I had the chance to photograph with him one week during one of his trips in France.”

Ribs Swiss Expo

Capturing the Excitement and Mystique of Showrings around the World

Laurens is enthusiastic about the opportunity to photograph elite dairy shows such as the European Championship and World Dairy Expo. “To me it is a great honor being part of these kinds of shows. It gives me an enormous amount of pride and satisfaction. Both shows are different from each other and are both in their own way a tremendous experience for every dairy photographer.” He explains. “At World Dairy Expo there is the quality of the cows each class all the way through and the way it is organised is beyond excellent.” Laurens especially likes the atmospheric touch, which brings his loyalties close to home. “The European Championship and Swiss Expo are a true must for every dairy enthusiast who loves to see a great show, quality and atmosphere wise.” He particularly loves the great atmosphere of Swiss Expo. “For me it the most epic show I have ever covered. The atmosphere is so special, and the cows are from tremendous quality.”

Laurens Crazy Cow

Laurens Enjoys the Insiders’ Perspective on the Show Ring

As his global experiences have mount up, so has his appreciation for the dairy show ring. “I have noticed that you get a better view of the cows when you are photographing them. Especially at shows like World Dairy Expo or European Championships as the rings are so big.” However, he admits his enthusiasm isn’t only about the photography. “I notice that whenever I am in the ring, I start judging the cows myself to see if I have a true match with the judge. On the other hand, I feel useless whenever I sit and watch the show, I always get the urge to jump in the ring and start making photos of potential winners.”


Laurens is ready for Future Challenges

It isn’t surprising that Laurens is looking to challenges ahead. They may come at University where the 19 year old is currently studying International Agribusiness and Trade in his first year at the University of Applied Sciences Van Hall Larenstein in Wageningen. Here too he has set a goal. “I would like to specialize myself in commodity trading and all the aspects that come in mind to this such as logistics.”  His attitude is positive. “I look forward to what and where the future will still bring me. I look back with great pride and emotion on what I have achieved so far. It has been a tremendous, and I have enjoyed every second of it. On the way, I have been able to meet so many great new people from all over the globe and build up an international network. I am truly honored and thankful that I have had the chance to travel already so much to photograph at some of the best shows along with the best cows in the world.

Medal Stormatic Ilma

The Bullvine Bottom Line

This has indeed been a whirlwind ride for Laurens and the Bullvine, and our readers join in wishing him all the best as he continues to shoot for the top in studies, cameras+ and cows!

Forget Kate – The Dairy Industry Has Kassidy Upton

_MG_92382014 editors choice graphicIf you simply read through Kassidy Upton’s resume you could be forgiven if you assumed that she was in her twenties with years of experience contributing to her list of achievements. What a surprise to learn that she is a 15 year old from central Canada and has just entered Grade 10 this fall. She has grown up in an active and close knit family with four siblings in the beautiful Kawartha Lakes region of Ontario, where her family runs Misty Springs – a breeding and milk production Holstein farm. Kassidy graduated from grade 8 with honours, her school letter and an award for overall contribution to school life. She has carried that zest and passion into her high school career and continues to be an honours student in the academic stream. She is an avid skier and has volunteered her time to help teach children to ski at Lakeridge Ski resort through their apprenticeship program. Last season she was a member of the Blue Mountain team as an assistant Pro. This year her personal achievements took a new and interesting turn.

KASSIDY’S First Pageant is The Miss Teen Canada Globe

Sometimes a chance meeting will open doors. That happened for her says Kassidy.  “I met Michaela Zinsmiester. She was in the Miss Teen Canada Globe competition last year and she told me about it. When I was asking her questions she suggested that I put an application in for the 2014 pageant.” Although she had no previous experience with this type of competition Kassidy did enter it.  “I really didn’t know what to expect. I just wanted to meet other girls from Canada and hoped to have some fun.” She certainly met those expectations but there were many surprises in store for her.

miss teen globe canada

KASSIDY Gets Off to An Amazing Start

You can well imagine that whether it’s in the ring or on the runway, achieving exceptional results doesn’t happen without a lot of hard work.  Kassidy confirms that this was true for the Teen Pageant. “There was a lot of work involved in preparing for it. “  She outlines what that consisted of. “I had to develop a complete profile and platform.”  However, the work didn’t stop there and she says that the long hours were the biggest surprise.  “Michaela had warned me that I wouldn’t get a lot of sleep but I hadn’t expected to be training from 7 am to 3:30 am every day. When you are watching beauty pageants on TV it looks all glamourous but what you don’t see is the hard work and long hours that go into them.” Nevertheless Kassidy rose to the challenge and completed the work. “I felt I was ready.”

KASSIDY is in the National Finals

Indeed Kassidy was ready.  She made it to the National Finals. “I was also surprized to make it as far as I did. There were so many beautiful, smart and talented girls in the competition.” Once again she was taken by surprise. “After it was announced that I was in the top 10 I even sent a text message to my Mom in the audience that night saying “OMG MOM!!!’”  She knows that her success was built on her preparation as well as another key Kassidy ingredient. “I wasn’t willing to give up.” she declares. “It was exhausting at times but I learned a lot and I got an opportunity to meet some fantastic people.” She didn’t let anything intimidate her. Some of the girls had modelling experience or had been in pageants before and I hadn’t done anything like this.”

miss teen globe canada results

KASSIDY is well grounded. Being herself was the key to her success.

Kassidy already has a mature viewpoint on how to present herself.I don’t know how to be anyone but me, and I just decided that if they didn’t want the person that I am, then it wasn’t the right fit for me. I think that when I look at all the girls who made the top 5 that they really are looking for someone who is an example of a Canadian girl. The title holders need to be someone who all teenage girls can relate to and who is a good representative of what it means to be a Canadian woman. That is how I would describe myself – a typical teenager!”

From the Laneway to the Runway

Kassidy may see herself as typical however many would consider that her path to becoming a pageant competitor was quite unique. “When you grow up on a farm you get used to the fact that if things don’t go your way you can’t just walk away. The work only gets done if you go back and try again.” But although hard work helped it didn’t make it a sure thing. “I’ll be honest. When the Regional assessment was finished, my score was one of the lowest of any girl in Ontario.” She provides some background. “The Regional Assessment takes place in the first three days and this is where you get your training. Throughout the training process you are judged and this determines your Regional score. Your scores are wiped away and you start fresh in the National Pageant. This was my first try at anything like this. So what you have to do is take what you learned during the regional assessment and apply it to the National pageant, which takes place immediately after Regionals.”

Kassiy Upton - Crown

She is a Worthy Competitor. Kassidy Learned from Each Step

Not only is Kassidy open about her results but she was bold in other ways too. “Instead of letting my Regional score affect me I went in to the Nationals and decided to show the judges the work I had done prior to the pageant to prepare my profile and all that I had learned during Regional Assessment. I didn’t give up. I think that my background and upbringing is what instilled this attitude. Lots of girls quit after the Regional assessment but I wasn’t going to be one of them.”

Kassidy’s Team Had a Big Impact on Her

The two people who have the greatest influence on me are my mom and dad. My mom and dad have taken care of me my whole life with assistance later on by my step-dad Dominique. They have taught me right from wrong and have strived to see me succeed. They always put positive thoughts in my mind and always push me to my greatest self. They are my parents so of course they have the greatest influence on me because they have been here through thick and thin. They have pushed me to achieve every goal I set. And to set as many goals I can. I don’t think I could ever thank my parents enough for what they do. They are my inspirations.


“I would like to thank Misty Spring Holsteins for being my main sponsor.

Dominque and my Mom have been behind me all the way in this. Everything from helping me to prepare, running me around to events, shopping for my clothes for the pageant, to running supplies down to me. They were in the audience every night that was open to the public.” (Read more: Misty Springs Clearly On Course!)

Having a support group is a great lift when you are competing.

Kassidy confirms how important it was to her. “I had some rough days during the pageant and many people sent me Facebook messages of encouragement and support and that meant a great deal to me.  I had several other people who came down to support me on audience choice nights, and the many people who voted for me on line.”


Kassidy Passes the Caring and Sharing Forward

Kassidy goes beyond competition and giving back is a big part of the reason she enjoyed this experience. She has been a member of the local youth group, has a passion for helping people and volunteers her time with the local food bank. “The thought of so many people in this country, especially children, going to bed hungry is incomprehensible.” says this young member of a multi-generational, food providing family. She can often be found pitching in on the family dairy operation and has a definite love of caring for the calves. Kassidy is as comfortable in a pair of work boots as she is in high heels. Her upbeat “can do” attitude shines through in everything she does. In her spare time she loves to paint and draw. Kassidy intends to become an electrician.

A Special Thank You from Kassidy

Building on her experience with a particular charity, Kassidy has a special highlight to share. “Another person who really earned a big thank you from me is a lady by the name of Sandy Norris. She runs our local food bank. It is that charity that I have been working with and that I developed my platform on. She took the time to make sure that I had a solid understanding of every aspect to the food bank’s operations. She made sure I had an opportunity to experience them for myself and, because of her time and effort, I was prepared, knowledgeable and as a result scored very high marks on my platform and interview.”


Kassidy Shares Advice and Encouragement

There are many opportunities that are available for young people who are ready to stretch their limits and try new experiences. Kassidy encourages others to ‘give it a try’ because “You never know how far you can run if you don’t step up to the start line. I never realized that anyone can do this until I talked to Michaela. It is a unique experience and one that will have a lasting impact on me. I have made some great friends from all over the country and some beautiful memories from my 10 days in Toronto.”

What Is Next for Kassidy?

