It was an 18-hour trip to Madison from Virginia but for Old Mill E Snickerdoodle it was one she's made many times before.
The 15-year-old cow (who weighs about a ton) didn't lie down once during the trip, says her owner Allen Bassler of Upperville, VA. He and his prized Brown Swiss cow arrived in Madison on Friday evening and were getting ready for another showing at one of the nation's premier dairy events.
When they checked in to the show, which is now done electronically, the young veterinarians asked what her name was. "I told them and when no one seemed to recognize it I said, 'Wow, we must be getting old girl, nobody remembers us,' then a little while later 15-20 people came to see her after word got around," Bassler told Wisconsin State Farmer with a smile.
Snickerdoodle was Supreme Champion at World Dairy Expo once and Reserve Supreme twice, he said, and has also made a name for herself with a host of offspring, a lifetime of milk production and a personality to go with it.
Bassler enjoyed showing off his big cow and telling stories about her to visitors the day before Expo was set to open.
"I was giving an IV to another cow in the barn at home before we came and when Snickerdoodle came around the corner, saw the IV equipment in my hand she took off running. She didn't want to have anything to do with that," he chuckled.
She has earned that aversion to IVs. "She has nine lives," he said. Once she had to have 15 feet of small intestine removed after it telescoped on itself. Another time she had a torsion in her uterus. She has also suffered with bouts of scours and toxemia.
But Bassler has gotten her through all of those health crises.
The Brown Swiss dairyman grew up with registered Swiss in Maryland where his dad had 120 head of registered Brown Swiss cows. In 1975 young Allen bought a 4-H calf and five generations down from that heifer he got Snickerdoodle.
The memorably named cow has two daughters at this year's show, one in Bassler's show string and one in that of another exhibitor.
Her genetics figure strongly in the breed as the big cow has been flushed 46 times and produced a "pretty amazing" tally of 420 embryos, he said. Bassler still owns seven of her daughters.
The old cow is showing this year as an aged, dry cow because they haven't been able to get her pregnant. But Bassler said he'd love to see her udder full of milk again; that's when she really shines.
In her lifetime she has produced 261,000 pounds of milk. "That probably puts her as one of the highest lifetime producing cows ever to come to Expo," he said.
In her breed, she ranks 15th for production of pounds of fat and 20th for pounds of protein.
But her production and her beauty are only a couple of the things Bassler loves about the cow. "At 15 years old she still runs around like a two-year-old – and she's a cow that weighs about 500 pounds more than the average Brown Swiss cow."
Bassler has a herd of 12 cows – all Brown Swiss except for one Jersey – and grazes them on his farm, making cheddar style and Asiago farmstead cheese from their milk.
The hand-made cheese is sold at local farmer's markets and vineyards.
He credits the grass-based system for helping with the longevity of cows like Snickerdoodle.
He's proud to have bred two national champions. He sold the other one and kept Snickerdoodle, having now brought her to Expo nine times. "I wanted to bring her back to Expo so people could see her."
He's become something of a mentor to people who breed and raise cows that achieve showring greatness and become very valuable. "I've had a lot of offers over the years from people who wanted to buy her, but I just knew her better than anyone else and wanted to keep her."
She has paid him back with fame that extends beyond the U.S. dairy world. He recently judged a Brown Swiss show in Peru and people there knew him as the owner of Snickerdoodle.