Life after cows.

 

Anatomy of a dairy exit and dispersal.  Community support softens sting.

More than a few families can relate to this story and others are examining the fork in the road to see which direction their family farm businesses should take. Farmers are aging, and discussions are being had around kitchen tables all across Rural America about the future, whether to expand and modernize, exit, diversify, or stay the course. Even as farm families persevere in these difficult times of steep losses and low commodity prices, some are making the tough decision to exit dairy production.

These decisions are rarely easy, particularly when cattle values are down and next generation career paths are uncertain — or evolving away from the farm. The future doesn’t always follow a plan even when there is a plan. It is a tough economic time to sell a herd, a life’s work, and to send the next generation of cattle and children off to new pursuits, pathways, careers, lives…

Bittersweet. Thankfulness shines through in this video where end makes way for beginning … Whether living it or leaving it, the steps forward are grounded in faith, and a whole lot of love.

Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:8

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, Nov. 4, 2016

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HANNA, Ind. — “It’s not like a death, but in a way, it sort of felt like that, at first,” said LuAnn Troxel a few days after the herd dispersal of 215 lots plus calves and embryos at Troxel Dairy Farm on October 20. “The first cow started selling, and I was concentrating on that, and then I got busy, and before I knew it, the last cow was selling. But when I saw the big semi-truck back in for the largest load, that’s when it hit me as final. They are leaving.

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She was quick to add that her “heart is so thankful for what we have and for all the people who came out to support us. The auctioneer was right, these cattle are the future, and our son Rudy did an incredible job with the genetics. Young dairy producers who purchased some of these cattle will have some valuable animals to work with, and that feels good.”

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Sale day dawned rainy and cold, and the community came out in large numbers, with over 70 registered buyers. Many came for morale support and to enjoy the hot chili and baked goods provided by their church family with a free will offering raising $5000 for the Harvest Call Haiti Dairy Project.

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Dr. Tom and LuAnn Troxel had made the decision to exit the dairy business a year ago. Certainly the cattle would have brought more  a year ago, than they did a month ago amid October’s downturn in what had appeared to be a recovering dairy market, burdened further by a rapid decline in the beef market that often softens dairy cattle market values.

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The sale consisted of over 100 grade commercial cows and another 125 registered Holsteins of all ages, and about a dozen Jerseys. Son Rudy had developed the registered herd in his four years of full-time employment on the farm.

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Registered cattle with genomic numbers ranged $1800 to $2200 with not many lower and a few higher. The average for the full sale — including unregistered grade cows and the younger heifers over three months old — was $1453.

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The top sale was Lot 62 MS McCari Nomi 57900-ET. The fresh 2-year-old with a GTPI of +2525 sold for $5500 to Russell Springs, Kentucky through Max Dunseth of Holstein USA. Her Mogul daughter — a calf born July 24, 2016 and with a GTPI of +2600 — was the second-high seller of the day at $3800.

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troxel-sale-303Dunseth purchased a load of cattle for various orders, and the largest volume buyer purchased 34 cows, both registered and grade, on order to Illinois. troxel-sale-107

 

Other volume buyers supported the sale, including Andrew Steiner of Pine Tree Dairy. With Pine Tree genetics in the young registered herd — and several sale offerings descending from the Rudolph-Missy family — Steiner said he was looking for protein, and remarked on the quality of the cattle. He and his wife Julie took 14 head home to Marshallville, Ohio.

The balance of the cattle sold locally to the many in-state buyers. Several neighbors said they were there “to support the Troxels” and came with plans to buy one or two good cows from “some really good people.”

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Young dairymen from nearby Indiana counties purchased for their young dairy herds. One from Elkhart called two days after the sale to say how well the nine cows he bought are working out for him and how “really nice” the animals are.

 

 

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troxel-sale-94The Troxels’ niece, 10-year-old Anna Minnich, brought her checkbook and bid on several Jerseys. She had lost her Jersey cow Elegance at calving in September and ultimately purchased one of the Troxels’ Jersey cows named Utah as a replacement, along with two calves from the same family — Utopia and Unique. Anna plans to show them next year.

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A local heifer grower purchased some registered heifers, and another buyer purchased two for himself and an additional registered heifer with great numbers to donate to the Mennonite Disaster Committee heifer sale, showing how people in this industry want to give back.

“We had quality animals, and they sold for what the market would bear,” said Dr. Tom, with a smile, when asked how he viewed the sale outcome. “I am glad they did not have to go to the livestock auction.”

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Last fall, just eight buyers attended the small string sold ahead of this year’s complete dispersal. “One cow that we didn’t sell last year brought $400 less today,” LuAnn observed. “That gives you a true indication of the strain we are all under.”

But despite the strain, having more than 70 registered bidders, and such an attendance from the community, helped soften the sting. Dr. Tom is well known to the community as a large animal veterinarian who operated the dairy as the second generation on the farm, with LuAnn a prominent dairy advocate.

“To know people were here and that they cared about the cattle did insulate us a little,” LuAnn added. “We could not have gotten even these prices for this many cattle on just the market, alone.”

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Many connections were made between articles, ads and social media that resulted in buyers no one expected. The buyer from Illinois taking 34 cows was one example. A college friend of her daughter-in-law — both having no farm background but marrying into farm families — saw the note about the sale on Facebook, and her husband bid online. In fact there were some cattle in the sale that lit up the online Cow Buyer computer and had ringmen and order buyers on their phones taking bids. Courtney Sales, LLC managed the sale.

“The decision was made and we kept with the plan to move forward and trust God to work out the details,” LuAnn added.

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While farms have to have money to make things happen and get by, LuAnn expressed what many dairy farmers feel, that “while money is necessary, it is not the primary motivator or we would have exited the dairy business a long time ago,” she said. “Family is huge in this. Most of the time dairy farming is good for families, but these tough downturns do put a strain on families. We are blessed to have worked together and to have raised our family here on the farm.”

Having all four boys come home for the sale and hearing them talk, reinforced that sentiment.

