Dawson Nickels is awarded the Merle Howard Award from Tom Morris

Dawson Nickels of Watertown, Wisconsin, was named the 14th Merle Howard Award winner at World Dairy Expo on Saturday, October 7.

Even though his parents sold their milking herd before Nickels was born, that did not stop this young man from becoming extremely involved with the dairy industry and working hard to earn everything that has come his way. Always looking to learn and prepare his animals the best way possible, Nickels has honed his skills in the art of fitting, show preparation, breeding and mating, and judging cattle. He in turn is a role model for many juniors and routinely takes time to mentor other youth. While doing this, Nickels has maintained an impeccable work ethic and remained very humble.

This Wisconsin Junior Holstein member began working for Cresentmead Holsteins 10 years ago assisting with feeding and milking the Registered Holstein herd. As Nickels honed his skills, he began washing, clipping, and leading animals for the Ixonia, Wisconsin, show herd. It was at that time that he and his sister, Kylie, also began the Dream Fix Holsteins and Boarding business in Watertown, Wisconsin. As his skills continued to develop, he began preparing cattle on the local, state, national, and international show scene. Throughout this journey, Nickels learned skills such as recruiting clients, working with veterinarians, monitoring animal health, handling billing and invoicing, along with a host of additional farm and business management skills.

Active in a number of youth programs, Nickels was a member of the Wisconsin Junior Holstein Association’s first place junior dairy bowl team in 2015. Two years later, in 2017, his Wisconsin 4-H Dairy Bowl Team repeated that performance and was named state champions. This past year, his Dodge County team won the Wisconsin 4-H Dairy Cattle Judging Contest earning them a trip to World Dairy Expo where the team not only won the 96th National 4-H Dairy Cattle Judging Contest, but that team also had all four contestants in the top 12 individuals. During the contest held Monday at this year’s World Dairy Expo, this young man talked his way to second place in the oral reason competition.

As this was taking place, Nickels also began working for the Great Northern Land and Cattle Company preparing sale cattle for public auction. It was at a herd dispersal last fall that his keen eye picked out a heifer named Bruins-Dale Goldchp Pinesap. This University of Wisconsin-Madison freshman continued to develop this heifer that went on to win first place honors as a fall yearling at the Wisconsin Championship Holstein Show in the junior competition and went on to be named Reserve Junior Champion of the Junior Show. Earlier this week at World Dairy Expo, that same heifer stood third in her class at the International Junior Holstein Show.

Nickels is the son of the son of Tom and Penni Nickels of Watertown, Wisconsin. He is currently a freshman at the University of Wisconsin-Madison majoring in dairy science and business management.

Previous award winners of the Merle Howard Award include: 2004, Robert Teixeira, Turlock, Calif.; 2005, Matthew Mitchell, Lafollette, Tenn.; 2006, Greta Koebel, Three Oaks, Mich.; 2007, Brandon Ferry, Hilbert, Wis.; 2008, Kelly Lee Reynolds, Corfu, N.Y.; 2009 Kyle Natzke, Fond du Lac, Wis.; 2010 Stephanie Aves, Popular Grove, Ill.; 2011 Karen Anderson, Willmar, Minn.; 2012 Cy Conard, Sharon Springs, N.Y.; 2013, Cassy Krull, Lake Mills, Wis.; 2014, Jade Jensen, New Richmond, Wis.; 2015, Jared Dueppengiesser, Perry, New York; and 2016, Doug Boop, Millmont, Pa.


Corey Geiger

The author is the managing editor, and he brings 20 years of industry leadership to our readers overseeing all editorial content and production of the magazine. His degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison combined dairy science and agricultural economics.