“I’m going into grade 10 to hopefully complete my goal of reaching an average above 80%. I am also going to strive to keep up to MCGP’s expectations by making appearances throughout this coming year and scouting more girls for this experience. I also am seeking to find some modelling opportunities with magazines, stores, companies, etc.” But she is ready to stretch further. “I also plan on supporting the food bank as much as I can because they have been very supportive of me in this pageant and have helped every way they could.” She sums it up with enthusiasm. “I plan on living my normal life but with a few other responsibilities.”


…. And Kassidy’s Story Takes Another Turn

We were just recently updated on the next turn in the growing resume that Kassidy Upton is building. Her mother emailed that they are surprised and delighted that “Kassidy has walked her way into a lead role in a movie that she is shooting right now.  It is called Groupies and will be released in 2015 on Netflix.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

We congratulate Kassidy Upton on her unique experiences in competing in the Miss Teen Canada Globe competition.  The Bullvine and our readers wish her all the best in utilizing her skills, experience and knowledge not only in the dairy industry, but also in helping others. 

Those young ladies looking to get into this can contact Kassidy here.



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Reynolds Family R&R: Relationships! And Recognition!

Family teamwork has been the strength of the dairy industry for generations all over the world.  It is hard work, and many learn to welcome rest and relaxation whenever the opportunity presents itself. At Reyncrest dairy in Corfu New York R&R is about relationships and the remarkable way they are building dairy success, heritage and legacy not just today but far into the future.

Reyncrest Dairy

Andy Reynolds and his family of five share a passion for dairy farming. He points out the highlights of where they are today.  “Currently at Reyncrest we milk right around 1000 cows with 900 young stock all housed on one site. We farm about 1800 acres that is rotated between corn, alfalfa hay, and wheat. In addition, we have our show animals that are kept separate from our main herd. We usually have between 4-6 milk cows and 10-15 heifers in the show herd.”


“It’s All Relative at Reyncrest”

The entire family enjoys the opportunity to develop a two-pronged approach: milking herd and dairy show string. “My family all takes an active role in the dairy.  My parents, John and Shelley, run the farm, taking care of business decisions and daily work. My sister Mackenzie manages the commercial dairy.  My brother Tyler manages feeding and the show program.  I work with the show animals, calf program and anywhere else I am needed when I am home from school.”

“Shared Family Focus”

Although everyone works together to fulfill the big picture of the dairy operation, each family member has their particular focus.  “My brother does most of the sire selection with a general basis of 1000 pounds of milk, 2.0 type, and positive PL and DPR from good cow families. On the commercial side Semex does all of our matings and we have been using many genomic young sires to further genetically advance our herd.” They adjust their focus for the show string. “On the show side we tend to watch the show ring closely and see up and coming bulls that we may want to use on our cows. We try to find the best cross for our cows that will make the ideal mating. We look for bulls that will mate well with our cows that will produce stylish, dairy heifers with long legs and necks, and will go on to make show cows.”

Reyncrest Real Laredo-Red
Senior & Grand Champion of Junior Show NY Spring Red & White Show 2014

“Seeing Red has Been Remarkable for Reyncrest”

Whenever hard work pays off it is rewarding for everyone involved.  The success of Reyncrest Real Laredo-Red represents that achievement for the Reynolds family. “She not only has done well as a cow but she did well as a heifer too. She was nominated red and white AA fall yearling and calved in extremely well and was named Intermediate Champion of the Red show at New York Spring Show. After the show Laredo-Red was purchased by Milksource Genetics. I hope she will be very influential in getting our prefix out in the industry.”


“Reynolds Family Gatherings Now Include Multiple Champions”

Andy is justifiably proud of breeding multiple Jr All-American Nominations. “It isn’t easy showing at the World Dairy Expo with a bought animal but when you can competitively exhibit your bred and owned animals, nothing beats it. Seeing the calves born and raising them from the beginning is extremely rewarding especially when they do well in the show ring too!” The word “well” is an extreme understatement in this case.  At the 2014 New York Spring International Red and White Show, Andy was on the halter when Reyncrest bred and owned animals earned the spotlight as Intermediate Champion and Senior Champion and, ultimately, Grand Champion of the show.

New York International Spring Show 2014  Senior Champion and Grand Champion of Junior Show - Co-Vale Zenith Darla exhibited by Andrew Reynolds   Reserve Senior Champion and Reserve Grand Champion of the Junior Show - Mill-Wheel Adv Carolina-ET  exhibited by Andrew Reynolds

New York International Spring Show 2014
Senior Champion and Grand Champion of Junior Show – Co-Vale Zenith Darla exhibited by Andrew Reynolds
Reserve Senior Champion and Reserve Grand Champion of the Junior Show – Mill-Wheel Adv Carolina-ET  exhibited by Andrew Reynolds

“Family Pedigree is an Investment Decision”

“Normally the pedigree is one of the first things that always catches our eye, whenever we purchase a cow.” Andy explains. “Everyone has particular cow families that they really like or do not. So for us that is the biggest thing that initially attracts us because we want cow families that we can market and make a return on investment.”  Beyond that, the Reynolds family have a long term strategy. “When buying cows, it isn’t always about buying cows for just this year. We like to buy cows that are more immature and will continue to develop and get better as they get older.”

“Lasting Style that Places First!”

Breeders who already know the Reynolds family emphasize that their cattle receive remarkable care — every day! Undoubtedly that has led them to their remarkable success. For those eager to know how Reyncrest bred three champions, Andy highlights the process. “When picking matings for our homebred cows we watch the show ring for new bulls to use that are winning shows to produce our ideal mating.” They always target long-lived and stylish cows and sire selection at Reyncrest is also customized to meet specific goals. “For me it is hard to say just one sire and it is different from heifers to cows. Goldwyn is still a favorite in both heifers and cows. However, more recently I would have to say in heifers I really like the Armanis, Doormans, and Brokaws because the calves I have seen are my kind being extra stylish and fancy. In cows, I like the Sids a lot. The Sids in the show ring and the cows that we have calved in at our dairy are all really consistent with adequate strength and incredible udders. Cows that will last into the future.”


“Extraordinary Mentors and Trusted Advisors”

Andy is enthusiastic about the exceptional mentors available to him. “I have had many influences in my life that have really impacted myself and my family. I would have to say from a young age and into now that Jonathan and Alicia Lamb have been by far the biggest outside influences in my life and my siblings’ lives.  They have been like second parents to my siblings and I and have given us tons of advice and connections in the dairy industry.”

Co-Vale Zenith Darla   Senior Champion and Grand Champion of Junior Show - NY International Spring Show 2014   Exhibited by Andrew Reynolds

Co-Vale Zenith Darla
Senior Champion and Grand Champion of Junior Show – NY International Spring Show 2014
Exhibited by Andrew Reynolds

“Showing the Way!”

In the show ring, Aaron Eaton has been a considerable influence in helping take us to the next level in the show ring. I would have to say Pat Lundy is another big influence in my life always giving advice and helping get our animals looking their best. Moreover, Kelly Lee has always been there giving me showing advice and teaching me her knowledge of cattle. However, the biggest mentors in my life have been none other than my family.


Ludwigs-DG Elegant-ET
First Spring Yearling & Reserve Junior Champion of the Junior Show – New York International Spring Show 2014
Exhibited by Andrew Reynolds

“Inspiring, Caring and Generous”

Andrew is thankful that the Reynolds siblings have each benefited from family nurturing. “Our parents have supported us throughout our entire lives in whatever endeavors we have pursued. My brother Tyler and sister Mackenzie have put up with me and taught me everything they know, and I am extremely grateful for all the advice I have been given.”

“Rising by Degrees”

The future continues to unfold for Andy and even as he develops his own path he follows in the family footsteps. “I will finish my degree at Cornell University and then hopefully join my siblings at our dairy and continue to expand our dairy. Our goal is to be able to continue to expand our dairy along with having an elite group of registered show cows.”


“Reyncrest goes Beyond Roadblocks”

With his typical positive outlook, Andy isn’t stopped by roadblocks. “Things are always bound to happen for the good or bad so be prepared for anything.” Andy feels that it is especially important that you should always be asking good questions – and taking action. These two things can move your dairy, your career and your family forward “Take advice and ask as many questions as possible because you can always learn something.”

“Family is the Tradition”

The Reynolds family success is built on the recognition that “Because we all love what we’re doing, the togetherness of our family dairy business is awesome!”  Andy sums it up perfectly. “Everything that happens in the show ring provides incredible experiences that I will always remember and love.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

The Reynolds family is delighted with their show ring success, but they value the dairy operation for making it possible. “At the end of the day the dairy is what allows us to do all of that.”  Togetherness is the key according to Andy. “The fact that my entire family is involved in the dairy and that we enjoy what we do every day is truly rewarding and what I am the proudest of.” Remarkable relationships. Remarkable Reyncrest Results. That’s the Reynolds family legacy of R&R!




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Wasted Youth – The Dairy Industry Brain Drain

Dairy farming represents a true School of Life for young people.  It teaches them the skills and values they need to be successful and to become leaders in their communities.  Unfortunately, the challenge is that it does such a good job that these same young people are leaving the industry for more lucrative careers.

For many the passion for dairy cattle and showing dairy cattle starts at a very young age.

Dairy farming, along with judging and showing dairy cattle, provides young people with opportunities to develop personal values and skills in communication, team building and competition.  It helps develop the confidence to be heard, the ability to make tough decisions and the skills to take and defend a position.  Each of these is pivotal to success in any career.  Other industries are taking note of these essential skills that are being developed in today’s top dairy youth and they are aggressively recruiting them. (Read more: For Love of the Ring! and  How Dairy Cattle Judging Made Me Rich)

Why are they leaving?