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Each of the sons took in the sale preparations and the emotions of the sale day differently, but the bottom line was in saying goodbye to a piece of who they have become. While the farm and veterinary practice go on, the cows are leaving and they were central to life on the farm.

“I have to believe that what we have done for 33 years has been beneficial to our boys, but also to the 30-plus high school kids we’ve employed here over those years,” LuAnn acknowledged.

Certainly true as they have all stayed in touch over the years and some came out to the sale.

“We tried to make our dairy something that people felt good about, where kids could learn how to take care of an animal and have it be something that they remember fondly, that they could work here and develop into responsible young adults with the confidence that comes with knowing and doing something that is bigger than yourself,” LuAnn related.

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She will miss the girls that have most recently milked for them up until the sale. “They were laughing and talking about the different cow personalities and wondering how it will be for them at their new homes. All of this life around the animals just adds to the richness of the dairy experience and why this is such a compelling lifestyle.”

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There are so many aspects to a family’s decision to exit the dairy business. First comes the realization of the next generation’s plans for their own families’ futures. Next comes the actual sale planning, which can be very time consuming, so much so, that the emotional weight of saying goodbye to the animals is not top-of-mind.

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In addition to coming out to buy cattle and be supportive, some sale attendees indicated they are facing similar decisions and wanted to see how it all works. Others had read the articles and just wanted to be there. Still others knew they wanted to bring a few of the Troxel girls home to their farms.

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As the Troxels adjust to life after cows, LuAnn notes that other producers, who have been through this process, have encouraged her to “hang on to find the blessing in this decision.”

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At the moment, she still has 20 calves to feed, and there are six dry cows to calve. While they sold all of the registered animals of all ages, plus the grade milking cows, they kept the grade dry cows and unregistered young stock to sell later as fresh or springing heifers.

“It is strange to walk out and see just one or two cows,” LuAnn said with a hint of emotion. “But we have heard from some of the buyers. And that’s good. It’s good to know they appreciate our cattle.”

In fact, buyers repeatedly complimented the family on sale day about the quality of the cattle as they paid their auction bills and backed trailers in to load.

“They did look good,” said LuAnn, not in a prideful way so much as satisfaction for having raised good, productive, healthy animals that will work for their new owners the way they worked for the Troxels.

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“There’s no time to dwell on it,” she said. “The boys were all home and they are leaving today. Then we help move Rudy and his family to Wisconsin for his new job with Genex-CRI.

“We knew all of these changes would be coming. It is just strange for it to be so quiet here. The challenge will be the transition from going a million miles an hour to having it just stop,” she explained. “First, we’ll take it easy, and then, we’ll get at it. Next week the vet calls will need to get caught up, and then we’ll need to figure out what our new normal is, and that will take a little time.”

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Honor and humility, rights and responsibility… earning what they have done for us

On this Veteran’s Day as our nation faces a time of unrest and divisive labeling, let’s take time for personal reflection, responsibility and humility as we honor them.

This day is dedicated to American Veterans of all wars who have protected our freedom and serve as courage and light in what can be, at times, a dark world.

This time of honor began as Armistice Day, tracing back to the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, when an armistice, or temporary stop of hostilities, was declared between the Allied nations and Germany in the First World War, then known as “the Great War.”

In the aftermath of World War II and the Korean War, Armistice Day became Veterans Day.

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When I found, a few months ago, my grandfather’s scrapbook from 1945-46 — his time of active duty as a U.S. Army Air Corps Airplane Engine Mechanic in Okinawa — I am moved by the stark black-and-white truths of war and peace, of ordinary work co-existing daily with supreme sacrifice.

We owe a debt of gratitude to our Veterans throughout our nation’s history. It is a debt that we cannot adequately repay. But we can try — by shifting our focus from the rights their service has protected, to the personal responsibility in which those rights live and are secured for future generations.

Tom Brokaw, author of “The Greatest Generation“, wrote:  “A common lament of the World War II generation is the absence today of personal responsibility.”

Brokaw also makes this observation in the book: “There on the beaches of Normandy I began to reflect on the wonders of these ordinary people whose lives were laced with the markings of greatness.”

Throughout the conflicts our Veterans have endured, we find in them a humble sort of pride in something bigger than themselves that underlies their sacrifice.

I pray we come together as a grateful nation.

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In reflecting on and honoring the sacrifices, tribulations, triumphs and resilient transitions of our Veterans, I think of the famous words of President John F. Kennedy: “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.”

Young Americans throughout our history answer this call — selflessly. They are our Veterans, and Thank You is not enough.

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In the words of Private James Ryan standing over Captain John H. Miller’s grave as depicted in the movie “Saving Private Ryan”… Tears in his eyes, he said: “Everyday I think about what you said to me that day on the bridge; I’ve tried to live my life the best that I could. I hope that that was enough. I hope, that at least in your eyes, I earned what [you] have done for me.”

For me, today is a time to reflect not on the rights our nation’s Veterans fought for — or what I think I am entitled to, deserve or desire as an American — but rather the personal responsibility and humility with which we can come together and earn what they have done for us.

Please join me.

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Below, found between the pages of Papap’s 1945 WWII photo scrapbook. And in boxes, more photos and volumes of letters, news clippings, AP engine models, engineering homework and so many things he and gramma saved that I’ve yet to read through. 

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The people have spoken, let the healing begin

 

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By Sherry Bunting, Market Moos, Farmshine, Nov. 9, 2016

In the words of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) just moments before President-Elect Donald J. Trump gave his acceptance speech in the wee hours of Wednesday morning after Tuesday’s stunning presidential election: “This is the most incredible political feat I have seen in my lifetime. Donald Trump heard a voice out in this country that no one else heard. He connected in ways with people no one else did. He turned politics on its head.”

“This is unlike anything we have seen in our lifetime,” said CNN news anchor Wolf Blitzer.

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As election results came closer to finalizing Trump as the winner Tuesday night, along with evidence that the Republican majority would remain in the U.S. House and Senate — the global financial market futures tumbled lower in overnight trading.

