A feature article in our 2021 Fall Issue, written by Julie Ashton.
If you took a poll of attendees’ memories from the 2019 World Dairy Expo, ‘Brown Swiss show’ would probably appear more than once. Not only did Delilah walk away with back-to-back Grand Champion titles, but the official judge provided entertainment of his own – from crouching in the ring for the perfect look to unique reasons like “She’s a honey of a calf,” “She’s a silk wagon,” and finally about his Grand Champion, “She’s a train coming at ya, and if she’s a train, what a caboose!” The man behind the mic that day was Joe Sparrow of Fairdale Farm LLC, a small, but powerhouse Brown Swiss operation located in Owenton, Kentucky.
And while the cows that day were certainly impressive, Joe’s speech during Grand Champion was heartful and brought emotion to the crowd:
“25 years ago, I was sitting in the passenger seat of my dad’s pick-up truck like any other Saturday in winter, we ground ear corn every Saturday to feed our cattle for the week and it was fun to get to be with him alone. We got biscuits and gravy and it was the highlight of my week. I was about halfway through my third biscuit when he stopped me and asked me to open the glove box, and in it was a bank envelope with eight $100 bills, and he told me he had saved that money to buy my brothers and I our first Brown Swiss calf at the upcoming spring sale. And we did, Goldfawn Lucy, who went on to be an Excellent cow, and he lit a fire that day in me for dairy and Brown Swiss that will never be put out. He fostered it, took us to 25 county fairs every summer, drug us all over the place, works daylight to dark, and just to help us support our dream. And as a parent, that is the greatest thing you can do, support your children’s dreams, and I only hope I can do something like that for my boys, thank you all for everything you’ve done for me!”
Pretty remarkable that this day in 1994 would be the fuel that has fired three brothers to breed and develop an outstanding herd of Brown Swiss that has earned national recognition in both the show ring and the barns at home.
Richard Sparrow, the patriarch of Fairdale, purchased his first grade Brown Swiss in 1962 and shipped milk to a local Kraft food processor. He has farmed his whole life, and sons Ben, Joe and Kirby joined the operation, starting their own farm in 2012. Today, they milk 40 Registered Brown Swiss, while all having off the farm jobs as well. Richard is on the farm full-time, but one of the three boys are on the farm each day to assist with chores, farming and day-to-day activities; there are no other employees than the four of them. The next generation of Sparrows is eager to start, but it might be a few years for Archie (5), Wylie (3) and Hallie (3).
Cows are housed in a compost bedded pack barn, fed grain in the parlor and a PMR outside. The Sparrows farm 800 acres and grow their own Corn Silage and Triticale/Ryegrass baleage as well.
While the set-up is simple and the nutrition uncomplicated, the cows of Fairdale know how to work. With an RHA of 28,520M 4.4F 3.6P on 40 cows, they were named High Herd in Kentucky for Energy Corrected Milk in both 2019 and 2020. The entire herd averages a classification score of 88.2. The breeding goals are relatively simple as well according to Joe: “Our goals are to improve our herd with each crop of 2-year-olds we freshen in. We have IVF’d 10 sessions already in 2021 and focus on udder with production and overall type traits. Additionally, DPR has become a major factor in our sire selection compared to 5 years ago.”
The efforts that they have put forth with their breeding program has certainly proven worthwhile. In 2019, they received the Ira Inman PTPR Trophy for Group 2 (30-49 cows) from the Brown Swiss Association. This trophy “can only be gained through a total progressive dairy program including breeding, feeding and management,” according to BSA. They were runners-up in 2020 in the same category by fewer than 100 points, but nearly 600 points above the third-place farm.
While the brothers began showing at a young age, the blue ribbons didn’t come automatically. They’ve built and developed an outstanding herd over the last two decades, and with that hard work and dedication, have the seen the results firsthand. Since 2010, Fairdale has bred or owned 40 All American Nominations, with numerous state and national champion titles along the way. They’ve also received Premier Exhibitor recognition at two national shows – Harrisburg in 2019 and Louisville in 2020.
While many of the cows at Fairdale are homebred, the Sparrows also recognize the importance of adding new genetics to the herd. When looking to purchase animals, Joe remarked, “Udders and cow families. That’s where it starts for us.”