It could be the cost of entry is too high or maybe it’s that the lifestyle does not suit.  Whatever the reason, more and more highly skilled young people are heading elsewhere to apply their talents.  As the average dairy farm has had to grow in numbers, it has also meant a huge rise in the cost to start or take over such an operation.

The typical new dairy operation is no longer the 30-40 head milking herd.  Today`s startup is a 200+ plus dairy operation, where the name of the game is operating efficiently and profitability.  This is a much-needed change.  (Read more: Where have all the dairy farmers gone? In Depth Analysis of the 2013 U.S. and Canadian National Dairy Herd Statistics).  Having said that, it is not so easy for many operations to go from a lifestyle choice to a company.  It also has a huge impact on the next generation, who are considering entering into dairy farming and taking on the necessary debt.

As the world has gone through a credit crisis, getting financing to start your dairy operation has become harder and harder.  For many talented and hardworking youth, their paths have been drawn to other industries, where they can apply their efforts with more financial reward and less risk. (Read more: Is Dairy Farming Dying?)

Career Cast listed dairy farming as the #6 worst jobs in 2013.  But hey, that’s a good sign.  It was #2 in 2012.  I am sure the people rating these jobs have never even been on a dairy farm.  But the point is clear.  Young people are not banging at the doors trying to get into the dairy industry.  Not surprisingly dairy farming has one of the highest average ages of all industries and is getting older.  Long hours and low pay does not retain top talent.

What are we doing to stop this?

When I look at the breed associations and other industry organizations, I look at their core initiatives.  I see a glaring problem.  Retention.  The industry is getting smaller, not from a milk production standpoint, but for sure from a talent retention standpoint.  Even worse is the fact that no one really wants to acknowledge and address this issue.

Sure I see these organizations saying that we are “connecting” with youth, through social media and other platforms, but what are they really doing to ensure that these talented young people stay in the industry?

What can we do to stop this?

It takes more than just being cool, or fun, or being friendly.  It takes educating them about the business of dairy farming.  It takes getting them involved in the ownership side of the business.  A program that does do this is the US National Youth Shows.  Unlike the 4-H program that is heavily focused on youth development, which is great, the National Youth Show program gets these individuals involved in the ownership of the cattle they are exhibiting.  This sound like a minor difference, but it is huge.  It is something that the Canadian Dairy Industry seems to ignore as they have yet to even implement a program at all similar to this.  When these young people own the animals they are exhibiting they take on a whole new level of pride and responsibility.  More importantly they are building up an equity stake in the industry.  Their ownership of cattle gives them the base to build their herd from.  Sure, for many years, that herd will be part of their parents operations, but when they are ready to make that big step into owning their own dairy, they not only have the animals to do so, they have the equity to show the bank.

At the recent New York International Spring Show, Andy Reynolds exhibited the Grand, Reserve Grand and Reserve Champion including Grand Champion of Junior Show – Co-Vale Zenith Darla

We also need to further educate young people.  On the one hand, we spend loads of time and effort to educate them about how to better themselves and become contributing members of their community.  But, on the other hand, what are we doing to educate them about the business of dairy farming?  Balancing the books, managing expenditures, controlling costs and generating revenue are necessary skills.  These are lessons than many producers themselves had to learn through the school of hard knocks, but we are doing nothing to help instill them in the next generation.  We need to have more programs to help educate our young people about how to be better business managers.  Heck, if you think about it, many of our current producers could also benefit from upgrading in these areas.  .

The Bullvine Bottom Line

As someone who was has always felt passionately about agriculture, the family farm legacy and Holsteins in particular have been through this myself.  Growing up with full family participation in 4-H, I have raised, shown, bought and sold many elite dairy cattle.  After a successful 4-H career, I too was being called away from the dairy industry and into other opportunities.  The work ethic, focus and ability to manage business responsibilities that I learned on the farm have helped me to successfully navigate the Fortune 500 world.  I have now come back to my first love with a new perspective on some of the glaring issues that are facing the dairy industry today.  When it comes to retaining our youth, we are falling far short.  We are not getting them involved on the business side of our industry.  These are bright, 21st Century people who seek careers that will develop their full potential.  Currently all dairy programs are more geared around the community, the lifestyle and traditional parameters.  All of these are great, but without dairying providing a sustainable, growing   business there is no profitable industry to be part of.  If we allow this drain to continue, we are failing to develop our own best resource … our next generation.



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Farm Tractors Are Not Theme Park Toys!

keep_kids_away_warning[1]When we go to amusement parks, we expect to be scared out of our minds as we screw up our courage to ride on the roller coasters.  The blood curdling screams stick with us long after we return with our little ones to the safety of the family farm.  However, those very children are statistically more likely to be killed on the farm than at the amusement park. The worst part of this statistic is that we seem to be oblivious to the very real danger presented by the equipment we have driven and shared rides on for generations.

Troubling Tradition

Farm machinery and particularly tractors fascinate children. They are giant replicas of the little toy ones they play with every day on the living room carpet. The desire to imitate Mom and Dad means that at very early ages children learn to drive tractors. Until that day the lure of being where the tractor action is can be lethal.  When you factor in the number of large pieces of equipment moving around the farm during busy seasons their small but precious bodies are not only hard to see but too often in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Bury a Tradition Ad (English)

Turning a Blind Eye to Tractor Danger

We wouldn`t think about not buckling children into seatbelts in the car. We insist that they wear helmets when they ride bikes or protective padding for sports. We have childproof medicine caps, safety gates and bed rails but, when it comes to tractors, we let tradition and those old memories of bouncing through the fields in the cab of the tractor with grandpa impair our judgement.  We need to decide whether we want to preserve unsafe memories or our children.

March Gets In Step With Tractor Safety

The month of March is popular for week-long Ag safety observances by several national organizations. One of those is the “Keep Kids Away from Tractors,” campaign. This is the unified message of the Childhood Agricultural Safety Network (CASN) which is a coalition of 38 health, safety and youth organizations in the U.S. and Canada. The coalition’s campaign urges adults to think twice before allowing children 12 and under to operate tractors or ride on them. The “Keep Kids Away from Tractors” will be featured in a webinar at noon (CT), Wednesday, March 12. Presenting on behalf of the National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety will be Director Barbara Lee, Ph.D., and Marsha Salzwedel, M.S. The webinar is sponsored by the Childhood Agricultural Safety Network and AgriSafe Network. Register at

The coalition urges individuals and groups to incorporate CASN resources in their safety initiatives. Posters, radio ads and more information can be found at

Quality Time Ad

Perils that could Have Been Prevented

We need hyper-vigilance around tractors.  The first step is giving our children a healthy respect for the fact that tractors are machines not toys and that there are dangers represented by this piece of working (not playing) equipment. Consider these incidents from the past year:

  • A 1-year-old North Dakota boy died after falling from a tractor driven by his father. His 4-year-old brother survived.
  • A 6-year-old Minnesota boy died with his grandfather when the tractor they were riding rolled over.
  • A 5-year-old Kansas girl died when she fell through the windshield of a combine driven by her father.
  • The biggest tragedy of all? These deaths were 100 percent preventable.

Teach By Example

Before we teach them to drive, let’s teach them to be safe. As much as rural kids like the exceptional skills that being farm born and raised gives them compared to their town friends, they need to also learn the unique farm safety rules that can save their own (or their visiting friends) lives.  Everyone — driving or on foot – near farm equipment needs a healthy respect for how easy it is to miss a little head running by when the focus is on moving feed, harvesting or hooking up to another piece of equipment.  Of course, all of this assumes that the adults working on the farm are alert to the dangers and accept their responsibility for child safety.  There is no shame in being over-protective.   A little healthy fear of tractor danger is healthy for everyone.  The goal isn’t to be fearless.  The goal is to be safe.

Start Talking and Take Action

A child dies from injuries on a farm an average of once every 3.5 days. The most common situation involves a tractor. When kids and tractors get together the outcome can be tragic.

CAIR (Canadian Agricultural Injury Reporting) reports that at least 45 per cent of accidents on farms occurred close to the farmhouse, such as in the farmyard, driveway, barn or shed.  About 63 per cent were machine related, including runovers, rollovers and entanglements, mostly involving tractors (47 per cent).

“Stop the Denial. Start Talking”

Discuss tractor designs with your child. While some newer tractors have cabs and roll-over bars for added protection from accidents, tractors continue to be inherently unsafe for drivers and riders because of the risk of roll-over accidents.

“Build on Safety Rules they Already Know”

Talk about seat belts with your child. In a car, everyone has a place to sit and a seat belt to provide a safety restraint. Most tractors have only one seat and one seat belt to keep the driver safe, meaning that tractors are safe for only one person driving or riding on it, advises the North Dakota Farm Bureau. Kids know about looking both ways when on the street.  They need to respect the “street smart” rules of farm lanes, barnyards and fields.  The right of way always goes to the equipment.

“Say ‘No!” to Tractor Rides”

Caution your child to never accept a ride on a tractor, warns the KidsHealth website. Riding anywhere on a tractor but in the seat with a seat belt is unsafe, including on a fender or on an attachment. A tractor can flip over in as little as 1 1/2 seconds, according to the North Dakota Farm Bureau. Tractors can also hit bumps or uneven surfaces and someone not secured with a seat belt could fall off the tractor.

“Safety is all About Location, Location, Location”

Warn your child about the threat of being run over by a tractor. Falling off the tractor could lead to being run over by the vehicle. In addition, it can be difficult for a tractor driver to see people near a moving tractor — especially children. Teach your child to stay away from work areas and moving tractors because she might not be able to make her presence known to the driver.