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But as the sun came up Wednesday morning, four hours after Trump’s acceptance speech, the reality of a President-Elect Donald J. Trump began to set in, and traders began to realize the positive things such as job-stimulating corporate tax cuts, reversal of burdensome executive-branch regulations, and the repeal and replacement of Obamacare.

Just 13 hours after the election was called, Wednesday’s Stock Market rose steadily, and the Dow Jones hit a brand new record high at +310 settling +256 on the day.

Business news analysts started the morning reminding the public that 2000 new regulations had been formulated and implemented during the Barrack Obama administration — most aggregious may be the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS).

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In addition, analysts referred to Trump’s pro-economic growth plan as “very solid,” and with a Republican Congress, can be put into play. This, along with re-evaluation of trade agreements, has U.S.-based businesses thinking positively about a different future from the status-quo future they had braced for and which was built into the pre-Election levels in the financial markets.

As one business analyst put it: “Small businesses have been hungry for Trump-economics, and small businesses have been feeling the full weight of the 2000-plus new regulations and Obamacare.”

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That includes farmers and ranchers, who — together with the ‘rust belt’ blue collar workers — helped swing states and formerly Democratic states add to the Republican candidate’s lead.

On ABC News, commentators noted “Rural America is more important than we thought.” On other news stations, the term “flyover land” was used to describe locations of folks who voted in-force and why the pre-Election polls were so wrong.

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Yes, Rural and Middle America voted, and the demographics showed those votes for Trump came from a more diverse demographic than one might imagine in terms of race, gender and other factors with which the media and political pundits attempt to pigeon-hole We the People, as voters.

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Most telling were the exit polls, that 89% of Americans interviewed after voting said the need for change was their most important election issue and that led to decisions of more people than expected voting for Donald Trump.

Political analysts note that the election was very decisive as even in the urban areas, core constituencies consolidated around Rural America and the blue collar workers of our country.

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Still, as they examine “what happened” to their wrong pre-Election predictions, the mainstream media characterize Rural and Middle America repeatedly using the condescending term of “uneducated.” They will have to think some more to grasp what the people have said, as they have spoken at the ballot box in this historic election.

In fact, much of the weight for healing rests with the mainstream media and their persistent focus on our differences and demographic ‘slots,’ that tend to incite unrest.

Looking at the election results, take for example my home state of Pennsylvania. The Keystone State’s diverse people rejected the status quo and voted for a change. It was the first time Pennsylvania has voted for a Republican candidate since the senior George H. W. Bush in 1988. In fact, the map of results depicts it.

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In the wee hours of Wednesday morning, a humbled President-Elect Trump said: “ It is time for us to come together as one united people… I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be President for all Americans. This is so important to me.

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“For those who have chosen not to support me … I’m reaching out to you for your guidance and your help so that we can work together and unify our great country,” said Trump.

“As I’ve said from the beginning, ours was not a campaign but rather an incredible and great movement, made up of millions of hard-working men and women who love their country and want a better, brighter future for themselves and for their family.

“It is a movement comprised of Americans from all races, religions, backgrounds, and beliefs, who want and expect our government to serve the people — and serve the people it will. Working together, we will begin the urgent task of rebuilding our nation and renewing the American dream…

“The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer,” Trump said.

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In her concession speech, Secretary Hillary Clinton encouraged her supporters to “keep and open mind” and “give him a chance to lead.”

President Obama encouraged the nation to come together because “we are all on the same team as Americans.” He said his administration would follow the professional example set by his predecessor George W. Bush in the “peaceful transition of power that is the hallmark of our democracy and which we will show the world in a few months.”

Among the first orders of business for the Trump administration appear to be the repeal and replacement of Obamacare and to deal with executive orders such as WOTUS, along with work on current and future trade agreements and incentives to keep jobs in the U.S.

But even more important will be the necessary work to heal this land, that the exchange of ideas is healthy and as the pendulum swings between them, we realize what drove this election was the desire to look inward and resist to some degree the push for globalization and the global structure in which Americans lose autonomy, identity, independence.

A few personal thoughts:

My grandparents, Ace and Dot Jacobs were married nearly 70 years until in death they did part. My grandfather, a WWII veteran, was a devout Republican, my grandmother, a seamstress, was a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat.

Papap knew better than to discuss politics, and yet he did not make his votes or views a secret.

Gramma would have been upset by this election outcome because she longed to see the first woman president and she detested Donald Trump. She was here to vote for Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary. And she knew where I stood on the Republican side, ultimately supporting Donald Trump. We talked of it a few times, rationally, before she died in July.

If two people — who would view yesterday’s outcome so differently — can be happily and lovingly married nearly 70 years or be loving grandmother and granddaughter for over 50 years, there is hope that we as Americans can come together and solve our problems despite our differing political views.

It is crucial that we stop slapping labels on each other’s points of view before hearing where it truly comes from and what is being said. And in articulating views and courses of actions, we can take greater care to get to the issue and avoid the hyperbole that fuels this divisive labeling.

In short, this election was not about all of the negative labels the press list for us… It represented how the little folk of all races, religions and creeds did exercise their vote to make substantive change in the course of this country and in repudiating the elitism that has persisted for so long.

It would help if the media and the pollsters stop criticizing folks without college educations. Granted, I never did achieve my college degree, but I got two-thirds of the way there, and I — like many who voted for Trump with or without a college degree — work hard every day with integrity and compassion and should not be characterized as uneducated and angry as main traits.

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I am hopeful at Trump’s words that he will reach out to those who supported Hillary Clinton for their guidance on the healing course of the future. I am hopeful that our nation’s leaders will never again take the little folk who work quietly in the background for granted.

We all need each other.

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Like the differences in our American landscape from sea to sea, and everything in between, each of us have differing backgrounds, perspectives, experiences, hopes, dreams, aspirations, and other context for our lives.

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We may be surprised by the positives that can come after what has been such a negative election process this year. Can this catharsis be the point from which to move forward?

Together, we make America great. Together, we make America good. Together, we make America home.

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Leaving boots in the mud to seek new ground on Tuesday

 

Editorial Comments by Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, Friday, Nov. 4, 2016

flag19Agriculture is at a crossroads, and so is America. But the choice of paths that lie before us are neither clear nor direct.

