A plea for Eve: ‘She deserves our every consideration. She earned it.’

Eve Project seeks 200,000-pound record for Elevation’s dam: Relocated from Pennsylvania to Canada for trailblazing ET surgery in 1974 left 8th lactation incomplete

For George Miller, Eve is special. He is pictured here at the 2011 National Convention in Virginia. He was recognized in 2019 by Holstein USA for distinguished service, noting his vision, leadership, determination and advocacy for the Holstein cow and the people behind her. Today, at age 94, George is under nursing care, residing with his wife Pippin. (Cards and well wishes can be sent to the Millers at 5675 Ponderosa Drive, Apt. 304, Columbus, OH 43231) Sherry Bunting photo

By Sherry Bunting, published Farmshine, January 15, 2021

BROWNSTOWN, Pa. — Less than 4000 pounds. That’s what separates Round Oak Ivanhoe Eve’s recorded lifetime production from the 200,000-pound mark she is believed to have earned but for the circumstances of her relocation and donor cow surgery at the peak of her eighth lactation.

Aptly named ‘Eve’, the dam of the one and only Round Oak Rag Apple Elevation has touched over 95% of the Holstein breed — given Elevation’s more than 100,000 recorded offspring and around 9 million descendants, worldwide.

In fact, her son’s growing impact was part of the reason she was relocated for several months in 1974 from her last owners in Pennsylvania to Modern Ova Trends, Norval, Ontario, Canada for superovulation and embryo recovery transfer surgery to attempt a multiple repeat of the mating that had produced Elevation a decade earlier.

That move at 12 years of age, in peak lactation, created a lapse in milk recording that shorted Round Oak Ivanhoe Eve’s lifetime record to be 3,970 pounds shy of the 200,000-pound mark at 196,030M 4.1 8070F. 

This shortfall is believed to be milk Eve made, or would have made, in the second part of her eighth lactation had she not been a trailblazer. She was housed several months mainly with beef animals as the only lactating animal in a facility without milk-recording and submitted to embryo transfer, which in those days was major surgery, especially for an aged lactating cow.

Round Oak Ivanhoe Eve EX94 4E was making 100 pounds of milk a day when pictured in September 1971 at Willsholm Holsteins, Berlin, Pa. at around age 8. She had already had at least two lactations over 1000 pounds of fat by that point. Photo courtesy

Bred by the Ron Hope family of Round Oak Farms, Purcellville, Virginia, Eve produced Elevation in 1965 at age 3. She was sold at age 8 in the 1970 Round Oak dispersal to the late Calvin Will of Willsholm Holsteins, Berlin, Somerset County, Pennsylvania. The sale occurred when her son was still a young sire, before his prowess for transmitting that rare combination of production, conformation, fertility, and longevity had the world clamoring for Elevation.  

For 2019 Holstein USA distinguished service award winner George Miller, Eve is special. 

George Miller spent his lifelong career in Holstein genetics, 17 years with Virginia Artificial Breeders Association (VaABA), which merged to become part of Select Sires, Inc., with Miller serving as director of marketing from 1973 through retirement. 

Miller grew up helping at his uncle’s Round Oak farm and had early involvement with his cousin Ron Hope’s development of the Holstein herd, even while earning his Master of Science at Virginia Tech. Recognized as instrumental in directing the development of ‘do-it-yourself’ insemination programs to propel A.I. and genetic progress cost-effectively for dairy farmers, Miller’s keen eye for cattle and knowledge of bulls as a sire analyst in those early days of A.I., led to his participation in a series of decisions at Round Oak.

Key decisions included the purchase of Ivanhoe semen in Lancaster, Pa. in 1958, which led to the mating that produced Round Oak Ivanhoe Eve as well as Miller’s suggested mating of Eve to Tidy Burke Elevation that produced Round Oak Rag Apple Elevation.

The rest, as they say, is history, except for a bit of unfinished business for Eve.

During a December 2020 conversation between two 1974-78 University of Guelph classmates, the Eve Project was born. The Eve Project is a proposal to Holstein Associations USA and Canada, requesting Eve’s legacy be reviewed for special consideration of her lifetime milk record based on her circumstances in 1974.

Not long ago, Miller inquired about Eve’s production record. Miller, 94, has been retired from Select Sires since 1996, but continued active in Holstein genetics. He is currently in nursing care, residing with his wife Pippin at Friendship Village in Columbus, Ohio. Eve is on his mind. 

A close friend Mark Comfort, co-founder of Udder Comfort and founder of Transfer Genetics, which became TransCanada Select Sires, Ontario, discovered last month that there is more to Eve’s story after communicating with classmate John Birks of Modern Ova Trends, Via Pax Corp Ltd., and TRIAD ET Ltd., Ontario.

As a college student, Birks was a weekend herdsman for Modern Ova Trends in 1974. He remembers Eve as the “iron lady” because of her strength, production and easy going, undaunted nature.

Birks also began looking into Eve’s production record, recently finding that almost half of her eighth lactation is missing.