Healthy Respect Prevents Heartbreak

The slogans are hard hitting.  They are not meant to make us feel comfortable and reassure us that, of course, our children’s safety comes first.  If discomfort makes us take responsible action, then the discomfort is well worth it.

“It’s easier to bury a tradition than a child.”

“Your 75 lb child has no chance against your 10,000 pound tractor”

“The tractor is not the place for quality time.”

As much as we want our children to grow up in the traditional farming lifestyle that we cherish the key is that they “grow up”.  Farm safety isn`t about instilling fear.  It`s about being safe not sorry.  Nothing can heal the heartbreak of losing a child to a preventable accident.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

The best way to instill our love of farming in our children is to also instil in them our respect for dangers that must be dealt with every day. The best way to say “yes” to farming traditions is to say “No!” when it comes to tractors.  “One seat. One rider. A rule to LIVE by!”

 Please like and share this post to help spread this valuable message.


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DANAE BAUER: Capturing the Passion

We meet many who feel that dairy farming not only gave them skills for working, problem-solving and responsibility , but also the added courage and example to become self employed. Danae Bauer is from Scandinavia Wisconsin where she was raised on the home farm operated by her father and uncles. (Read more: Pine-Tree Monica Planeta Is the New Genomic Super Star Maker) “I have had a very active role in the farm ever since I was a child. I now work full time with the calves, embryos transfer, and marketing.


From Shovel Speed to Shutter Speed

Many farm offspring feel they have had a picture perfect upbringing.  For Danae it was picture inspiring. “ I have had an interest in photography from a young age. In the past several years that interest has grown into a passion, leading up to a year ago when I began my photography business.”  Again she credits her family and agricultural background. “3. My family has influenced me greatly and has helped instill a work ethic, a desire to learn, and drive to achieve excellence which has valuable to me in honing my creativity through patience and practice.”

20131221_web_Gloria_calf_santa hat

Never Ending Learning Process

Like the true creative that she is, Danae is always looking for new opportunities to learn and grow her photography skills. “I completed a course in professional photography from the New York Institute of Photography, from which I was also given a merit award for a photography essay assignment.  I believe that while I gained knowledge from the schooling, I learned probably just as much from trial and error, practice, reading photography books, learning from articles and videos on the internet, and studying other’s work. It’s a good thing my cousins Katie and Emily are such good and willing models…I got a lot more practice in with them then I would have with my three brothers !”


Capturing a Story – Creating a Feeling

When you look at pictures created by Danae, you often feel an instantaneous emotional connection, which isn’t surprising since that is what powers her own enthusiasm. “I would describe my style as creative, classic, clean, and country. My images are abundant in natural light, they are bright with vivid but true to life color. I strive to capture genuine emotion and interaction when I photograph people and animals.”  For Danae the people are just as important as the subject matter. “I love images that “grab and pull the viewer in” and allow them to experience or see the subject in a new way, the photos that capture the essence or heart of the subject, the photos that are genuine, but beautiful and unique.”


An Eye for Agriculture. A Fusion of Farm, Family and Photography

I think my greatest accomplishment is creating a photo that strikes a chord with its viewer, especially if it makes them think positively about agriculture and farm life. I have had comments that my photos have been a blessing to those who see them, and if that is true, I count that as a success! “ Danae looks forward to a future that includes her two passions.  She quotes the familiar “A picture is worth a thousand words” and adds “I would love to continue to photograph farm families and help them tell their stories through photos.”

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The Bullvine Bottom Line

We totally agree with Danae that, as great as it is to do what you love, the human experience is what makes it worthwhile. She is already taking her photography to the next level and has a growing audience who responds to her efforts. “I hope that by sharing meaningful photos I will be furthering a favorable impression of the dairy lifestyle.”  All the best to Danae from the Bullvine readers and everyone who enjoy cows, people and country living. It’s a huge story ready to be captured by the Bauer lens one moment at a time.


Be sure to check out Dana’s Farmgirl Photography Facebook page as well as her website for more great photos.



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Agriculture and Video are Growing Together at Farm Boy Productions

_MG_0239webJust recently I was reading an article that made this point about videos. “Video is becoming a powerful part of modern business—if you’re not using it, you’re missing out on endless opportunities.”  A few years ago this statement might have been considered a far out concept, especially for the agricultural industry, but today companies like Farm Boy Productions, owned and operated by Bruce Sargent, are proving that this is indeed the leading edge of modern marketing.

Ready to Go with Video

For Bruce Sargent using video was a natural progression of communication throughout High School. “When I started grade 9, the school was brand new and had video announcements. In grade 11, I was student council president and we made videos to advertise all of our events. In grade 12, I was asked to be the director of the program for the year and I produced all new intro segments for the broadcast.” We often ask ourselves if what we learned in High School applies in the real world but Bruce looks back on his accumulated video learning and firmly states. “Video started there and, since then, I haven’t really stopped.”

Farm Boy Starts with a Farm Boy

The agricultural background for Farm Boy Productions started at the Enniskillen Jersey farm where the Sargent family milked 50 head of home bred Jerseys.  Born and raised on the farm Bruce had hands on experience there too. “Most of high school I was the primary milker and worked full time on the farm in the summers. Our barn is tie-stall and is built for feeding small square bales, though we have been feeding wet wrap bales for about 10 years now. We grow corn for silage, oats and barley, and then the rest of our acres are for hay.”

From Documents to Documentaries

With his love of cows and farming combined with his growing video experience, it wasn’t long until these dual motivations inspired him to launch his own business. “Farm Boy Productions started as a project in Grade 12 in my communications technology course. We were told to design a logo at the beginning of the year that could brand all our work. I designed my cowboy boot logo as part of the class. A few months later, as part of a community business, my teacher paired me with a specialty chicken farm. She gave me the assignment because I was the only farm kid in the class and she felt the other students would not be comfortable working on the farm.”  After that, it seemed inevitable that he would continue with video. The rest, as they say, was not only history, it was now documentary.

Granted … It only Takes a Spark!

With positive experiences building, Bruce was ready to take it up a level. “After my first year in marketing management at the University of Guelph, I was making plans for the summer. I wanted to go home to the farm, but I wanted to put my schooling to work too, so I applied for a summer company grant from the government. They gave me $1500 for start up costs and gave me mentoring to get started. “Education, enthusiasm and the drive to put them together with an action plan moved Bruce further forward on his journey to develop his video business!

Well Mannered.  Well Mentored.

This forward looking young business man has his eye and his camera firmly focused on the present, however, he looks back and is sincerely grateful for the mentors that inspired him to get to where he is today. “My biggest influences have been my Grandparents and my father.  Grandfathers Frank Barkey (Altona Lea Holsteins) and Carl Sargent along with my father, Tim Sargent, have always pushed me to do more. All three are amazing men with great character and morals. Since I was very young, all of them have pushed me to do more in 4-H and life, and from the beginning they have believed in my business. I conduct myself and my business in their image and my biggest motivation is to make them proud. They taught me that the means define the end and I don’t do anything unless I feel it is the right thing to do.”

Another Turning Point for Farm Boy Productions

From the outset Bruce was eager to build on his commitment to both agriculture and video and, therefore, recognized an opportunity when it presented itself in the form of a partnership. “My biggest accomplishment has been entering a partnership with Glacier Farm Media. I was approached in December 2012 by Glacier to enter a partnership. Glacier wanted more video experience and I wanted opportunity for growth. We came to a deal in July of 2013 and I am very excited to be doing video work for them.” Well aware of how crucial these early steps can be for a startup company he enthusiastically categorizes his experience. “It is an entrepreneur’s dream to get a chance like this and I didn’t have to go on Dragons Den or Shark Tank to get it!”

It`s Lights, Camera, Action at Farm Boy Productions

That first year (2010) would see a growing network of clients, projects and new mentors for the fledgling partner.” That year I created videos for a Horse Day Camp. The kids at the camp wrote a story and I was hired to make the story into a video. At the time, Amber Marshall of the CBC show Heartland was the spokesperson of the camp and she acted in my videos.” Off to a great start, there were more yet to come. “For the past two summers (2012) I have been shooting video interviews of farmers for a Calendar promoting agriculture. The project is called the Faces of Farming Calendar, and for the past two years we have included QR codes on the pages so people can scan them and watch the videos. The calendars go to politicians and journalists to teach them about farmers.” This was definitely a win-win situation for everyone involved.

Shoot!  It`s Time to Grow Your Business!

Of course Bruce feels quite strongly about video and its uses. “I think dairy farmers and markets could use video more effectively.”  With his trademark enthusiasm for the benefits of video marketing he offers this advice. “When shooting video on your own keep in mind your audience and your visuals. Make sure you consider your audience and what they want to see, this sounds really obvious BUT it’s easy to do something you think is “COOL” and your audience will disagree. The best way to avoid this is run it past friends and family first. Your visuals need to be relevant, engaging and steady! There is no quicker way to lose your audience than unsteady footage. You want them to watch the whole video.” Bruce takes his own advice and emphasizes the value he places on consistently learning more about his chosen field.  “I am always learning about new techniques, cameras, computers and software.”  Not daunted by the speed of change, Sargent is excited about the growth of technology and new applications for video. “As video becomes more accessible through smart phones, more people will use it. The power of video, if used in the right way can do a lot of good for the industry. I am a big advocate for using video to promote how awesome the agriculture industry is. It’s great to see more cameras than mine out there promoting the industry and I am always excited to hear from clients who want to take their video production up a notch.” (Read more: Nothing Sells Like Video)

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Helping clients grow, market and develop solutions for their business through video is what Farm Boy Productions is all about.  This young entrepreneur not only records the reality of agriculture he is committed to making steady progress toward his own big picture vision of his role in the industry.  The Bullvine congratulates Bruce Sargent’s dedication and passion for those two ingredients that farm folk everywhere recognize as the key to dairy success. See you in the movies Farm Boy Productions!