When we go to the polls on Tuesday, it will be with mixed thoughts and emotions.

As the mainstream media analyze and over analyze every breaking news story, every “narrative,” every campaign “spin,” every poll, every issue that they deem important, there is much that gets left on the cutting room floor — important issues that no one really talks about, and yet they are harbingers of our future.

What they don’t talk about – of course – is agriculture. What they don’t talk about is the backbone of our economy, the original resource from which all other facets of the economy are made possible.

Take, for example, Hillary Clinton’s speech to financial institutions, where she said she dreams of one world, one economy, without borders. When pressed on that issue, her response was to say that, ‘Oh, that speech! I was talking about the energy economy, a worldwide energy grid. I want the U.S. to be the renewable energy super-power of the world.’

A convenient response to a concept that should give us all pause — in and outside of agriculture.

In talking with farm folk who volunteer for missions or projects in third-world countries where helping to establish indigenous agriculture practices and infrastructure is deemed so important, it hit me: We will be that third-world country — maybe not in my lifetime – but nevertheless that is one path on this crossroads if we do not take care to protect our farms and our farmers. Not only is their stewardship of the land vital to regional food security, but they are the place-holders for the essence of our liberty as a nation. Private property rights and ownership are the keys to our freedom as a nation, as a people.

Globalization is happening at a rapid pace. Running parallel to globalization is market concentration as mergers and acquisitions put more and more power into the hands of the few when it comes to food and agriculture. And then those ‘too big to fail’ entities are being sold off to foreign nations, like China, who already owns, according to the Department of the Treasury, $1.24 trillion in bills, notes and bonds (about 30%) of the over $4 trillion in Treasury bills, notes and bonds held by foreign countries.

That, my friends, is the auctioneer’s gavel on our national debt. True to form as a businessman, Donald Trump is talking about the national debt. Hillary Clinton is not.

Exports are said to be necessary for all agriculture commodity markets, especially dairy, and while I believe exports are important, they are not the end-all, be-all – except to the multi-national companies that view us as though they are on a satellite in space counting their dots on the globe: production units or consumption units, bars on a graph, slices on a pie-chart, numbers on a sales report, quarterly statements to shareholders.

In these third world countries I referenced earlier — where the good folk of the USA help farmers establish themselves — one of the first realizations is that when we throw cheap food at them, through exports, they have difficulty getting their own agriculture established to have the food security we Americans enjoy and truly take for granted.

Think about that for a moment. Are we not in danger, ourselves, of going down a path that could leave us food insecure?

The trade agreements that give our farmers market access to foreign markets also give our domestic market away to foreign imports. The give and the take are contrived and uneven. Winners and losers are made, created.

There is nothing fair or free about world trade because nations are losing the ability to care for and protect their own – particularly the U.S. – and we don’t even realize it. We are focused on the tantalizing allure of what we can sell … so that we are blinded to being sold-out.

The magician’s trick. Watch the elaborate thing I am doing with my left hand while I fool you with my right.

Many of these trade agreements are not free and fair trade, but rather a march forward to globalization, where the World Trade Organization and the United Nations become a higher power than our own Congress, our own President.

We saw just a tiny inkling of this, firsthand, when Congress quickly repealed the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) last March, and when the administration lifted the ban on Brazilian beef in August, and when the first boatload of beef hit Philadelphia, via JBS, just three weeks ago, followed by a rapid downturn in cattle prices here at home.

We’ve already seen foreign interests, namely China, purchase Smithfield and Syngenta, to name a few. This week, the Dallas News reported that a team of Chinese bankers and a Chinese dairy are considering a possible takeover bid for Dean Foods, our nation’s largest milk bottler that handles 35% of the raw farm milk produced in this country.

What does this have to do with Tuesday’s presidential and congressional election? Plenty.

You won’t hear Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump talk about agriculture, specifically, but listening to their differing outlooks, overall, a few things are clear and have helped me make my choice for next Tuesday.

For me, voting for a third party candidate or writing in a name like John McCain (as previous candidate and Ohio governor John Kasich did) is not an option. Neither is it an option to write in Mickey Mouse or to leave that part of the ballot blank.

Folks, this is serious. This presidential election – for all of its circus acts – is no circus. This is our future. This is the future we are handing to our children and grandchildren. I, for one, cannot trust it to a candidate who has spent the past 30 years in the political realm as a profitable public servant, and has wasted so much of that time on her own agenda with such disregard for the rules others live by as to again be under investigation.

I will vote between the two major party candidates based on what I know about their outlook on the future along with what my gut tells me about the investigations into their pasts and what it says about what they could or would do with the power of the Presidency in the future.

Neither candidate lives like we do out here in middle and rural America. But, at least one of the two candidates lives outside of the political realm.

We are governed by career politicians embroiled in endless self-perpetuation. The more paralyzed they are in their elected offices, the more power is diverted to the longstanding and quite powerful bureaucracy whom are elected by no one.

Everyone complains about the gridlock inside the beltway, like nothing ever gets done.

Wrong.

Plenty of work is getting done in Washington D.C., it is just mainly the work of career bureaucrats that exercise more control and make us weaker, tearing at our moral fabric, eating away at the base of our economy, ripping through our roots, and chipping away at our freedoms.

There is a power- and land-grab underway in this country. Most all agriculture commodities are at prolonged below-breakeven prices while the political elite is poised to push yet another trade agreement, the Trans Pacific Partnership, into the mix.

Meanwhile, we have a hammer of political correctness keeping us in our place, not daring to be free thinkers. Many voices are silenced as the economic and moral decay are inextricably linked.

Take, for example, the way we accept how the government imposes ridiculous rules on what our children can eat for lunch at school. All things are connected so that local communities cannot even feed their children the way they see fit. Those rules, incidentally, create winners and losers. And in so doing, the voices of the affected are silenced.

We have a runaway EPA with the implementation and flawed interpretation of the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) legislation that threatens to create a second wave of land-grab after the market pushes a first wave of farmers off the land.

