Oct. 11 2016 09:00 AM

There’s just something special about homebred cows . . . those bred and owned cows that come out and compete with counterparts from big league show strings.

With lights dimmed, spotlights shone on seven exceptional cows as they entered the Coliseum for the presentation of 2016 World Dairy Expo Supreme Champion. Each beautiful cow represented the best of its breed. Notably, six of the seven Grand Champions were bred and owned by their exhibitors.

As the spotlights fell upon the Holstein, my heart tried to burst with pride and excitement. The Grand Champion Holstein was Sheeknoll Durham Arrow, a 6-year-old cow known affectionately as Thomas. Thomas’s owners, the Sheehan family of Minnesota, are friends of mine, and I’ve been following Thomas in the showring for years.

Clearly, the rest of the dairy enthusiasts watching the Supreme Champion ceremony had similar feelings. The announcer was barely a dozen words into Thomas’s introduction when the applause started. Cheers and applause continued until Thomas took her place alongside the Grand Champions from the other six breeds. However, no other Grand Champion garnered the audible recognition that Thomas did.

What was so endearing about this Holstein cow?

I believe it was a combination of Thomas and her leadswoman. Jeannette Sheehan, one of Thomas’s owners, was at the halter.

Minutes before the Supreme Champion ceremony, the crowd had witnessed Jeannette’s sheer joy when Thomas was named Champion Bred and Owned, Best Udder, and Senior and Grand Champion of the International Holstein Show. In short, she captured every major award at the world’s best dairy show.

All dairy farmers, whether we show or not, can relate to Jeannette’s joy. We have similar feelings of pride and joy any time a calf that we have bred and reared turns into a beautiful, successful cow. We know the hard work — and luck — that it takes to get there. And when those cows stay with us, the pride and joy grow with each passing year.

Furthermore, we have great respect for a cow that works as hard in the barn as it does in the showring. We all strive to breed trouble-free cows like Thomas, that has calved in every April for five years in a row.

Whether a cow was purchased or bred and owned, it’s remarkable to watch it walk across the colored shavings at World Dairy Expo. But there’s something extra special when those cows are homebred.

The author is a dairy farmer and writer from central Minnesota. She farms with her husband, Glen, and their three children. Sadie grew up on a dairy farm in northern Minnesota and graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in agricultural communications and marketing. She also blogs at Dairy Good Life.