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CASSY KRULL – Success without a Stopwatch.

2013ectHave you ever suddenly realized that your name is being called over a public address system?  Isn’t that the most amazing heart pounding…adrenalin rushing experience? Well, that is exactly what happened to Cassy Krull of Lake Mills Wisconsin at World Dairy Expo when she heard these words.


“The 2013 winner of the Merle Howard Award is Cassy Krull”

Like others in the large crowd, Cassy was trying to figure out whose biography was being read as the 10th winner of the Merle Howard Award. (Read more: Wisconsin’s Cassy Krull Wins 2013 Merle Howard Award)  “I had NO idea I was going to receive this award. My boyfriend Bradley and I went to sit in the top part of the coliseum to be able to view the show ring. Not knowing why he wanted to sit in the lower sections, I insisted on sitting higher. He had gotten a phone call the night before to make sure I would be there for the Four-Year Old class at the International Holstein Show. As they began reading the background, my eyes welled up with tears after realizing it was me that they had selected. I ran down the stairs of the coliseum crying and trying to breathe and get there before they finished the biography. I remember looking into the crowd and hearing the applause and getting goose bumps all over. It was the most amazing feeling ever!”


“I still cannot even believe I was chosen”

Everyone asks Cassy what it feels like and she answers with endearing honesty. ”Winning the Merle Howard Award is by far the most humbling achievement I have received. To receive such an honorable award helps put all the hard work into perspective. I like to watch the presentation every year to see who they recognize. Little did I know I would ever be able to stand next to the other amazing recipients of the Merle Howard Award. I am truly honored and blessed to have been selected for this milestone achievement in my life.”

Special Thanks. Appreciation to Cassy’s Crew.

Cassy feels quite strongly that she has been blessed by the encouragement she is surrounded by.  “I would like to thank my family first for all the support they have given me, and constructive criticism to help push me further.” Breed associations have earned her thanks as well. “The Wisconsin Holstein Association, American Jersey Cattle Association and the Red and White Dairy Cattle Association are important to me for giving me all the opportunities I have had in my time of being a junior member.” There is another group who also rates special Cassy consideration.  “I want to thank my boyfriend Bradley Griswold and his family for supporting me and being there for me through many of my life changing events.” Cassy generously recognizes the importance of others in her life.  “A big thank you to all my friends, supporters, believers, and the people who have told me I couldn’t.  They all helped me push through and succeed. I am truly thankful for everyone who has been there for me and gotten me to where I am today. THANK YOU!”

The Krull Family Circle of Influence

More than most of us realize we are influenced by those around us.  For Cassy Krull those positive experiences in her life started right at home.  “My parents have been the ones who I have looked up to my whole life. My dad, being active in the state and national Holstein Associations, showed me that being involved and good leadership is something that helps you build your time management skills, public speaking, responsibility, and leadership.  Also he showed me how to work hard, as he had an amazing work ethic. We would work hard to make sure we got everything done and would end our days racing back to the house, playing basketball or softball, racing four wheelers, or throwing someone in the pool. My dad showed me the way with a lot of things in life but my mom has been along side helping me as well.”  Cassy explains what her Mom means to her.  “She was the one helping me be on time to events, getting me more involved in 4-H and FFA, and teaching me to never give up on what I want. She has stood by me with my decisions and pushed me to be successful.”

Many Awards. Full Calendar.

cassy krull - jersey queenWe sometimes ask ourselves what is most special about receiving an award.  Is it the award itself… or the recognition for the hard work that earned it? Cassy is no stranger to receiving awards and declares, “This award is definitely a highlight of my career!” for recognizing her abilities in fitting and showing.  Her dairy passion has also led her to success as the 2011-2012 National Jersey Queen, as well as a being a member of the Wisconsin Junior Activities Committee, and being the Junior Chair for the National Red and White Convention in 2014. For Cassy the process is part of what makes the accomplishments so special.  “The National Jersey Queen title was one of my biggest life goals. I ran for the National Jersey Queen title the year before I received it and was not selected, but I wanted it and hoped I could get it if I tried again. I was determined that I was going to represent the breed I fell in love with at age two. The American Jersey Cattle Association has given me numerous opportunities that I have been fortunate to take advantage of.”

Working hard Works for Cassy!

It seems that when “working” is involved in the goal then it’s almost guaranteed that Cassy will be enthusiastic.  She was part of the Wisconsin Holstein Association Junior Activities Committee and explains what it meant to her. “I love working with young people and this title allows me to do just that. I am responsible for the Southeast region of the state, where I travel to shows and other events bringing all Wisconsin Holstein Juniors together.”  Cassy doesn’t set limits on age or organization and gives her best wherever she gets the opportunity.  “I am proud of being the Junior Chair of the National Red and White Cattle Convention in 2014. I am excited to work with the board members and create an amazing convention right in Wisconsin. I enjoyed my time working with the Red and White Association this last summer as the intern and continue to move forward with helping with the convention this coming summer.”

Cassy’s Keys to Success – Do not stop.  Push on.  Keep Trying.

Although her calendar is full, there is no end date determining when Cassy Krull must reach all her goals.  She advises others. “Stay true to what you believe in. If you have a goal in life, go for it and do not stop until you achieve the goal. Push yourself to be what you want to be. Think of my example in wanting to be National Jersey Queen, I did not get it the first time I tried, but I did not give up and I tried again. I have always been told, “If you do something you love, you will never work a day in your life.” To me that is not far from the truth. I love working with good cattle and good people so it is easy to go and do it.”  For the near future, Cassy hopes to find an internship for the summer of 2014.  “I would like to gain more life skills by working away from the farm. Understanding different aspects of agriculture can only provide benefits to my knowledge when farming in the future.”

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Hard work earned Cassy Krull the opportunity to win the Merle Howard Award.  Hearing her name announced was a thrill but long before her name was inscribed on the trophy, she put her own name on the work lists for dairy fitting, showing and passion. The Bullvine and all your friends urge you to keep going and growing and one day you will be the only one surprised – again — to learn that you have arrived at that special dairy place where  “Everybody knows your name” … Cassy Krull!”  Congratulations!


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Foundations for a Bright Future

IMG_0041Last night and today there are some big events for our family.  No it’s not the Royal Winter Fair Holstein Show or some big sale.  No, no one is having a baby. Those days are behind us now.  What is happening is that my older brother is judging Canada’s national 4-H, The TD Canadian Classic 4-H Dairy Show, with  350 young dairy enthusiasts competing to see who is Canada`s  best!

From the age of 11 till I was 22 I competed in the then named Scotiabank Hays Classic.  Watching my brother in the center of the ring brought  back many emotions from those wonderful years.  Many lessons that I learned during those years  are the foundation for what  I do to this day.


Our family farm was located such that the schools we attended were mostly populated by urban kids.  When I told them that I had to miss a week of school for a cow show, or that I was heading away to t “clip” cows, this made many laugh.  But now much older in life and with children who also live an urban lifestyle, I am finding that some of the best lessons I learned were thanks to my rural upbringing.  Growing up I had the opportunity to do many different things.  I played competitive hockey, and was very involved in the local community, but it’s the lessons I learned in 4-H that stand out as the biggest influence on my life today.

When I was in 4-H the “Hays”, as we called it then, was the culmination of a year of hard work.  At that time only a limited number of kids could attend so to even be selected was a big deal.  Then  competing with the best from across Canada meant you had to work hard to achieve success.  For our family, this was one of the biggest events of the year.


My older brother, this year’s judge, my sister and I were extremely competitive..   This event combined two of our greatest loves, the thrill of competition and dairy cattle.  Dear brother  once stuck a pitchfork in my butt for not doing things as quickly as he wanted one year at this competition. Point taken! But that was just one of many opportunities to learn  new things while learning from and competing with new people. Thanks to this competition, we all made friendships that will last us a lifetime.  We also learned about how to push ourselves to higher levels.  It was not unusual to have family debates about who was the better showperson.  One goal I sought and achieved was placing in the top 10 every year for 10 years. Each of us raised our benchmark every year. But more importantly those early efforts and successes   fueled the  passion for the dairy industry that all three of us  have to this day!

The Bullvine Bottom Line

As I look out into the ring at the 4-H Dairy Classic  and see my brother standing in the center, I think  about life coming full circle.  Paul has been very successful in his career and his family life.  As COO of Alta Genetics, he  has to do public speaking all the time and makes judgment calls on a daily basis, yet before he was set to judge these amazing kids, Paul admitted to nerves!.  We all know he will do a great job.  The nerves come from feeling the responsibility and remembering how much this competition  meant to him,  He knows how much it helped provide him with the foundation for  the success he has achieved. Now, as he watches today`s youth present their best efforts, he is seeing the bright future of our next generation of master breeders, agriculture executives and leaders of tomorrow. Fearsome and awesome —together again — in the dairy ring and in life!


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World Dairy Expo Proposal – First comes cows then comes vows!

2013ectMarriage is an age-old sacred union between two people.  We are all familiar with the romantic progression from “First comes love then comes marriage.”  For Bryn Quick and Mark Hornbostel, World Dairy Expo 2013 rewrote that romantic timestamp to “First comes cows then comes vows!”