In a December 2020 letter to Holstein Associations USA and Canada, Birks makes the strong case. Unlike many cows that had trouble coming back after what was major ET surgery, Eve not only continued to milk, she went on to breed back and have a ninth lactation at 14 years of age!

The Eve Project is simply a request to respect her legacy and review her production history, “that she may be awarded the 200,000-pound lifetime record, which she deserves,” Comfort relates in an email.

“George and Eve have influenced the Holstein breed,” Comfort explains. He says Miller’s impact on him and others of the Select Sires family “is absolutely appreciated. We are thankful for the influence he has had on our lives, causing us to be better people. His ideals and principles are second to none.”

Gathered in 1979 to commemorate Elevation at Select Sires, Plain City, Ohio are (l-r) Ronald and Marjorie Hope of Round Oak; Robert H. Rumler, executive secretary Holstein Association USA; Richard Chichester, Select Sires general manager; and George A. Miller, Select Sires director of marketing. Photo courtesy Select Sires

At the same time, Miller’s work with Eve touched so many in the Holstein breed.

Nowadays, a breeder can request a ‘special consideration’ waiver from the DHIA company to calculate unrecorded milk for sick cows or traveling cows for up to two milk tests of up to 75 days each. If Eve were alive today, relocating for surgery or traveling on extended show circuit, a qualified waiver could be requested and potentially approved.

In retrospect, this is all that would be needed to account for her time off-test during the ET work in Canada; however, Eve lived almost half a century ago.

“George thinks the Eve project is a long shot, but his love for this cow is undeniable,” Comfort says, relating a recent conversation in which Miller recalled visiting Eve at Willsholm after she returned from Canada.

He had been impressed with her care and how beautiful she looked at 14, how she had thrived after the surgery, breeding back with a Fond Matt bull calf.

“This is a testament to her iron will. All we want is a chance to be heard, to plead our case. In my letter to the associations, I emphasized that Eve had a major surgical procedure. Few people today realize how challenging surgical embryo recovery was then,” writes Birks in an email, listing several top-of-mind examples of high-profile Holsteins that died shortly after this surgery.

Birks observes that Eve’s time under care for ET surgery in Canada easily equates to the special consideration given today to sick cows or show cows away from home for extended periods of time.

“The reality is, Eve did produce these 4000 pounds of milk during her several-month relocation,” writes Birks in his letter. “Please focus on Eve’s eighth lactation starting June 26, 1973, which is recorded as 181 days, 14,949 pounds 4.2% ending January 23, 1974. Obviously, this is an incomplete record, but there is a logical and verifiable reason.” 

Birks explains that in the second half of 1973, two embryo transfer facilities were established in Canada, one being Modern Ova Trends. They were initiated to fill a North American demand to reproduce exotic beef imports from Europe. The technology was equally applicable to dairy cattle, but new.

“The owners of Round Oak Ivanhoe Eve chose to submit her to this ground-breaking, cutting edge procedure. In January or February 1974 at 181 DIM, Eve was sent to Modern Ova Trends… to undergo superovulation and embryo transfer,” Birks writes firsthand as he worked there at the time.

“Eve was attended to by a very capable herdsman, Ron Westgate, a former employee of Romandale Farms Limited. Eve was the only lactating cow at Modern Ova Trends in 1974. Ron and I were hired by Dr. Donald C. Wilson (1941-2020) a veterinarian with G.D Stirk and Associates, Brampton, ON,” Birks recalls, stating that Westgate can “verify Eve was milking during winter and spring. He worked with her daily. I was weekend barn staff.”

Birks goes on to explain that, “Official milk recording was not provided to the embryo transfer industry in Canada until 1977 at Via Pax Corp. Limited Woodbridge, Ontario. It was recognised in 1977 that many seedstock cows were away from home and were absent for two or more official tests leaving gaps in their official records. I know this to be factual because I worked at Via Pax at the time.”

Eve’s ET time in Canada was three years earlier. She arrived in mid-winter 1974, was superovulated in early spring 1974 and inseminated to Tidy Burke Elevation by Modern Ova Trends veterinarian Dr. Casey Ringleberg, now retired, according to Birks, who assisted.

“By today’s ET standards, surgical embryo transfer was a laborious and challenging procedure,” he writes, explaining the procedure in detail in his letter. “Eve recovered and continued to milk. She was also able to return to the U.S…. and completed a ninth lactation starting May 4, 1976. This iron lady finished her career with a 14 year 305-day record of 20,000 pounds and 25,000 pounds in 519 days. With the completion of this record, her official lifetime total is 196,030 pounds.”

Dan Will also has great respect for Eve. He recalls the day 51 years ago when his father paid $11,000 for her at the Round Oak dispersal, where Eve was among 15 Ivanhoe daughters sold.

“That was back when a unit of Elevation was still $1.50 and plentiful. Neighbors thought we were nuts, but she was worth that, probably 20 times over. She helped spark my interest in the registered Holstein business, brought people in the driveway, and made dairy farming very interesting for me. We loved that cow,” Will relates in a Farmshine phone interview this week.

