A feature in our Spring 2022 issue, written by Kathleen O’Keefe.
Washington State has long been known as a prime place for milk production, but for the Young family – owners and operators of Claquato Farm in Chehalis, WA – that history of dairying predates even Washington statehood! Their ancestors boarded a ship bound from Maine on April 15, 1865 to look for opportunity in what was then known as the Washington Territory. The Panama Canal had not yet been constructed, so that journey entailed sailing down around the southern tip of South America to go from the Atlantic to the Pacific – more than six months of sailing.
It’s no surprise that when those forebears landed and settled in the Chehalis River Valley in 1867, they stayed put. The Young family continues to farm that land to this day – now with the 4th, 5th and 6th generations as a part of the operation. Kevin and Margaret Young – the 4th generation – started changing over the existing dairy herd from grade cattle to registered cattle, and applied for the Claquato prefix.
That prefix – a local Indian term for ‘high ground’ as the farm sits on a hill – has been well-represented in the show ring and All-American contests for the past couple of decades. The Youngs really enjoy showing, but have never been afraid to let a good one go. Numerous Holsteins, Jerseys and Red & Whites carrying the Claquato prefix have championships and All-American and All-Canadian nominations for other owners.
Presently the farm, home to a 210-head herd of registered Holsteins and Jerseys, is owned by three brothers: Dusty, Denny and Derrick, who are the 5th generation. Dusty manages the cows, breedings, and management decisions. Denny manages the cropping, feed for the cattle and repairs around the farm. Derrick is a mortgage broker in Portland, Oregon and helps with the books and farm logistics. Dusty’s wife, Carol, manages the books and oversees the calf raising. In addition to the family labor, the farm has one full-time milker, one part-time milker, and one farmhand.
The 6th generation is taking on a bigger role as well in the operation. That includes the children of Dusty and Carol: Gary (20), who works as a professional welder; Lauryn (17), who helps with the calves and young heifers, the show string, and handles a great part of the marketing; and Kinley (13), who also helps with the calves. Denny and his wife, Nikki, have three children: Jolynn, Ella, and Abby; and Derrick has two children, Bella and Ryan.
The farm consists of 650 acres on which they grown all of their own corn, grass hay and haylage. They only need to purchase grain and some alfalfa for the TMR. The milking herd is housed in three free-stall barns and are milked in a double-8 herringbone, rapid exit parlor. Another free-stall barn houses the dry cows, and the heifers also have their own free-stall facility. The calves are kept in a barn with 40 individual pens, while the weaned calves and show heifers are moved into box stalls. There is also a show cow pack barn that houses up to 12 individuals. All animals are pastured during the summer months.
High-type is a priority for the Youngs, and they focus on pedigrees and matings that emphasize cow families, udders and feet and legs – both in the Holsteins and the Jerseys. Any animals they purchase also have to live up to that criteria. The results of that philosophy is evident from their most recent classification: 47 Jersey cows average 88.2 points, and 99 Holsteins average 85.9 points.
Two cow families make up a large part of the Holstein herd. Claquato Armani Sun Daze EX-94 95-MS 2E is currently the highest scored cow in Washington, and completes twelve generations of VG & EX cows tracing back to the VT-Pond-View herd in Vermont by way of Canada. That one generation bred in Canada was the third dam of Sun Daze – Holywell-I Encore Staci, purchased by Kevin as a heifer on the 2001 Sale of Stars, who went on to become an Excellent cow. Sun Daze, bred and owned by Gary, Lauryn and Kinley, was the Grand Champion of the Western Fall National Junior Show in 2019 and 1st 4-year-old and Senior Champion of the open show. About a third of their Holsteins hails from this strong pedigree and the Youngs love the family for the consistent high type it delivers.
Another homebred EX-94 cow that was well-known in the region was Claquato Goldwyn Regina EX-94 95-MS 4E, a four-time Grand Champion at the Washington State Show. Her dam – Cutmar Supersire Robinetta – was bred in Nova Scotia and was purchased as a young cow by Kevin from Mike Deaver who had spotted her at Harry Weier’s Dun-Did farm in Wisconsin. That three-year-old matured into an EX-95 cow with an EX-97 mammary system, and she too was a four-time Grand Champion at the state show. Regina’s Sanchez daughter, Claquato Sanchez Rosalie is EX-94 with an EX-95 udder and has twice been Reserve Grand Champion at the state show. The ‘R’ family now makes up roughly a third of the Holstein herd at Claquato.
With that emphasis on high-type, great udders, and longevity, it’s easy to see how the herd was selected to be the official Holstein herd for the Hoard’s Judging Contest in 2006. But that was about the time that the little brown cows started making an appearance in Chehalis! Lauryn was born early at 34 1/2 weeks and weighed only 3 1/2 pounds at birth. At that time, her grandpa Kevin never thought she’d be able to handle a Holstein one day, so he and purchased a daughter of Waymar Patrick Nadine EX-97 in partnership, and the Jersey breed found a home at Claquato.
