Getting experience in the dairy showing world at a young age can open all sorts of doors.
The 31st edition of the Western Canadian Classic (WCC) Junior Dairy Show brought 100 participants between the ages of 12 and 21 to Westerner Park in Red Deer for five days of activities.
Naturally, the event included showing calves, but also things like a dairy science quiz and a judging contest, not to mention a host of fun ‘get to know each other’ activities.
Jaclyn Hunter of Ferintosh came to this year’s event (held on Aug. 18-23) with mixed emotions. The 21-year-old was excited to be participating in her home province and seeing old friends again, but it was also her final year.
“It’s bittersweet knowing that this is my last year — growing up with all these kids and meeting the new ones,” she said before adding with a beaming smile, “Like this year we have eight new members, which is incredible for the team!”
The great thing about the program for Hunter was being involved even though her own family sold its dairy herd in 2007.
“I’m very fortunate. I’ve been borrowing heifers (to show). I’ve borrowed from Crestomere Holsteins, Mosnang Holsteins, and Wendon Holsteins — those are three of the farms I’ve also worked for lots at shows and sales, too. They’re an awesome group of people and really helpful.”
Hunter has seen her share of success at the youth event over the years, including winning the Grand Champion Showmanship prize in 2014. That led to her selection for Team Canada, and an international adventure in the dairy industry. As part of Holstein Canada’s Young Leaders initiative, a six-member team travelled to Battice, Belgium last September to take part in the European Young Breeders School.
“It was extremely neat to go over there. Team Canada is looked up to,” she said. “When we got there, we all were given a calf, donated from farms for the kids to use, which I thought was amazing. It was our duty to break them to lead, wash them all week, clip them up, feed, water and bed them, and take care of them. We went through some judging seminars, a clipping demonstration, and had some farm tours.
“I think the thing about it I enjoyed the most was how well the six of us (on Team Canada) got along. It was so amazing to go somewhere with people I’d never met before — I met them at an airport — and we’re all great friends now and keep in touch.”
In Belgium, Hunter was billeted with a host family, and immersed in the French language.
“That was a learning curve, since I know no French. I learned a little bit to get me by,” she said. “They were so nice, and drove us to and from the barns every day. It was just such an amazing atmosphere, and an amazing time.”
While Team Canada did participate in the competitions, earning individual points, its role was partly to teach and share with the European young people about the Canadian youth dairy showing initiatives.
“I say this to everybody who asks me — WCC is an amazing program. I couldn’t have asked for a better last 11 years. Competition-wise, I think WCC is head and foot above anything there. But experience-wise, and just learning new things and meeting new people, Belgium was the best time. Definitely a highlight of my years.”
Hunter will be completing her directed field studies for her bachelor of applied science in agribusiness at Olds College this fall, after harvesting with her family. She’s not sure what kind of job her training will lead to, but she’ll always have cows close to her heart.
“I love the dairy industry. I’m so passionate about it.”
Showing the Grand Champion heifer this year was Katelyn Crest of Athabasca, with her junior Holstein yearling Skycrest Peanut. It’s the fourth time she’s had the top animal.
“I won with her mother one year, so that’s kind of cool,” said the 20-year-old, who was also the reserve winner in showmanship.
Crest has been part of the WCC program for 10 years, and is also an enthusiastic supporter.
“Everyone gets along. It’s a competition, but we’re still hanging out with other teams and having a good time. It’s good competition, too.”
Alberta won the team award this year, but Crest says part of the responsibility of the senior members is to help the younger ones.
“We’ve got five or six leaving (our team) in the next two years, so it’s grooming time for these little guys to step up and learn the tricks of the trade.”
Next year’s Western Canadian Classic Junior Dairy Show will be in Brandon, Man.