Minnesota State Fair features Red & White dairy cows

2013-08-13T08:06:00Z Minnesota State Fair features Red & White dairy cowsBy ANDREA JOHNSON Assistant Editor Minnesota Farm Guide
August 13, 2013 8:06 am  • 

When visiting the Moo Booth, look for the Red & White dairy cows getting milked inside the window display at the Minnesota State Fair Cattle Barn.

Red & Whites will be milked every two hours from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. Bleachers will be set up so guests can view the milking process.

Irish Ridge Red & Whites of Millville, in Wabasha County, is overseeing the Red & White 2013 Minnesota Dairy Showcase herd.

A total of 16 Red & Whites will make up the herd.

Irish Ridge Dairy is owned and operated by Vince and Sheri Sexton, with help from their grown children Sarah (Adam) Mellgren, Katie (Bill) Brown, Rob and Staci, as well as their son, Lance, who is still in high school. Their grandchildren, Emily and Ashley Mellgren and Sidney and Ethan Brown, also spend time at the farm. All of the Sextons are dairy farmers or work in dairy-related careers.

While the family has shown cattle for many years, this is the first time Irish Ridge has been featured in the Dairy Showcase.

“It’s once every seven years that you can have a certain breed,” said Staci, a University of Minnesota 2010 graduate. “The Minnesota Red & White Club asked us if we would be interested in taking on the Showcase. We decided it was one of those once-in-a-lifetime ordeals you can do.

“It’s kind of an opportunity, we thought we would take on the challenge. It’s going to be a lot of work, but we enjoy doing it, and we enjoy showing cattle, and putting ourselves out there for the public to see, and be able to answer questions.”

Red & Whites carry a recessive gene allowing for the expression of the red color.

Sheri made the decision to keep two Red & White Holstein heifers that were born into the herd in the 1990s.

“All of our Red & Whites have come from our herd and been bred from our herd,” said Staci, who works for her parents and owns 32 milking cows.

Today, about 25 percent of their dairy herd is Red & Whites or Red & White carriers. All of the Irish Ridge Red and Whites are registered with the Red & White Dairy Association.

The Sextons plan to bring 10 cows to the fairgrounds. Square Deal Dairy will provide two Red & White cows, and Manannah-Valley will provide four Red & White cows.

The Sextons, plus knowledgeable friends, Moo Booth officials and State Fair staff will handle milking and chores each day. They will also answer questions from fair guests.

“It’s a great time for people to learn a little bit more about farming and what we do,” said Staci.

Beef Cow/Calf pair

Each year, the Moo Booth features a cow/calf pair from one beef breed. Scottish Highland cattle will be featured this year.

Two farms will represent the North Central Highland Cattle Association, which has members mainly in Minnesota and Wisconsin. During the first four days of the fair, Schon Boden farms from Osceola, Wis. will provide the cow/calf pair.

During the next portion of the fair, Flatland Farm, LLC, from the southeastern Minnesota town of Elkton, will provide the cow/calf pair.

Owners Mark and Jamie Schulz first saw Scottish Highland cattle at the Minnesota State Fair in 1992. They would stop by the breed display for many years, and they loved seeing the docile nature and beauty of the breed.

They purchased their first Scottish Highland heifers from Circle ME Ranch of Loretto, Minn., in 2006.

Wanting a “heritage” breed, the Schulzes liked the hardiness and disease resistance of the double-coated cattle. The meat is lean but naturally marbled, and Scottish Highland can thrive in a grass-based system.

According to Mark, Scottish Highland cows weigh about 1,100 pounds, finished steers weigh about 1,000 pounds, and mature bulls weigh about 1,800 pounds.

The Schulzes have found their cows prefer to be in the cold and snow rather than take shelter. They do need a wind break in Minnesota’s winters and will use sheds when needed.

High temperatures are more difficult for Scottish Highlands to handle. They can manage with adequate water and shade.

Scottish Highlands are generally featured in the southwest corner of the Cattle Barn during the Open Show. Their placement in the Moo Booth is new for 2013, and allows a broader range of fair guests to see this unique cattle breed.

Copyright 2015 Minnesota Farm Guide. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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