When Lauryn was four, she selected a calf out of the hutch at Family Hill Jerseys to be her first show calf. Family Hill G Faith Flirt, a Griffens Governor daughter, went on to become a fourth-generation EX-95 point cow from the famous ‘F’ family bred by the Lancasters. Flirt was a real powerhouse, and transmitted her high-type on to her offspring. She left 20 daughters at the farm, and to date, ten are Excellent and seven are Very Good. Her Motion daughter, Claquato Flirts Funky Motion VG-87% was nominated All-American and All-Canadian Summer Yearling in 2016 for Rivendale Farms. Her daughter, Claquato Verbatim Flicker is EX-94% and was the 2020 Great Western Futurity winner, and is the dam of Claquato Victorious First Run EX-91%, who was nominated Junior All-American Junior 3-Year-Old in 2020.
The first homebred EX-95 cow at Claquato was bred by Kinley – Claquato Iatola Cupcake, who hails from a different deep family at Family Hill, and Cupcake completed six generations of Excellent cows. Cupcake is extremely balanced with a great udder and has two Excellent daughters in the herd, one by Thriller and one by Andreas.
Dusty and partners Chris Ingram and Mike Berry bought a nice springing heifer from Family Hill in 2011 named Family Hill Counciller Nastia. Eventually scoring EX-93%, this cow had a number of daughters do well in the show ring, including Miss Nastias Tequila Nutcracker-ET, who was the All-American and Junior All-American Winter Calf in 2013, and Miss Nastias Y Not Me, the EX-93% Grandious daughter who was the Supreme Champion of the World Dairy Expo Junior Show in 2017 for Aspen Silva. Nastia also gave Dusty his first co-bred EX-95 cow in Miss Nastias Nice Tequila-ET, owned by Boer Dairy in Texas. She also is the third dam behind Claquato-LB Victorious Nora EX-91%, nominated Junior All-American Junior 3-Year-Old in 2021.
Dusty and Carol have only ever purchased one calf for each kid. From that animal comes everything they breed, show, and sell. Gary and Lauryn have done very well developing their families so far, and Kinley, as the youngest is catching up. When he was younger, Gary developed a fondness for Red & Whites, and since there wasn’t much red in their Holstein herd at the time, He used some of his cattle money to buy a package of embryos on the local Lewis County Holstein Club Sale. By Crackholm Secure out of an EX-92 Advent, the embryos came from a deep cow family bred by Mark and Stephanie Miranda.
The embryos resulted in two heifers and a bull, and one heifer became a brood cow rockstar for Gary. Chameleon Apple Fritter-ET *RC is EX-91 is the dam of Claquato Apple Brandy-Red EX-93, an Awesome daughter that was the All-American R&W Junior 3-Year-Old in 2020, and was purchased by Glamourview Farm in Spring 2021. That same year, her Devour daughter – Claquato D Applesauce-Red – was nominated All-American R&W Fall Calf, and her Devour granddaughter – Claquato Apple Cider-Red – was nominated Junior All-American R&W Fall Calf. In 2019, Claquato Apple Turnover-Red VG-87, her Armani daughter was nominated All-American R&W Junior 2-Year-Old.
With these kinds of results, it’s no surprise that Claquato genetics are in demand. The Youngs market their cattle by showing at local, state and national shows, through their active and engaging farm Facebook page, some print advertising, and through consigning to sales across the country. They recently sold two head at the heavily-attended Amplify Sale at Vierra Dairy, where a nice Sidekick summer junior 2-year-old prospect was purchased by RuAnn Genetics, and a pretty Joyride summer yearling found a new home with the sale host, Vierra Dairy.
More recent good news from California for the Youngs came the next week when Lauryn exhibited the Supreme Champion of the 2022 Western Classic Dairy Show, Whey-Mat DB Paige, a VG-87 EX-MS Diamondback daughter that goes back to the T-Triple-T Dundee Paige family.
Along with building a deep-pedigreed dairy herd, the Young family has always been active advocates and supporters of the dairy community in Washington. Dusty was awarded the Washington State Holstein Young Breeder Award in 1997, and in a nice full circle, he and Carol were named the Master Breeder at the recent 2022 Washington State Holstein Convention. At the same convention, Dusty’s parents, Kevin and Margaret (who will celebrate their 50th anniversary this spring), and his grandparents, Fred and June, were inducted into the Washington PDCA Hall of Fame for their lifelong contributions to the state’s dairy industry.
With an enthusiastic 6th generation working in the barn everyday, the Youngs are looking to the future. To support that next generation, the possibility of investing in robots and/or processing their own milk are serious options they are weighing. One thing seems certain – that after 155 years on their piece of land called Claquato, the Youngs will find a way to stay there for years to come!