When Elevation earned his Gold Medal on first provings in 1971, Holstein World featured Eve and Elevation on the cover. Courtesy photocopy

From 1970 until 2016, when Dan and his brother John dispersed the Willsholm herd, their North View Farm in Berlin, Pa., was known as “Home of the Eve family.”

Will visited Eve while she was in Canada. “She looked really good and well taken care of,” he recalls.

“She was a tremendous milk cow. She was a strong cow, big framed, a real good eater. The challenge was always to keep the feed in front of her,” Will says. “Eve gave a lot of milk, never kicked, milked out clean in all four quarters. She was a real pleasure to work with. I don’t recall her ever being sick and I don’t recall her ever having mastitis.”

Birks puts the Eve Project into perspective as boiling down to respect.

“Eve left the U.S. at 181 DIM for a procedure that was in the best interests of advancing the Holstein breed. She was absent from her home and official milk recording during the peak of lactation in a country (Canada) and facility (Modern Ova Trends) being submitted to a procedure (superovulation and surgical embryo recovery). Official milk recording was not considered,” Birks explains.

“She was stuck in limbo because she was a trailblazer,” Birks writes. “The stark reality is that the donor population at Modern Ova Trends at the time was almost exclusively European beef imports, many right off the plane or boat, subject to strict quarantine requirements. Eve could not have been sent to an Export/AI herd such as Rowntree Farms Limited for milk recording.”

With a “keen sense of duty to a great cow,” Birks respectfully proposes special consideration for extending the eighth lactation of Eve starting July 26,1973 by a suitable number of tests to “credit this great cow with the additional 4000 pounds. God knows she deserves our every consideration. She earned it,” he writes.

Others have described Eve’s strength in historical writings of the Holstein breed.

During the Century of Holsteins celebration, the Virginia Holstein Association wrote: “No one Holstein animal can claim the impact worldwide as Round Oak Rag Apple Elevation. His dam, Round Oak Ivanhoe Eve (4E-94) was a big, tall, open-ribbed Ivanhoe daughter that traces 20 times to Johanna Rag Apple Pabst.”

Former Loudoun County, Va. extension agent Walter S. McClure, Sr. writes: “Eve was sired by Osborndale Ivanhoe, who was quickly becoming the most exciting bull in the Holstein industry. Over the next few years, I watched her develop into a tremendous cow both in production and type, producing a maternal line 6 generations of Excellent dams.”

McClure was with VABA by 1966 and recalls the day the Holstein Sire Committee agreed to go to Round Oak after the annual field day to see Eve’s yearling son Elevation. “Today, his influence, and that of his dam, is in the pedigree of over 90% of recent Holstein bulls in almost every major dairy country worldwide,” wrote McClure in 2016.

During a 2013 Farmshine interview, Miller recalled the path to Elevation really started for Round Oak with the Hope family’s interest in the line-bred Rag Apple family of Mount Victoria in Quebec. The line descended from owner T.B. Macauley’s purchase of Johanna Rag Apple Pabst in the 1920s.

Eve’s dam came from this line.

“Ivanhoe was the most extreme bull we ever saw,” Miller recalled the stop made in Lancaster at Southeast Pennsylvania Animal Breeder’s Cooperative (which became Atlantic Breeders) on the way to the National Convention in Boston in 1958.

“Ivanhoe was taller and longer, a breed-changer in my opinion. My cousin (Ron Hope) ordered 100 units of Ivanhoe that day for that reason,” said Miller.

Hope had been using two bulls from Glenafton Farms in Canada. One was Glenafton Gaity. “I suggested they breed Gaiety daughters to Ivanhoe. As those Ivanhoe daughters started freshening, they were impressive,” Miller related.

One of those impressive Ivanhoe x Gaity daughters was Eve.

Round Oak’s first significant outcross in 20 years was the mating suggested by Miller of Round Oak Ivanhoe Eve to Tidy Burke Elevation that produced Round Oak Rag Apple Elevation.

In fact, the surgery on Eve at Modern Ova in 1974 was an effort 9 years later to repeat and multiply that breeding. No fertile embryos were recovered.

Eve recovered and thrived according to first-hand accounts of those who cared for and worked with her. The procedures did not keep her from milking. Had she been able to transfer to a facility with milk recording, the remainder of her eighth lactation would have been recorded.

With great respect for George Miller and his love for this beautiful ‘iron lady’, those involved in the Eve Project are hoping the Holstein Association USA and Canada will consider Birks’ letter and proposal. Holstein enthusiasts who are interested or able to provide further details or information are encouraged to contact the association, and/or the Eve Project via John Birks at john.birks@live.com and Mark Comfort at comfort@ripnet.com.  

Fans of Eve are also hoping those associated with the former Pennsylvania DHIA, which Will says did the official milk recording at Willsholm in those days, could posthumously evaluate her eighth lactation for special consideration waiver almost half a century later.

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A Select Sires ad in March 1971 Holstein World featured Eve and Elevation. Volumes have been written about Elevation’s impact, worldwide. Courtesy photocopy
This highway marker in Virginia signifies the birthplace of Round Oak Rag Apple Elevation EX96 Gold Medal, Bull of the Century. Photo courtesy Virginia Holstein Association

‘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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