“Aisle” Be Seeing You at Expo 2010

Bryn was at World Dairy Expo exhibiting for the first time with her sister and two friends.  Mark was there, also for the first time, helping a breeder friend haul tack and show his Guernsey’s for the week.  They set the scene for us.  “We were tied up in the center aisle of Barn 1” and “Being the social event that Expo is, we began talking and hanging out and doing night line together.”  Neither one of them had anticipated romance at Dairy Expo.  Bryn says, “I never once thought that I would meet someone at Expo.  I went there to show and socialize with friends and that was all that I really intended to do.  So I surprised myself when I found a guy whom I bonded with instantly.  It’s funny when I think about it now because my friend, Stephanie Lemay, kept asking me that whole week if I had a crush on Mark and if I would date him.  I thought that she was being ridiculous.  There was no way that I would jump into dating a guy I had just met that week and would probably never see again—after all, he lived seven hours away in another state.”  Mark reports that they spent a few months connecting through Facebook and phone calls and then their relationship changed somewhat.  “Just before Christmas I received a card from Mark and that was when I knew there was something different about this guy.”


Right girl.  Right time.  Right place.

A marriage proposal is a big step in everyone’s life and for Mark it was both exciting and stressful.  “I guess you could say I have been thinking about it for quite some time.  I knew that if I was ever going to ask her it would have to be at Expo, there was just no other place that seemed so perfect for us.  But I guess you could say that I really committed to it late this summer when I went and bought the ring and really started planning exactly how I was going to do it and how I wanted it to all play out.”  He provides details.  “I have to give credit to Bryn’s twin sister Allison. She was the only one that knew how it was all going to play out.  She did an amazing job at keeping it a secret and doing what I needed her to do to make it all happen.“

Parental Blessing

From the outset, Mark wanted to make sure that his plans for getting hitched would go off without a hitch.  I asked Bryn’s father for his blessing.  Given the fact that we are seven hours apart that is by far a conversation to have face to face.  I was forced to do it just a few days prior to proposing.  I have to thank her sister Allison for keeping Bryn distracted at school while I was out with her father having dinner and asking for his blessing.”


Expo “Knee Mail” From Her One True Love

Mark describes how his plan went into action.  “When I had asked Bryn to show one of my cows that morning she had no idea that while she was in the ring I was getting her ring and getting everyone in to the position that they needed to be to make it all happen. “  He continues speaking from his successful experience.  “As you can imagine her reaction was like most women when they see the man they love get down on one knee.  She was surprised and her hands went instantly to her mouth and she was crying before I could even open the ring box.  And between the crying/laughing she couldn’t even say the word yes after I asked, all she could do was shake her head yes.”  Bryn confirms that it was very exciting.  “I think that the video my friend captured of the moment really answers this question well.  I was ready to get back to the barn after the show but instead we made an unexpected pit stop to a grassy area where Mark told me that he had a question to ask.  I was so beyond confused at that point…that is until he knelt down on one knee.  We had talked about engagement in the past and he hinted on a time period that it may occur and I always figured that Expo would be the perfect place for it but I never thought too in depth about when and I sure wasn’t imagining it this year.”


1383511_10202053974292412_1813451385_n[1]Expo 2013 Becomes the Centre of the Dairy-Marry-Me Universe

Mark always knew where this special moment would take place.  “Like I said earlier, in my mind there couldn’t be a better place than Expo to propose to her.  It was where we met and ultimately where everything all started.  It was a place that we shared a love of something and a place that meant a lot to both of us.  We have always said “Thank God for Expo” because if it wasn’t for Expo I don’t know that I would have met the love of my life!”

First You Propose.  Then Everyone Knows!

When you propose in public at a dairy show billed as the “Centre of the Dairy Universe,” in front of people that you might think care more about cows than romance, you might be as surprised as Mark and Bryn were at the results.  “Not for a second did I think that our special moment would go viral.  I thought it was normal for couples to have their engagement documented by friends and family but today’s social media takes that to a whole new level.  I barely had a chance to call family before it was all over Facebook!  It spread like wildfire and I can’t help but laugh every time I hear that Mark and I are on another page or someone else has shared it.  It’s unbelievable.  We have done nothing to deserve such attention but, believe me; we appreciate every bit of it.”  Mark sums it up for both of them, “It is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me in my life and it is exciting to see that so many people are so excited for us.”

ringShe said, “Yes!”

In books, movies and advice from already married friends they always say something that proved true for Mark.  “They say that you just know when you meet the person that you are meant to spend your life with and honestly I didn’t believe that until I met Bryn.  She is smart, funny, beautiful, caring and loving and everything I had ever imagined in a woman.  I guess the biggest things that I fell in love with the most was that she had the same dreams I have and she loves this life style and everything that comes with it.  And the major thing that I think I fell in love with the most is her understanding of this life style, you know in the job things don’t always work out the way we plan them, things go wrong and you don’t always make it to the things you want and you may not make it there on time and with us being so far apart it gets tough sometimes for us to see each other and yet through all of that she has been so understanding of it all and I can never express to her just how much that all means to me.  So I guess you could say there are a lot of things that were just right with her and there just wasn’t a doubt in my mind that she was the one for me.”

He is “The One!”

Bryn too knew that Mark was very special.  “He has Brown Swiss!  How could a girl not be attracted to that?  But seriously, we share the same love for cows and the dairy industry and the same urge to make a difference in this field.  His integrity is absolutely amazing.  He is a true sweetheart and is so beyond thoughtful (thus the perfect proposal).  I never considered a long distance relationship but he made me change my mind completely.  I connected better with him than the “city-boys” at home.  He was worth getting to know.  I thank God for Expo every day.”


We have heard much about the passion and engagement that is necessary to build success in the dairy business today.  Bryn and Mark have taken “engagement” to a whole new level.  Congratulations to this lovely couple. Stay tuned to see if they go from tied up across the Dairy Expo aisle to tying the knot at World Dairy Expo!  All you need is love!

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Who Will Feed The World? Global 4-H Summit Takes Action Packed Focus on Feeding the World

feedingahungryplanetThe Global 4H Summit which will be held in Calgary, Alberta from August 19th to 25th is shaping up to be an outstanding event targeting the vital issue of “Feeding a Hungry Planet”.  As a natural extension of the 100th anniversary theme of “Food for Thought” the summit will tackle food challenges facing the world today. The global representation includes 60 Canadian delegates from across the country, 20 American delegates, and 40 international delegates from 22 different countries (Australia, Brazil, Chile, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Poland, South Africa, Taiwan, Uganda, United Kingdom, Zambia, and Zimbabwe), plus 25 mentors and other staff, for a total of 161 representatives will attend and participate in the Summit.

Tammy Oswick-Kearney, Special Projects officer for 4-H Canada, provides some background on why feeding world populations is such an important issue. “In November 2011, the United Nations declared that the planet’s population surpassed 7 billion people. By 2050, experts predict an additional 2 billion people will need healthy food and nutrition. No one person, company or nation holds the answer, but through discussion, collaboration and innovation, these young adults know ground breaking agricultural solutions can be found, acted upon and achieved.”  Fortunately, there were groups who saw the need and stepped up to address the possibilities. The Summit came about because of the 100th anniversary of 4-H in Canada. 4-H and their partner, Bayer Crop Science wanted to host a “unique” event that would address “Feeding a Hungry Planet” and be in line with the 100th anniversary theme of “Food for Thought”.  In the intervening time, much has already taken place. “The summit will use a combination of pre-summit work, guest speakers, group discussions, tours and a facilitated process towards viable actions, to enrich the experience of participants from around the world. There will also be the opportunity for youth from around the world to be engaged in the summit, even if they are unable to participate.”

Click on map for enlargement

Click on map for enlargement

Over 400 Applications Received

It is obvious that 4-H youth today are inspired by the urgency of the issue.  Applicants were given the following question to address in an essay or video presentation.  Over 450 applications were received from around the world.

“In the next 40 years the world’s population will grow from 7 billion to 9 billion, yet already today, 1 billion people do not have enough safe and nutritious food to eat.

Using your own village, town, city or country as your point of reference, tell us what YOU think the underlying causes of food insecurity are and why, and the effect it can have on a population (both locally and globally). Explain how sustainable agricultural practices could solve these issues and how you would use the Global 4-H Youth Ag Summit to advance your solution(s).”

The Summit Marks Commitment to New Beginnings

Through combined pre-summit work, guest speakers, group discussions, tours and a facilitated process towards viable actions, youth will have the opportunity to create, discuss and further implement their action plans when they return home. Each delegate will leave the event with three personal actions that they will commit to follow through on with the support of their mentor, upon returning home. We encourage that these individual actions are S.M.A.R.T.: Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Timely. The entire delegation will develop a collective action plan that all delegates are willing to commit to, using the content of the working group presentations, to build a shared action statement.

Click on image for enlargement

Teamwork brings a great idea from concept to reality

There are many times when a wonderful plan breaks down on the long road through red tape, finances and other logistics of international endeavors.  There can never be too many “Thank you’s” extended to Bayer Crop Science who has been working alongside 4-H Canada to ensure that this Summit comes to fruition, as well as continuing beyond the August 19-25th dates.  It boggles the mind to think of how many dedicated volunteers have worked tirelessly behind the scenes to also ensure that this Summit is successful.  Tammy emphasizes their importance. “Without the volunteers, we may not have been able to deliver such a diverse opportunity to so many deserving young adults around the globe.”  There is an extensive list of sponsors who support this Summit including – Agriculture Canada, Alberta government, Cargill, Agrium, John Deere, Richardson Pioneer, Farm Credit Canada, Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions, who have come to the table to ensure the success of this event. As well Agri-Trend, Alta Genetics, the Calgary Stampede, Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, Copithorne Ranch, McDonald’s Canada and Sunterra who are participating by providing speakers and/or giving tours.