And then there is the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) and their silver-tongued Wayne Pacelle. He is campaigning for Hillary Clinton. Her animal rights agenda dovetails with the candidate and Democratic Party’s obsession with climate change — right down to the livestock and dairy cattle on our farms.

There is so much more I could say, but to summarize, consider this: Who better to tackle over-regulation, unfair trade agreements, national food security, a vital agriculture, family farms and small businesses besieged by a labyrinth of complexities foisted upon them by a government run by self-perpetuating career politicians and ever-present, accountable-to-no-one bureacrats than a business man — a man that for all of his faults, at least does not live and has not spent 30-plus years operating in the self-perpetuation of the D.C. beltway.

We need to break free of the career politician mentality and breathe fresh air and common sense into the mix as well as to toss a bit of our sensitivity and political correctness to the side to break the cycle we are in and alter the path down which we are being led.

For all of his faults, Donald Trump is the only one of the two less than optimal choices we have in this election that fits that description.

Even on immigration reform, he is the one to have the best chance of getting it done. Only after our border is secured will our divided nation have a chance to come together with compassion for the illegal workers who are here today, working hard, making a contribution and raising their families that were born here. I have listened to Trump on this issue, and I get it. He is leaving room for that conversation after the border is secured and the estimated two million illegal immigrants that have committed crimes are properly dealt with. He will consult the American people on the next move after that first important move.

Election after election, candidates promise to shake things up, bring about change, bring people together, work for the people, protect our country.

Meanwhile, the beltway fills with sludge and slow-motion sets in to the point where boots are stuck.

Instead of standing fast, I’m leaving the boots in the mud, these bare feet are seeking new ground next Tuesday.

‘Bred-and-owned’ declared best of best at 50th WDE

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, Oct. 14, 2016 (Photos by author except where noted)

MADISON, Wis. — As the World Dairy Expo celebrated 50 years earlier this month, nostalgia could be found both in and out of the showring. For starters, the five days of shows for seven breeds yielded grand champions that were predominantly bred-and-owned, many with their breeder-owners at the halter.

In fact, six of seven open grands and four of seven junior grands were bred and owned. Let’s take them in alphabetical breed order!

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Throughout the week, judges recognized how difficult it is to get to this show and win, and even more so to breed the animal and get her here and win. Exhibitors, judges and breeders, alike, point out in their own way that there is as much art as there is science to breeding a top cow… but also a bit of luck.

Take for example, the grand champion of the International Ayrshire Show: Margot Patagonie was bred, owned and exhibited by Expo first-timer Ferme Margot of Ste Perpétue, Quebec, Canada.

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The striking thing about this grand champion is that not only did Ferme Margot breed the winning cow, they also bred her dam and her sire! What an achievement for the visiting World Ayrshire Conference to witness during their time in Madison, where they also saw the Expo’s largest Ayrshire show ever, with 321 entries, reportedly 60 more entries than the previous record.

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In the junior Ayrshire competition, Erin Curtis-Szalach of Cedarcut Farms, Cazenovia, New York, knabbed grand champion honors for the second straight year with her bred-and-owned Cedarcut Burdette Clove Colatta.

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She also made a strong honorable mention grand champion and total performance winning in the Open Show where entries were up by 60.

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In the Brown Swiss competition, which also topped previous records with 385 entries, both grand champions were repeat show-toppers as well as bred-and-owned with owners at the halter.

DayThree2107.jpgBrown Heaven Glenn Fantasy topped the open show with Josee Charron from Ferme Brown Heaven, Vercheres, Quebec at the halter.

DayFive3491.jpgKyle Barton, grandson of Ken Main of Elite Dairy, Copake, New York, earned the grand champion banner in junior competition for the second year with homebred Cutting Edge T Delilah (below).

wJrBrownSwiss3096w.jpgShe went on to be reserve supreme of the Junior Show, and she was reserve grand champion of the open Brown Swiss Show, second only to Fantasy (above).

day-2-12.JPGKyle and his older brother Mickey have done quite well over the years and their grandfather is pleased that they enjoy the cattle among their other activities.

day-5-69.JPGAmong the Guernseys, it was bred-and-owned Flambeau Manor Ro Lauren-ET to go grand in the Open Show. With Tracy Mitchell again at the halter, Lauren repeated her 2014 performance as grand champion for Gary and Steve Van Doorn of Flambeau Manor, Tony, Wisconsin.

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day-5-88.JPGAmong the juniors, Austin and Landen Knapp of Epworth, Iowa threepeated with the homebred Knapps Regis Tambourine-ET. The Knapps are premier breeders.

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day-5-75.JPGA large field of Holsteins narrowed down to grand champion Sheeknoll Durham Arrow. She impressed judge Pat Conroy as a cow that “lets you know she does not need to be pampered.” With Jeannette Sheehan at the halter, the aged cow moved through the ranks to achieve a storybook ending for her leadswoman, whose father Vernon Hupf — a lifelong farmer who attended every World Dairy Expo but this one as a spectator — had passed away in June.

“To win the show that Dad idolized is just amazing,” said Jeannette after “Thomas” (as the cow is affectionately known to all after a grandson dubbed her as a calf in honor of Thomas the Train) went reserve supreme of the International Open Shows Saturday night.

DayFive3589.jpg“Each time the judge picked her out, I was surprised, but I didn’t have time to process what was happening. I was pretty much just trying to hang on to the cow. At one point it just felt like Dad was here, on my shoulder telling me what to do, right down to that look out of the corner of the eye.”

day-5-58Not only did the Sheehan family have a winner, they did so with a bred and owned animal in a highly competitive Holstein show. “We are still a little stunned. You don’t come here with expectations because this show will humble you in a hurry,” Jeannette’s husband Robert added just after her reserve supreme honors were awarded Saturday evening. “The whole thing is unbelievable. We like to breed  nice cows, the kind of cows we like to milk. Breeding is science and art with luck involved. The match has to work and every once in a while you get a cow like this.”

Thomas has shown a lot in the last 4 to 5 years. “This year she blossomed and matured into the kind of cow we thought she could be.” he added.

