2018 marked the first year that World Dairy Expo named a Surpreme Champion Heifer. Milksource Gentry Marriot-ET, the Junior Champion of the Jersey breed, garnered the inaugural honors.

Following the conclusion of the International Holstein Show, the Coliseum fills with dairy cattle enthusiasts in anticipation for the World Dairy Expo Parade of Champions. It marks the culmination of seven international breed shows with 2,500 cattle exhibited from across the United States and Canada.

In 2018, in addition to the traditional display of the seven Grand Champion cows, seven heifers stood in the center of the ring. The seven heifers represented the Junior Champion of each breed, and they were vying for the newest honor at Expo — Supreme Champion Heifer.

The idea originated from the Dairy Cattle Exhibitor Committee. “World Dairy Expo is the premier dairy cattle show where the best cattle grace the colored shavings,” said Katie Agnew, dairy cattle exhibitor committee member. “It can be equally as tough to win with a heifer as with a cow. We wanted to take the opportunity to highlight the Junior Champions, along with the breeders and exhibitors.”

Representatives from all breeds embraced the idea, and it was approved by the Dairy Cattle Exhibitor Committee and World Dairy Expo Board of Directors within a year of its proposal.

Heifers under the spotlight

During the Parade of Champions, each animal enters the showring one-by-one. All eyes, and a spotlight, are on the animal and leadsperson as the emcee introduces the duo and lists their accomplishments.

That factor in and of itself proved to be a logistical challenge. “Although we were doubling the number of individuals in the showring, it was important we were mindful of the length of the ceremony,” explained Ann Marie Magnochi, World Dairy Expo dairy cattle show manager. Following internal discussions and feedback from the breed superintendents, a plan was finalized to have the heifer, followed by the cow, enter for each breed. The seven breeds would continue to enter in alphabetical order.

The Supreme and Reserve Supreme Heifer is named first, followed by the Supreme and Reserve Champion Cow. The Supreme Champion Heifer is named using the same process as the Supreme Champion Cow, explained Magnochi. Just before the start of the ceremony, the seven individuals competing for the coveted title of Supreme Champion Heifer gather outside of the Coliseum. The judges from each breed show evaluate and rank the candidates. Then, the votes are tallied to determine the winner.

“Because the Supreme Champion Heifer could vary in size from a Jersey fall calf to a Holstein winter yearling, the recipient receives a royal banner. We designed it using the same crushed velvet material as the royal blanket presented to the Supreme Champion Cow to keep the same grandeur,” said Magnochi.

In honor of Howard

In addition to the royal banner, the 2018 Supreme Champion Heifer, Milksource Gentry Marriot-ET exhibited by MilkSource Genetics LLC and Finca Valparaiso of Kaukauna, Wis., received the inaugural W. Terry Howard Memorial trophy. The Waterford crystal bowl, sponsored by World Dairy Expo, was presented by Howard’s wife, Karen.

Howard passed away in February 2017 following a career with University of Wisconsin-Madison extension and decades of involvement with World Dairy Expo. Magnochi said World Dairy Expo Staff and the Dairy Exhibitor Committee agreed the new award was a fitting tribute to honor Howard’s passion and dedication to the show.

World Dairy Expo volunteer and exhibitor Phyllis Agnew recalled Howard’s unforgettable presence, “His mere stature and booming voice commanded your attention,” she said. His voice became well-known over the loudspeaker used to make announcements in the barns at World Dairy Expo.

Although he had an intimidating exterior, she added, “Howard had a wonderful sense of humor. He enjoyed the camaraderie between World Dairy Expo exhibitors and staff. I looked forward to that welcoming hug he’d send my way each year along with his big smile, hearty laugh, and a slightly mischievous twinkle in his eye!”

According to Phyllis, Howard was well respected by World Dairy Expo exhibitors during his 21-year tenure as breed superintendent and 18 years as overall dairy cattle superintendent.

“I would describe him as being fair. It’s a tough position — enforcing rules and not backing down from sometimes volatile situations,” she said. Phyllis went on to reflect on his dedication to World Dairy Expo, “You knew the success and integrity of World Dairy Expo was always in the forefront with Howard.”

Garnering interest

Katie received positive feedback from the individuals exhibiting heifers in the 2018 Parade of Champions. “Everyone was excited to be a part of the inaugural year. Whether the animal was homebred or one they raised or boarded, they felt proud to showcase their elite heifers and genetics,” she explained. Katie added that highlighting heifers in the ceremony opens new marketing channels and opportunities for exhibitors and breeders.

Adding heifers to the Parade of Champions generated more excitement from others in the dairy cattle barns, she said. “Additional animals in the showring pulled more people from the dairy cattle barns to the Coliseum. It gets more breeders involved and serves as a great catch-up on the show if you missed anything during the week.”

Magnochi confirmed the new Supreme Champion Heifer award will continue in perpetuity, and there are no significant changes planned for the 2019 Parade of Champions.

World Dairy Expo named its first Supreme Champion in 1970. Since then, 40 animals that have received the coveted title and left an indelible mark on the dairy industry. Many of the champions need no introduction and are recognizable by just a first name — Redrose, Veronica, Pistachio Pie, Paradise, and Beauty. Several have garnered Supreme Champion honors multiple times including four-time Supreme Champion Brookview Tony Charity.

With the addition of Supreme Champion Heifer, World Dairy Expo enthusiasts have a new generation to watch during the Parade of Champions.

How will Supreme Champion Heifer winners contribute to World Dairy Expo history and the dairy industry? Will a Supreme Champion Heifer go on to be named Supreme Champion Cow of World Dairy Expo?

We will all have to wait and see.