Passion with a Purpose

The purpose of the Summit is to identify, connect and create ideas, all aimed at progressing agriculture around the world with the next generation of agricultural participants.  This collaborative approach aims to leave participants with actionable ideas that they can take back to their home country as well as their personal operations/careers.  The core themes throughout the week are: Goal setting, innovation, Sustainability, Leadership and Celebration.

A Lofty Goal for the Global Summit

It is exciting to even consider such incredibly challenging topics.  To do so with enthusiasm and with the ultimate goal of taking action is astounding.  Speaking on behalf of the committed visionaries and volunteers Tammy Oswick-Kearney says, “I hope the delegates will take away their action items and implement them quickly. I want the delegates to continue to use their mentors for support and advice as they move to implement the united Youth Ag Summit plan. I want the conversation, ideas and solutions to continue long after the Summit has come to a close. With the growing world population set to reach 9 billion by 2050, we cannot let this conversation, these ideas and solutions, die.”

A “Working” Committee with Milestones to Reach

Organizers report that a working committee will be established to carry forward the work that will be completed over the course of the Youth Ag-Summit.  From its inception the Youth Ag Summit milestones have been:

To create awareness and garner interest in the global food crisis by inviting youth ages 18-25 to apply to attend an expense paid trip to Calgary, Alberta, Canada to address the issue of “Feeding a Hungry Planet”. This gathering will provide an avenue for agriculturally focused 4-H youth from around the world to dialogue on how they can address feeding a growing world population in an atmosphere that fosters international networks and friendships and provides the opportunity to produce youth-driven action plans focused on feeding a growing world population, for themselves and policy makers around the world.

The Ultimate Goal of the Global Summit

The three key outcomes of the summit are:

  1. To provide an avenue for agriculturally focused 4-H youth from around the world to dialogue on how they can address feeding a growing world population.
  2. To create an atmosphere that fosters international networks and friendships.
  3. To produce youth-driven action plans focused on feeding a growing world population, for themselves and policy makers around the world.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

The global 4-H Youth Ag Summit [YAS] will bring young people together to share knowledge, while pursuing a vital cause.  They will also share understanding and become a forum for future leadership at the highest levels. We can only applaud and encourage these young minds and hearts that are prepared to put their hands to work to feed their families, their community and the world!  Bravo!

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“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.”

Katie Kearns & Ryanna Allen Topsy EX94 (Hon Men Champion IDW 2010)

Katie Kearns & Ryanna Allen Topsy EX94 (Hon Men Champion IDW 2010)

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.”

Dianna and Dean Malcolm of Blue Chip Genetics have played hosts to youth from around the world.

Dianna and Dean Malcolm of Blue Chip Genetics have played hosts to youth from around the world.

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.”

australia dairy

Broadening Perspectives

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.”

australia grey scale

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.”

Top price at the Bluechip sale was Bluechip Goldwyn Frosty, Goldwyn X Dundee x Harvue Roy Frosty, sold for Top price $72000 (Pictured here with the outstanding sale crew)

Katie was part of the team at the recent Bluechip sale that saw a top price of $72,000 for Bluechip Goldwyn Frosty, Goldwyn X Dundee x Harvue Roy Frosty (Pictured here with the outstanding sale crew)

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.”

Katie Kearns and Kelvin taking a much earned break after the show at the recent International Dairy Week

Katie Kearns and Kelvin taking a much earned break after the show at the recent International Dairy Week

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.

early moring australia

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.”

Darci and Justin Daniels

Darci and Justin Daniels

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.”
australia dairy landscape

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!”


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Emma Caldwell’s Art Stirs Mind and Heart!

When successful artists recount their early inspirations, they often recall their youth.  Emma Caldwell isn’t yet old enough to look back from that distant viewpoint, but this already attention-attracting artist confirms that she is inspired by her dairy roots.” I grew up on Maple Holme Farms, a dairy farm in Carp. We milked 45 Holsteins in a tie stall barn, until we sold our quota in 2007. We mainly do cash crops now. I have been a member of the Carp 4H dairy clubs for the past 12 years. After we sold our herd, I borrowed calves from Sandy Crest Holsteins, Riview Jerseys and Drentex Jerseys for my 4H projects. Last year I bought half of a jersey calf which I co-own with Mike & Monique Bols of Russell, Ontario. The past three years I have been helping the Bols of Drentex Jerseys along with Jenna James with their show string and helping out with clipping and preparing for the classifier.  This will be my last year in 4H, but I hope to continue working with Drentex.”

Emma's recent painting "Hailey" of the great RF Goldwyn Hailey.

Emma’s recent painting “Hailey” of the great RF Goldwyn Hailey. Want to own this this painting? Click on the picture to find out how

In Praise of Painting

It’s exciting to hear how young Emma was when her artistic talent took root.  “I think I have been drawing since I was old enough to hold a pencil, and it was something my dad and I did together after he got in from morning chores.” Looking at Emma’s portfolio, one envies the vision and talent that produce such art with apparent ease. It turns out that it was indeed a special talent. “I have two learning disabilities, and up until I was diagnosed I really struggled with school. I think if you don’t think you’re good at much else you’re going to focus on anything that gets you that bit of praise from your teacher or peers. So I guess art was attractive to me from a very early age because it was and still is a method of communication that I find most natural.”

Painting Her Way to the Top

Despite challenges along the way, 21 year old Emma has always set and achieved her goals. “I think my greatest accomplishment will be graduating from Queen’s University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. I have struggled throughout my entire education with learning disabilities. The Fine Arts program at Queen’s only accepts 30 students out of the 300 that apply each year, and since Queen’s was my first choice, to be one of those 30 is something I worked really hard for, and am really proud of.” This is a special achievement for Emma and one that, through her art, she can continue to share.

Basically Bovine with a Unique Perspective

As more art enthusiasts get the opportunity to explore Emma’s portfolio, they will become part of the evolution of this artist who feels her style is still developing. “I am always trying to grow as an artist. I want my art to have energy. I use a lot of bright colours, splashes and drips of paint with brushy strokes of paint. I like it when I let some of the underpainting show through, and leaving hints that there is more than meets the eye underneath. This year I started using gold leaf in some works and I really love the contrast it brings to a painting. It is not important that a painting be totally realistic, I am more concerned with the impression of character or presence. I think sometimes when I leave a part unfinished or just give a suggestion of something like hooves, it brings more life to the painting than I would achieve by trying to copy a photograph. What really draws me to cows is their personalities that you only get to know from being in close contact with them your whole life. I want my paintings to feel like they have captured the character of an animal.”

Emma's painting that was auctioned off as part of the 2012 Jersey Ontario AGM.

Emma’s painting that was auctioned off as part of the 2012 Jersey Ontario AGM.

Expressing Dairy Strength and Power

One of the great pleasures of being an artist is having the opportunity to explore the different aspects of the chosen subject.  “With cattle this becomes challenging,” says Emma, “because they do not fall into the two usual categories of animal painting: pets or wildlife.” She elaborates, “Cows are working animals, and although we love them, they’re not our pets, they are still bred for a purpose. I want to capture the strength and power that humans have bred them to be.” She sees the contrasting sides of these dairy animal partners. “Cows have been bred to be big, strong animals but also to have wonderful quiet temperaments that allows people to work with them). I try to convey the calm air that a mature cow has AND that tremendous physical strength that is absolutely necessary in an enduring cow, which is only really obvious in person, but also present her as feminine, dairy and stylish. That is a challenge exclusive to cow painting.”  In eagerly accepting this challenge, Emma also recognized others who excel in this field and therefore are role models for her. “Bonnie Mohr has had the biggest influence on my artistic career. Not in terms of style, I am not going to try and be the next Bonnie Mohr because there is only one Bonnie Mohr, I just want to be myself. But I definitely look to Bonnie as my role model, especially her work ethic and setting goals for myself.” (Read more: Bonnie Mohr – Science and Art Together Creates a Holstein Love Story)

Emma's picture of Gillette E Smurf who holds the world record for the highest milk yield in a lifetime by Guinness World Record.

Emma’s picture of Gillette E Smurf who holds the world record for the highest milk yield in a lifetime by Guinness World Record. (Click on image to see enlarged version)

From Work in Progress to Charitable Fund Raiser

Emma’s art has provided her with special experiences recently as she explains, “When I am at school I often tweet pictures of my ‘works in progress’. One of the works I did at school was a painting of the legendary Ayrshire Sweet Pepper Black Francesca (Read more: The Magic of Francesca). I tweeted a picture of the unfinished work and a couple retweets later, Francesca was recognized. Deer Hill Ayrshires inquired about the painting and Jason French & Kris McLeod of Holstein Ontario asked if I could work on something for the branch AGM’s fun auction. These exchanges all happened within an hour.” The painting of Ferme Gillette’s Smurf was a highlight of the auction and was purchased by another passionate bovine observer, Patty Jones. The final site for hanging the painting was also meaningful to Emma, “It was so generous of Patty Jones to hang Smurf at Gillette. I think she looks right at home!”

Check out the detailed work on "Smurf" udder

Check out the detailed work on “Smurf” udder

Sharing Art in a Social World

Emma is continually surprised and humbled by the speed with which her work has reached people and inspired their enthusiasm. “Thanks to social media, my art has reached more people from across the world than I ever dreamed. I am absolutely blown away by the response, and when people retweet or share an image of mine I am absolutely just so humbled that people want to share my art with their followers or friends. It truly is an amazing time to be growing up with social media.” This modern change inspires her to reflect on what agricultural artists who precede her faced. “It gives me so much more respect for artists like Ross Butler who were as successful as they were in getting their art out there. It used to be just word of mouth and making sure you got your art seen and traveling.”