Robert and his brothers Jim and Jerome and their wives Karen, Mary and Jeannette are partners at Sheeknoll Farms, with the next generation also involved. They milk 300 cows at the farm in Rochester, Minnesota, and are known by their peers to treat them all like queens with great cow comfort and attention to detail. In fact, the mantra on their Facebook page says it all: “If we take care of the cows, they will take care of us.” They were thankful for the total team effort taking care of the EX 96 97MS Thomas in her grand journey to this surreal finish.

day-5-59.JPGSheeknoll Durham Arrow (aka Thomas) had an exciting path to her grand champion honors at the 50th World Dairy Expo, having won the 2016 Minnesota State Fair and other shows leading up to it.

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Photo courtesy Randy Blodgett, Blodgett Communications

The Sheehan family, friends and Thomas’ fans watched as judge Pat Conroy and his associate Yan Jacobs placed Thomas first aged cow, best bred-and-owned, best udder, production cow, senior and grand champion, over a competitive field including last year’s supreme champion Katrysha and over this year’s reserve and honorable mention grand champions, the latter exhibited by Glamourview Farms of Walkersville, Maryland.

jerseyjuniorbo1164In the junior Jersey competition it was Cora and Cari of Darlington, Wisconsin. The homebred Red Rock View Cari was the grand champion Jersey of the Junior Show, with Cora Carpenter at the halter.

day-5-78.JPGThe Carpenter family was overjoyed to see their daughter and homebred Jersey do so well.

Earlier in the week, the grand champion Milking Shorthorn of the open show was Cates Ruben Tulsa-Time-EXP, bred, owned and exhibited by Peter Cate of Cornish Flats, New Hampshire for the second straight year.

day-5-91.JPGThe Milking Shorthorn Show at World Dairy Expo has grown and lasted into Wednesday evening, but was quite exciting.

day-2-70.JPGIn the International Red & White show, Pheasant Echo’s Turvy-Red-ET was grand champion with breeder-owner Kenny Stambaugh, Westminster, Maryland, at the halter.

day-5-93When Kenny Stambaugh’s homebred Turvy was named grand champion of the International Red & White Show on Friday, his sister Crystal Edwards was there in person to celebrate. Most of the rest of the family could probably be heard hooting-and-hollering over a thousand miles away in Westminster, Maryland as they gathered around the television to watch Kenny show and be victorious in the online live-feed of the showring proceedings.

What they did next, as you might imagine, is figure out how to get everyone out there by the next afternoon to see Kenny and Turvy vie for supreme in the closing ceremonies Saturday evening.

By 9:00 p.m. Friday evening, they had secured a flight that got Kenny’s parents, siblings and spouses to Madison by 2:30 p.m. Saturday — just three hours before the closing ceremonies – to surprise Kenny, who had no idea they were coming out.

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The Stambaugh family (photo by Sherry Bunting)

Kenny confessed he was pretty nervous in the ring, but it never showed because he had faith his cow stacked up pretty well against the competition.

When asked what gave Turvy the edge in a competitive Red & White class, Kenny and Crystal agreed: “It was her youthful udder and big frame,” said Kenny. Turby is classified EX-94 with a 96-point mammary system.

day-5-0.JPG“She also walks on an awesome set of feet and legs,” Crystal added. “But after three calves at five years old, to have that youthful udder is pretty special.”

What makes the win even more special for the family is that Turvy’s dam was the Stambaugh family’s first homebred Red & White Holstein. To have a World Dairy Expo grand champion in a daughter of their first homebred Red & White just makes the win belong to everyone on the farm.

When Barney and Debbie Stambaugh started farming on their own in 1991, they purchased some Red & Whites and over the years bred them to some top black and white Holstein genetics, which yielded a red line within the herd.

“Dad had worked for Peace and Plenty as a kid, and that really sparked it in him,” Crystal recounted.

She describes the breeding philosophy at Pheasant Echo’s as one that allows them to have “a lot of old cows. We are fortunate that way,” she said. “Between the genetics and cattle care, we want cows that hang around, breed back and have productive life.”

The family sold an Armani heifer out of Turvy in the Apple Mania Sale and another out of this family at the National Red & White Convention Sale when that sale was hosted at the farm during the convention week in Maryland last summer.

Turvy had previously placed second in the junior competition at the 2014 World Dairy Expo and 7th in the open competition that year. “She has really come into her own,” said Crystal of the cow that likes to swish her tail.

“Nothing makes me happier than being able to come out and look at good cows when it’s time to milk,” said Kenny. “It sure makes it easier to get up at 3 a.m.,” Crystal added.

Kenny and Crystal agree that this will now be their favorite show memory. Prior to this win, it was the grand champion win at the 2014 All-American Dairy Show in Harrisburg.

But nothing tops winning at the 50th World Dairy Expo with a bred-and-owned cow, and being the leadsman at the halter to boot.

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Kenny Stambaugh and his wife Nicole and homebred WDE grand champion Pheasant Echo’s Turvy-Red are flanked by parents Byron (“Barney”) and Debbie (right) and siblings and spouses from left, Bud Stambaugh, CJ and Tanya Miller and Dan and Crystal Edwards. Photo by Sherry Bunting as appeared on Cover of Farmshine Oct. 14, 2016

 

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Looking back… and forward: Troxel dairy herd dispersal 10/20 at 10:20 at farm.

By Sherry Bunting (portions reprinted from Farmers Exchange 10/14/16 and portions reprinted from Farmshine 10/14/16)

HANNA, Ind. — Amid the difficult economics of dairy and beef production these days, many farm families are going through tough decisions about the future — along with uncertainty about the interest or ability their next generation may have for continuing the business. America’s dairy and livestock farms have raised generations of cattle that nourish our bodies, our rural economies and the land… not to mention raising generations of young people with the skills, work ethics and passion that take them far in their on-and-off-farm pursuits.