One such purchase was Kruses Victor Judy (2E-94), who produced over 200,000 lbs. milk in her lifetime. In 2012, Judy won the Senior 3-Year-Old class at Madison and was named Intermediate Champion. Overall, she was named HM All American or higher six times! Her dam was an EX-90 92-MS Vision then a Prelude who was lost at calving. Her next dams were: Kruses Rhythm Joyce (EX-91 93-MS) x Kruses Jade Jackie Vix-ET (3E-93) with over 143,000 lbs. milk lifetime x Kruses Beautician Vixie (5E-90 Superior Brood Cow) x Kruses Stretched Vickie (2E-90 Certified).
Another family that the Sparrows have greatly enjoyed breeding from and developing is that of 7-time All American nominee Top Acres EJ Whizzbang (5E-93). Frosted Sieg Wammy (2E-93) earned numerous purple and blue ribbons in her lifetime, including Intermediate and Reserve Grand Champion honors at NAILE in 2010, Reserve All American Senior 3-Year-Old in 2011 and All American in 2012. In 2013, she started the fall show season off with a Reserve Grand title at the Eastern National show in Harrisburg. Since Joe served as Associate Judge at Expo, she had to sit out Madison week. However, she returned to her glory at Louisville, not only winning the Brown Swiss show, but ultimately named Supreme Champion. She was also named All-American 5-Year-Old to finish the year off.
Fairdale Supreme Wambam (EX-92) is a daughter of Wammy and has her own show accolades, including wins at the Kentucky State Fair as a fall calf, senior 2-year-old, and most recently Reserve Senior Champion in 2019. She was also nominated All American as a 5-Year-Old from her win in Kentucky. Show wins aren’t her only claim to fame either. She produced 43,500M 1800F 1439P as a 5-year-old, earning a Top 10 spot for Milk Records from BSA in 2019. Wambam has pregnancies coming by Daredevil that the Sparrows are excited about. Her full sister, Supreme Waikiki (EX-90) has a best record over 42,000M 4.3F 3.4P with over 165,000 lbs. milk lifetime and has pregnancies to Cadence.
The only daughter of Wammy they have sold is Fairdale Surpeme Wow (VG-86 EX-MS). She was purchased by Hills Valley Farm, NY. She had a best record over 24,000M and her son, Hills Valley R Watchout is a A2A2 Richard son that is at New Generation Genetics. Additionally, they sold a Durham great-granddaughter of Wammy to Alexis Sherry, PA, this spring. She was 2nd Junior in the Winter Calf class at the Maryland Brown Swiss Invitational Show and stood 4th at the Maryland State Fair.
Top Acres Supreme Winzer (EX-90), also calls Fairdale home. She’s a full sister to Top Acres Supreme Wizard (3E-95), Grand Champion of the 2017 International Brown Swiss Show. Her dam is an EX-93 Andre then Whizzbang. She has pregnancies by Daredevil and is on their ET program.
While 2020 certainly provided a lot of uncertainty for most, the Fairdale crew still had quite the year, walking away with 8 individual and one group All American nominations. Leading the way was Kruses GK Thunder Jaclyn, who was HM Grand Champion of the Southeastern National Junior Show for Carter Kruse of Iowa. The Sparrows purchased her after the Junior Show; she then won the Milking Yearling class in the Open Show. She capped the year off right with an All American title. She recently won the senior 2-year-old class at the Kentucky State Fair and is due back in October.
Fairdale Carter Cameo was Reserve Junior Champion at Louisville in 2020, earning her HM All American honors. Her dam, Fairdale Renegade B Cali was HM All American 2018 and 2019. Her grandam, Renegade-Fairdale PS Carma (VG-88 Cert*) was All American Spring Calf in 2010 and All American Spring Yearling in 2011. Her 3rd dam was a EX-91 EX-MS Blue Chip then Hills Valley Jetway Cola (2E-93), All American 5-Year-Old in 2006. Her next two dams were also Excellent. Cameo has returned to the ring in 2021, recently named 1st Fall Yearling and Junior Champion of the Kentucky State Fair.
Combining show wins and production is Lorreda SSBloom Panda (EX-91 92-MS). Fairdale purchased Panda as a just fresh 2nd calf 2-year-old at the Lorreda Dispersal in 2017. She made a record over 42,000 lbs. milk in her first year at Fairdale and was Nominated All American in 2018 and 2019. In 2020, she was recognized with the Vernon C. Hull Total Performance Winner Award after winning the Total Performance Award at both Louisville and
Stillwater. In addition, she was named HM All American 5-Year-Old after placing 2nd at both of those shows as well. She made a 4-04 365-day record of 49,450 4.1 2051 3.4 1667, which converts to 55,483 ECM. This record also puts her at the top of the 2020 Milk Record list and 7th for Protein. She also received the J.P. Eves Trophy for 305-day actual milk production and was a contender for the 2020 Cow of All Seasons Award.