The Agricultural Spirit – Unlimited!

Forecasting the future for this rising artist is another broad canvas for Emma, seeing as she is so recently out of school. “Right now I am still just working as establishing myself as an artist, but in the future who knows! I think that there are many opportunities out there for myself as an agricultural artist. However, I don’t want to limit myself to only one area of art. There is so much I want to do and learn.”

Motivated by a tweet by an individual alarmed about dirt on their potatoes, Emma painted this in response. (Click on image to read the full story)

Motivated by a tweet by an individual alarmed about dirt on their potatoes, Emma painted this in response. (Click on image to read the full story)

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Despite her youth, or perhaps because of it, Emma has a clear vision of the possibilities she is facing. “A lot of my work at school has to do with the future of Canadian agriculture and I think my goal as an artist will always be to depict the passion of life that Canadian agriculture embodies.  The farming community in Canada takes tremendous pride in the beauty and life in our land, and my art is a reflection of that spirit.”  Obviously her artistic future is in good hands … her own!

Don’t miss your chance to own Emma’s work of art “Hailey”  click here to find out how.

Cristy Nurse – Standing Tall

An unfortunate injury sidelined Cristy Nurse from competing in the London Olympics.  (For those of you who wish to know more about Cristy, check out our article Cristy Nurse: From Show Ring Beauty to World Class Rower).  However, the part that has inspired this article is not that she did not compete but rather the class and dignity that she handled it with.

I have had the fortunate opportunity to know the Nurse family for almost 25 years.  One of my first recollections of them is Kenda (Cirsty’s mother) judging me during 4-H dairy competitions.  Kenda was the first female judge I had ever showed in front of and I was extremely impressed.  Women like Kenda and Nancy Hazeleger have been great role models for many of the young female 4-Hers who were looking to make their way in a male dominated industry.

The fine examples set by Kenda and Jeff (Cristy’s father) are probably a big part of why Cristy has been able to handle this very challenging time with such class and dignity.  The passion the Nurse family puts into everything they do is outstanding.  Whether it is dairy cattle, Clydesdale horses, or rowing, there is always a focused effort to achieve a very specific goal.

christy and robThat is why the way Cristy has handled this only amazes me more.  Imagine all the time and effort she has dedicated while putting her life on hold to train for the London Olympics. “To be named to the team is great, but to be sitting in the starting gate on race day was what I have been striving for, so yes, it’s a real mix of emotions”, comments Cristy in an email.  “I am still very proud to be part of the Canadian contingent in London, but of course it’s extremely disappointing to have gone through all the selection and to have been successful but ultimately not be able to race,” she said. Her boyfriend, Rob Gibson, was a member of the Canadian Men’s eight Team.  She is there seeing all the success of others around her realizing their Olympic dream.  It could bring most people down.  Cristy stands tall.  A beaming and passionate support of both teams.

During the interviews that aired during the coverage, the team members were asked what makes London 2012 different from Beijing in 2008, where the Canadian team suffered a heart breaking 4th place finish.  Each and every one of them said that it was the “seat race” they had internally to determine who would be on the team.  No one was guaranteed their seat.  Everyone had to prove themselves.  Cristy was selected to be the London 2012 team.  What a testament to how far she had developed since taking up rowing in 2006.

On her Facebook page, she said, “The power of sport – hundreds of crazy Canadian fans in tears (of joy) this morning at Eton-Dorney.  So amazing to be there and so proud of Rob and the boys.  Spontaneously bursting into tears every few minutes.  Back tomorrow to watch the girls give it their everything – Go Canada.”  Wow!  It shows the quality of person, friend, and athlete that Cristy is.  All of these attributes she humbly says are ones she learned from her parents and growing up on the dairy farm.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

It’s interesting in our first interview with Cristy she pointed out “Work ethic is engrained pretty early on.  Few things can harden your resolve to improve like being left on the outside of the ring in a showmanship class or not making the cut at a major show.” Well Cristy, I would think that this is another.  Your handling of this has shown once again, how classy you are.  I am sure we will be seeing you at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil or wherever your passion leads you.  You have achieved many amazing things and no doubt there are many more to come.  Thank you for being an exceptional Canadian role model and showing us how to stand tall!  Olympian indeed!!

Cristy Nurse: From Show Ring Beauty to World Class Rower

Whether it`s at the Royal Winter Fair or The World Rowing Championships Cristy Nurse aims high! In September 2011 she was part of Canada’s women’s eight team and brought home the silver medal from the World Rowing Championships in Bled, Slovenia. Today she is giving everything she’s got to earn a spot on the team that will compete in the 2012 Olympics in London, England. Focused, excited and committed to standing on the podium, she modestly gives a lot of credit to her farm background for the opportunities that have opened up for her.


Cristy Nurse ShowingTwenty-five year old Cristy grew up on her parent’s dairy farm, Monteith Holsteins, in Georgetown, Ontario. “My parents exhibit both dairy cattle and Clydesdale horses, so I became involved with competing at an early age. I also began competing in hunter/jumper competitions when I was young and continued to keep a horse and compete until late in high school. Through 4-H my sister and I also acquired and began breeding and showing sheep, so we truly had a well-rounded experience in terms of animal care and competition.”


Cristy is well aware that many kids from farms don’t get to compete in a lot of sports or activities because of their responsibilities at home and then she adds, “For me, it was the exact opposite. My dad would always say ‘You can milk cows for the rest of your life if you want to, but you only get a chance to do these things once. He often stayed home and would do chores alone so my mom could take my siblings and me to our practices and games. I really could not have achieved much in sport without that kind of support from both my parents.”


Jeff and Kenda Nurse deflect praise saying, that “From the time she was a little girl, Cristy always gave 110%.” Both parents are qualified judges but they are quick to note. “Cristy started showing young but we never pushed her into it. She started showing at several small fairs, where it was fun and she was successful. She would get nervous but not frightened. We always had Cristy show her own calves at all the major open shows we went to as well.” Jeff feels strongly, “I think it is a mistake to bring in a ‘ringer’ to show a 4-H member’s calf. This gave her confidence that we believed in her ability.”


Beyond their obvious family fondness for livestock, the Nurse family enjoys watching and participating in sports and have always been big fans of the Olympic Games. Cristy recalls that “Rowing was a sport we watched together and I always found it exciting to see how much the country gets behind its athletes during those big Olympic moments but I never had access to a club.” Fortunately, as Cristy proceeded toward her career goal of becoming a lawyer she was able to give rowing a try. “In 2006, I got a summer job interning at a Mississauga law firm that was reasonably close to the Don Rowing Club, so it seemed like a perfect opportunity.”

As Cristy Nurse prepares for the Olympics she shares three medal winning success secrets:


After playing a year of varsity basketball at the University of Guelph, I was looking for a new sport and a new challenge. At the Don Rowing Club Cristy recalls, “I took to the sport very quickly and began to have race and physiological testing results that caught the attention of the national team coaches. By 2010 I was invited to move to the National Training Centre in London, Ontario.” This has meant raising the bar on her goals. “Right now, I am in Olympic Selection Camp, which is essentially a narrowed-down group of athletes who are still in contention for spots on the Olympic team. I won’t know until the end of May if I will be on the Olympic team, so my biggest goal right now is to be re-selected to the women’s 8. And, of course, to stand on the podium at the London games if I do so.”


Cristy points to her farming background as the place she first learned her work ethic. “Work ethic is engrained pretty early on. Few things can harden your resolve to improve like being left on the outside of the ring in a showmanship class or not making the cut at a major show.” Far from being discouraged by these experiences, Cristy is grateful. “My parents were always very big on sportsmanship and they definitely would not indulge us if we wanted to pout after getting beat, whether it was at a cattle show or in athletics. “ She advises those who are following their dream: “Learn to take criticism from a coach or teammates and use it to improve rather than get upset about it. This has been crucial in my development, and that’s something that a childhood of competition prepared me for.”


Everything is a competition. You are constantly being watched and compared to your peers. I try to remember that – every workout is its own “race”, and I just keep trying to be the best competitor I can be. One of Cristy’s early coaches, Paul Westbury, told her “You are only limited by what you are willing to put into the sport. To which this rising medalist adds, “He taught me to never settle for small results – to believe that I could wear the maple leaf one day and always keep striving for that.”

Cristy Nurse : Sportsnet magazine - The Beauty Issue

Cristy Nurse : Sportsnet magazine - The Beauty Issue


Cristy’s focus at present is totally on intense training. “The summer is closing in so fast. I train 5-6 hours a day, eat and try to rest as much as possible so I can perform my next workout.” She admits that this schedule doesn’t leave a lot of time for fun, in the usual sense, but says she feels fortunate that several of her close friends from undergrad, who are also the girls she grew up showing cattle with, live and work relatively close by. As her focus narrows to Olympic tunnel vision, the media focus is shifting to Cristy herself and she was included in Sportnet Magazine’s “30 Most Beautiful Athletes on the Planet” in its March 12 issue. “I hope the photo helps bring some attention to rowing leading into the summer Games, because we have a very strong team on both the men and women’s sides, who deserve the coverage.” Having said that, she immediately restates where her full focus is at the present: Training for the Olympics!


“I try to make sure every decision I make at this stage puts rowing first so that when I’m sitting in the start gate of the Olympic final: I will have absolutely no regrets” – Cristy Nurse

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