Herd dispersals are on the rise among family farms of all sizes. And while it is sad to see some of these farms mark an end to an era, there is reason for hope. The largest obstacle, in my view, is the current pricing systems and the concentration of power in a more vertically-integrated marketplace for both milk and beef. Consumers can help change this direction by caring where their food comes from and asking their grocers to identify country of origin as is done with fruits and vegetables — but that is a story for another day.

Today, I want readers to know about the Troxel Dairy Farm and their upcoming herd dispersal sale on Thursday, October 20th at 10:20 a.m. (10/20 and 10:20!) taking place at their farm at 17808 S 600 W, Hanna, Indiana.

Having known Dr. Tom and LuAnn Troxel for several years and having benefited from their hospitality through all seasons of the year on trips West, I am always in awe of the morning pace at their farm, which is also homebase for Dr. Tom’s South County large animal veterinary practice. And I admire the joy they have that rises above these tough decisions.

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Mornings here have always kept me stepping as I would be out and about with my camera while Dr. Tom was busy in the milkhouse and cleaning pens or putting fresh bedding and feed out for the cows, LuAnn would be back and forth tending calves, answering vet calls, taking second rounds of coffee out to the barn, keeping a breakfast skillet moving forward… and so much more.

Busy mornings are to be expected when two busy people love what they do and when what they do is dairy farming alongside a large animal veterinary practice. Both can be demanding 24/7 jobs, and for 33 years of marriage, Dr. Tom Troxel has pulled double duty — wife LuAnn right there with him in the trenches and taking time to advocate for agriculture.

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On this particular sunny autumn morning last week as we talked about the upcoming dispersal, veterinary customers stopped by for supplies, the milk truck backed into the lane for what will soon be the last daily pickup, workers made sale preparations, cows curiously spectated, while the resident peacocks strutted their stuff, adding their own brilliance to the splashes of color in LuAnn’s gardens that frame the cow pens, milk house and calf hutches.tom-troxel-dvm

LuAnn says she is thankful that after next week, Dr. Tom will have only one job to do.

The cows will be gone, but the South County Veterinary practice continues.

“Dairy isn’t something you just do, it is something that defines you,” said LuAnn during my visit last Monday morning, as she and Tom and son Rudy were finishing chores and preparing for the Oct. 20 complete dispersal of the milking and registered herd.

Her easy smile hid the uncertainty of the transition ahead. “Part of me is really sad, and part of me wonders about new opportunities we’ll find in this next phase.”

Tom confessed: “We’ll miss it. I’m kind of a workaholic so I’ll have to rethink things and find things to do that are more valuable than work.”

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The sale plans were set into motion a year ago, when Tom and LuAnn knew that of their four sons — Rudy, Ned, Josh and Jackson — there would be no next generation to take the reins.

Rather than sell the herd immediately, they waited to calve-in some of the genetic progress Rudy made in his work with the herd over the past four years. This way they are able to sell animals of known value with genomic testing behind them and see some two-year-olds freshen and milk to get a glimpse of what would have been a great foundation herd for the future, that Rudy had developed — before passing the animals on to their new homes.

The Troxel Dairy herd dispersal is slated for 10:20 a.m. CDT on Thursday, October 20 at the farm. About 215 cattle will sell, including 113 cataloged cow and heifer lots, plus half-lot calves and embryos. Many are registered Holsteins, with solid genomic numbers, especially for productive life (PL), daughter pregnancy rate (DPR), somatic cell count (SCC), and milk components.

In fact, this milking herd of 140 cows produces high quality milk with somatic cell count consistently under 100,000. The current average is 75,000! Healthy animals and high quality milk have always been high priorities here.

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The sale includes a unique range: predominantly registered Holstein cattle of all ages, including Polled, dominant/variant Red and Outcross genetics, as well as over a dozen Jerseys of all ages, some type Holsteins and 100 commercial grade milking cows and springing heifers.

“The genetic improvement has been quite something, considering that four years ago we had just one registered Holstein, and today we have 130 that are registered,” said Dr. Tom, crediting son Rudy’s skill and zeal for genetics. “With good genomic tests, these animals would have been a good foundation for the future, but now they can be a benefit to someone else.”

Rudy’s philosophy in transitioning the herd from grade to registered dovetailed with his parents’ longstanding emphasis on healthy cattle and preventive care. He bred not for show, but for working cattle “to exemplify the true working Holstein,” he explained the science-driven approach to breeding a true commercial cow. “We have rarely bred a cow under 1 or 2 in their DPR, and we have cattle at 5, 6, 7, even over 8 in productive life.”

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While Rudy finds some satisfaction in having built a young herd with a few cow families that hold a lot of promise, he noted that around 30 of the registered animals are milking and over 75 are “the best that was yet to come.”

He points out the Ross cow they purchased from Clear Echo at the Summer Event Sale in Wisconsin in 2012. She is lot 13, with over 20 direct descendants selling, plus additional calves. The Dreamar cow is another he identifies as he thumbs through the catalog. She has nine direct descendents selling right along, plus embryos.

“Rudy took the (genetics) ball and ran with it,” said Tom with a smile.

With sale day fast approaching, LuAnn reflects on the decision to discontinue the dairy. “It was something that took weeks, even months to accept,” she said.

“We’ve ridden these cycles up and down for over 30 years,” the couple agreed. “We haven’t invested in new facilities. The dairy needs infrastructure and improvements. Our next generation made their family decisions not to buy the dairy farm.”

“We weren’t ready for the next generation,” Tom interjected. “Look around. We have lean to’s, not a new 21st Century building.”

Together they wondered, aloud, if investing in new facilities years ago may have produced a different outcome.

“We were so busy working and raising a family that we didn’t really take the time to plan that,” said LuAnn when asked what advice she might have for other farm families with next-generation uncertainty. “We always wanted our sons to make their own decisions on this. We love our four boys, their wives and their families and respect their decision to do what is best for their families.”

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Planning for the next-generation is a challenge, “but I would recommend long term planning, not waiting like we did when it was too late for the planning to help,” she says.

Rudy, who graduated from Purdue with a degree in ag education, has taken an area sales manager position with Genex-CRI to follow the genetics path, which was seeded in junior high with his poultry projects and blossomed with his hand in the dairy herd over the past four years.

