As the number of dairy farms continues to consolidate, the enthusiasm of some young people who want to learn more about dairying does not. The Hoard's Dairyman Farm has provided one such opportunity for local 4-H youth to participate hands-on with a dairy project.
The chance to show the Hoard's Dairyman Guernseys started when Jason Yurs, Hoard's Dairyman Farm manager, and his wife, Jennifer, wanted to expose their two children Victoria and Dawson, to showing. By doing so, they hoped to demonstrate the commitment needed to care for animals. While it started small, this year six Barnyard Clovers 4-H members exhibited Hoard's Dairyman Farm Guernseys at the Jefferson County Fair.
The added benefit of showing Guernseys is that it shows a diversity among dairy cattle to fair attendees, who see primarily Holsteins and Jerseys. For many years, the Hoard's Dairyman Guernseys were the only golden-colored breed present. But, this year, two other 4-H clubs brought Guernseys to the show.
The 4-H members' projects are initiated by a talk from Jason at a dairy meeting. The group discusses what age and/or size of animal each individual would like to show. He then looks through inventory to see what is available. If there are a few heifers that meet their requests, the youth can then chose the one they want. Heifers with the herd's best pedigrees are often selected - a reflection of the current Guernsey genetics.
When school is out, all of the heifers that will be exhibited are brought back from the heifer grower to the Fort Atkinson farm where the youth can work along side the farm manager and their 4-H dairy leader, Jennifer Yurs. Jason and Jennifer's daughter, Victoria, now serves as a dairy leader as well. The adults supervise daily chores with the youngest members.
Typically, each 4-H member takes one animal to the fair. Those who have shown multiple years of commitment are given the option to show two animals. The showing experience is a great opportunity for youth who do not live on farms to learn responsibility.
Another benefit is the people exposure for the animals including halter breaking, clipping, and washing. This comes in handy down the road, as animals are often used for judging contest workshops and professionally photographed. It also brings positive exposure to the Guernsey breed as well as one of the most historic Guernsey herds in the nation.
The author is the online media manager and is responsible for the website, webinars and social media. A graduate of Modesto Junior College and Fresno State, she was raised on a California dairy and frequently blogs on youth programs and consumer issues.