Another top production and type cow at Fairdale is La Rainbow Bfly Sunkist (4E-94). Her best record at 6-01 was 45,770 3.4 1577 3.4 1548, earning her the National Total Performance Award and National Cow For All Seasons Award in 2019. She was also runner-up for the Total Performance Award in 2020. She is a 3X All American Nominee, earning HM honors in the Component Merit class the last two years – she has nearly 240,000 lbs. milk to date! She is from the Butterfly family at La Rainbow Farm, with four Excellent dams and from the same family as popular AI Sire, La Rainbow Bfly Dynamite. Sunkist is on the ET program with exciting daughters on the way.
While Fairdale certainly likes to purchase into new families and expand their genetics, they also see the value in selling select individuals. They manage the Kentucky National Brown Swiss Sale in the spring, usually consigning about 10 individuals. They also have a great relationship with Wayne Sliker, consigning to several of the Modern Associates Sales throughout the year. Additionally, they can move cattle through private treaty from social media and word of mouth.
Combining purchasing and selling in one package is Fairdale Total Cali (3E-94). The Sparrows purchased Vance embryos out of Shen-Val Jetway Cinderella (2E-93), a two-time National Total Performance winner and National Cow For All Seasons winner. Shen-Val Vance Carol was born at Fairdale, eventually scoring EX-91 92-MS and was 2nd 4-year-old at the 2009 Kentucky State Fair. Her daughter is Fairdale Total Cali, who was consigned as a winter calf in the 2012 Midwest Revue Sale and purchased by Ally Jones, KY. Under Ally’s ownership, Cali was Reserve Bellringer Aged Cow and Reserve Senior Champion of the Southeastern Show in 2018. She was sold privately to Emily Goode, also of Kentucky. Emily and Cali saw continued success in 2020, with Grand Champion wins in both the Open and Junior Shows at Louisville, earning her the National Bellringer award and Reserve All American honors. Cali has continued her winning streak into 2021, being named Grand Champion at Spring Dairy Expo and most recently winning the Component Merit class at the Kentucky State Fair.
Showing and milking cows aren’t the only activities the Sparrow family is involved in. Richard ended his tenure of President of the Brown Swiss Association this past year, and all the Sparrow brothers enjoy judging and working with the next generation. They are also actively involved in marketing of Brown Swiss genetics and are working at progressing the breed. “I believe Brown Swiss has and is trending up compared to the other dairy breeds. If you watch our shows and sales and the number of new breeders who want a Swiss, it is incredible,” remarked Joe. “I believe this is due to many factors but is also being limited by a few factors. As a breed we must break some stereotypes, and thankfully our Association is working towards this. I also believe that the breed has garnered the attention from everyone and recently has two cows to thank. Delilah and Snickerdoodle showed that the Big Brown Cow can hang with the Black and Whites and the little Brown Cows!”
“I believe that the breed has garnered the attention from everyone and recently has two cows to thank. Delilah and Snickerdoodle showed that the Big Brown Cow can hang with the Black and Whites and the little Brown Cows!” -Joe Sparrow
The Sparrows also recognize that the dairy industry has changed dramatically over the last few decades and more farmers are closing shop. “I believe change is inevitable. We can’t see what the future holds, however there is no denying that consolidation is coming and has been in the dairy industry,” commented Joe. “As far as our own farm goes, we will always be looking for ways to adapt and survive and given our location, that may mean some drastic changes on how our milk is marketed.”
While their numbers may be small, the results have been incredible at Fairdale. And it’s truly a team effort. While Joe certainly was in the spotlight at the 2019 World Dairy Expo, he recognized his family for make the sacrifice to not exhibit that year. Yet, his family fully backed him, and they wouldn’t have done it any differently. “Judging World Dairy Expo was one of the best moments of my life and a dream come true. I am fortunate to have gotten the opportunity and is something I’ll cherish forever; I’m grateful for everyone that helped and supported me to get there.” And you can be sure, the Fairdale crew will be in full force at Expo this year and will be proud to walk the colored shavings once again.