“This farm has been going since 1949 and has raised two families,” said Tom. His parents, Phil and Mary Troxel, started farming here almost 70 years ago. His mother was raised on a dairy farm and ahead of her time as a “dairy girl,” taking predominant care of the herd. Tom, one of eight children, was immersed in the farm early after his father suffered a stroke while he was still in high school.

Tom and LuAnn eventually took over the dairy after they married, and have operated both the dairy and Tom’s large animal practice here ever since.

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Standing in the October sunshine discussing the upcoming sale, the curious cows walk right up and LuAnn reflects on the bond between a dairy producer and the cows. “I fed every one of these individually as calves,” she said, noting that while they can seem like children or grandchildren at times, “there’s a difference.”

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“But you do spend more time with the cattle than the grandkids,” Tom interrupted, grinning at the reality of daily cattle care.

For years, the dairy has hosted media, consumer events, school field trips and trainings for vet tech students. (Below: On the left, LuAnn is constantly promoting and advocating for the dairy industry. Two years ago she snapped a photo of twin Jersey x Holstein heifers. Both heifers calved this past July. They and their calves will be sold in the Oct. 20 dispersal. On the right, Rudy shares information about dairy cows with local schoolchildren during a tour at the farm last fall. He will miss the farm and the cows, but is excited to get more involved in genetics as he takes a position with Genex-CRI.)

Both Dr. Tom and LuAnn have served on numerous boards over the years. In addition to serving as a past president of Indiana Dairy Producers (IDP) and currently on the board of the Dairy Girl Network (DGN), LuAnn also serves on the American Dairy Association-Indiana board — a position that will end when the milking ends, as has Tom’s former position on the Foremost Farms cooperative board.

While there may be fewer opportunities to be involved in organizations that promote dairy, the Troxels want to be involved wherever they can in the dairy industry they love. “The people in this industry are special. With few exceptions, dairy producers are honest, hardworking people who care about things other than themselves,” LuAnn points out.

“People say ‘it’s in your blood,’ and I guess that’s because dairying is systemic. It will be a little challenging to define who I am because everything from family relationships to daily routines to friendships and service have been within the context of the dairy farm. I’m not sure what it will be like, but I think it will be fine.”

The Oct. 20 dispersal is managed by Courtney Sales. The Troxels’ church will provide a delicious lunch, prepared with love, for a free will offering to benefit the Harvest Call Haiti Dairy Program.

All are welcome. For more information about the sale and the farm, and to see a catalog, visit www.troxeldairy.com.

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The Troxel family from left Jackson and Paige, Dr. Tom and LuAnn holding Olivia, Maryana, Rudy (holding Nolan) and Rosario, Nathan, Ned and Alyssa, Josh (holding Declan) and Chelsie. Photo by Chelsie Troxel

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Determination defined.

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, Sept. 23, 2016

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Before the March homecoming, Reese Burdette told the medical staff “I’ve got to get home to my cows.”

And so she did. Her cow Pantene, in fact, had just had a heifer calf she named Pardi-Gras. It was Mardi-Gras time of year and she was looking forward to a homecoming party.

When Reese Burdette did come home to Windy-Knoll-View farm after those 662 days at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), she was so anxious to get back to her cows and the dairy industry she loves that she wanted to get right out on the gator with her papap to look them over.

Reese03That didn’t happen immediately, but not long after she was home, she sure did.

A few days after her March homecoming. Reese was already setting new goals for herself.

Sitting at the kitchen table on the day of our visit in mid-March, taking a break from “virtually” attending school, Reese said, matter-of-factly, and with a radiant smile (as her mother and momo exchanged glances):

“I want to be walking good enough to lead Pardi-Gras in Harrisburg in September.”

And so she did. She sure did.dsc_1142

reesepeptalkdadIt was something she had worked for daily with the support of her family, friends, therapists… and a last minute pep talk from dad, Justin Burdette.

In fact, not only did she lead Pardi-Gras to a 4th place finish in her class Monday, Sept. 19 during the All-American Dairy Show at the Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, Pa., she also led Pardi-Gras’ dam, Reese’s prize 4-year-old cow Pantene to a 1st place finish in her class… and the honors that followed as Reserve Grand Champion Holstein of the Premier National Junior Show.

Perhaps Pa. Holstein Association executive director Ken Raney put it best in a post acknowledging all of the great people and families the association works with across Pennsylvania. “It’s been my goal to share the accomplishments and recognize many people for what they do for the dairy industry, but today was different,” he wrote. “Today, we got to witness a young lady who has shown great determination and a will to not only survive but return to the industry and cows she loves. Congratulations and thank you Reese Burdette for showing us what true determination is all about.”

reesepantenereschampReese was surrounded Monday by her support team of friends and family, including friends from Johns Hopkins, who came to Harrisburg to witness how much Reese loves the dairy industry and how this dairy industry family continues to support her and her family. Her ever-faithful cousin Regan Jackson and friend Lane Kummer helped make it possible to also lead her cow Pantene.

In a video interview with The Bullvine, Reese’s mother Claire Burdette said that people wonder how they can be so strong through this journey of over two years. She said, “It’s people surrounding us that make us strong.” She described Reese’s sense of humor and tenacity that stayed with her throughout this journey.

00aareese0022As for Reese, her family, favored cow Pantene, and all who continue to support and love her… the joy of the day and its milestones was plain to see.

As expected, this tenacious 10-year-old has already set the next goal for herself (and loves to think in timelines): To attend school without the part-time assistance of the wheelchair by the end of the year.

We continue to root for this amazing and inspirational young lady and agree wholeheartedly with Ken Raney’s comment: “You made us all proud ‘Miss Tuff Girl!’” as she is affectionately known these days.

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Thank you to Laura Jackson, Jean Kummer and Randy Blodgett for some of the photos above. Below, Reese’s Pantene also made the Supreme parade lineup Thursday as Grand Champion Holstein in the open competition, shown by her mom Claire Burdette.00aaPantene9930.jpg

 

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