"This is the biggest crowd ever," was the common greeting among attendees at the 16th Bi-annual Badger Invitational Dairy Sale held at the historic Stock Pavilion on the University of Wisconsin-Madison Ag campus last Saturday, March 9.
Of course, memories are short but long-time sale goers (like me) agree that most - a lot more than usual - of the seats in the left end of the historic building were pretty well filled at sale time.
Some folks suggested that visitors who attended the dairy barn dedication next door may have slipped over for a brief look. Others thought it might have been the lousy weather day that brought people out and a few thought that the registered Holstein business was sort of booming and dairy folks were looking for a show calf for the coming season.
What ever the reason, it was indeed a big crowd with many rows of folks leaning on the concrete wall below the seating area. Of course, these folks were mostly talkers, not buyers.
The Badger Invitational is hosted by the Badger Dairy Club (BDC), an ag campus group of long course and short course students who, with the assistance of a goodly group of alumni, do all the work.
There are six committees and some 80 people in all making the selections, taking care of the animals, advertising the event and making it all work. Any one involved in registered Holsteins will recognize the names of the "doers" and will see many of them again in other dairy capacities in future years.
General chairman, Jacob Brey represents a dairy family that owns Cycle Farm at Sturgeon Bay, (established in 1904) that has often been in the dairy news over the years for their Holstein and farming activities. Jacob, a senior at the UW-Madison will continue his involvement in the dairy business after graduation as he begins work as a classifier for Holstein Association USA.
The Badger Invitational got its start in 1983 as a logical means to apply in actual practice what was being taught in the UW-Madison dairy science department classroom. Funds gained through the sale (15 percent of the individual animal sale prices) are used by the BDC to conduct the many activities of the very active club.
After a two-hour pre-sale viewing, the sale began at noon and several hours later the last animal paraded before auctioneer Tim Morris and pedigree reader Jim Hoskens.
The 62 lots averaged $3,015 - well below the record $3,657 average of 2007 but the high of $17,000 for eight-month-old Rosylane-LLC Jives 5611 consigned by Rosy-Lane Holsteins, Watertown and bought by Ideal Dairy at Hudson Falls, NY, was the second high ever. This was exceeded only by the $22,000 paid for a heifer in 1985 at the second sale.
Why $17,000 for a calf, many wondered?
Lloyd Holterman, of Rosy-Lane who consigned the calf, says she has an exceptionally high genomic ranking and was sired by a somewhat lesser known bull making her a sought after consignment. .
As from the beginning of this event, Tom and Sandy Morris, Amery served as auctioneer and sale clerk, and as advisors to the BDC members putting the sale together.
The 16th bi-annual Badger Invitational proved again to be a success as a dairy sale, as a learning event, as get-together of dairy folks and a first sign of spring.
Highlights and sidelights
The combined dairy barn dedication and Badger Dairy Sale brought a good many people to the UW-Madison Ag Campus, many for the first time or the first time in a long time.
Jim and Susan Creath came from Woodstock, IL to visit the school where there son Tyler is attending Farm Short Course.
"No," we are not farmers," Susan says. "Jim is an engineer, but we wanted to see the new barn and facilities that our son sees every day." They were impressed with the new milking center, something they knew little about.
Barb Lee, DeForest, has been involved in the dairy industry for more than a few years, mostly in Brown Swiss circles. She was strolling through the barn when we met and she asked me a question.
"Did you know that I was the first women to milk cows in this dairy barn?" she asked.
"You're kidding," I responded. "I thought women students always worked here."
"Not before 1973 they didn't, Lee said. "I needed a job and applied for a position being advertised, not realizing that women milkers was an issue among the powers at the time. I got the job."
"Here's another first for you," Lee continued. "I also stayed at Babcock House, an all-men residence over Christmas vacation while I was working in the barn. My place was some distance away and not very handy to the barn and most of the men were gone from Babcock House anyway. It worked out."
So again, I learned a bit about very local, but interesting history.
When I finally left the new dairy barn, to my great surprise, I noticed a women sitting next to the head of one of the dairy cows who was laying down.
"Are you OK," I asked.
"Yes," she said, "I just love animals and I heard about this barn dedication on Public Radio and came over. I know absolutely nothing about cows, but I love them."
"What do they eat," she asked pointing at the TMR in front of the line of cows.
Fortunately, Dr. Lou Armentano, member of the Dairy Science Department and world-famed dairy nutritionist, was at the end of the barn. He gave the city girl a five-minute dissertation on what cows eat - now she knows more than any of her friends.
The women (I can't find her card and name) had a hundred questions but assured me she was not (?) a PETA or animal rights advocate but she was a vegetarian. I invited her to follow me next door to the sale that was about to begin.
"What's that about," she asked.
"You'll see," I said.
I introduced her to a few dairy friends who explained what their dairy involvement was and she really overwhelmed and acknowledged that she was amazed to see so many young people and women at the sale. "I just lost my job," she says. "I wish I knew something about cows, I love them." She was still at the sale two hours later, again crouched next to (and petting) a young calf.
The women (whoever she is) brought home (to me) the fact that some folks know nothing about farming and animals. I admit I felt a bit sorry for her and do hope she tells others what she learned last Saturday.
John F. Oncken is owner of Oncken Communications, a Madison-based agricultural information and consulting company. He can be reached at 608-222-0624 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.