This article was featured in our 2019 Spring issue written by Norm Nabholz.
One week, one breed, upwards of nearly 600 head, one splendid promotion. Welcome to the glory years of the All American Jersey Show. From 1958 to 1966, the All American Jersey Show was held in Columbus, OH, the culmination of the year’s showing. The show followed the National Dairy Cattle Congress by a week, thus giving the big show herds plenty of time to travel from Iowa to Ohio. As many as 12 box cars would ship out and others traveled by truck.
It was quite a festival of the little brown cow and supported by the rich and famous. Beautiful high financed show herds from the likes of Happy Valley Farms, Rossville, GA (woolen mills and dairy processing), Vaucluse Farm, Newport, RI (railroad and Dodge Cars), Heaven Hill Farm, Lake Placid, NY (Schlitz Brewing Company), Happy Valley Farm, Danville, KY (Proctor & Gamble), Pioneer Farm, Old Lyme, CT (attorney), Mayfield Dairy, Athens, TN (dairy processing), Knolle Farms, TX (the world’s largest Jersey Dairy), and others with similar backing would gather in a celebration at the epicenter of the Jersey breed. Columbus, which was and still is the home of the office for the American Jersey Cattle Club, was also only 35 miles from the headquarters of the greatest Jersey sale management team of the era, Chester Folck and Sons, Springfield, OH.
The financing for the first show was strictly by donations and several hours of volunteer time. The commission for the All American Sale would later help to support the show. The sales staff was on a volunteer basis except for the minimal fitting group and they were helped as much as possible by consignors. Everyone chipped in. The promotion of the “little brown cow” was first and foremost with an exhibit featuring the form and function of the breed. Production and efficiency were always highlighted. The first shows included a “milking derby” competition based solely on production with a milk tester on sight to verify the results of each milking. The contest period usually lasted from 5:00 a.m. on Friday to 5:00 a.m. the next Tuesday, for a total of four and a half days or 108 hours. This was very competitive and farms would bring their best milk cows to showcase the production of their breeding programs. The winner in 1965 was Ettas Milestone Babe from Mykrantz Brothers, Wooster, OH, averaging 65.5 lbs of milk. Babe received $300 for her efforts, which would be around $2,400 in 2018 dollars.
THE JUNIOR SHOW
On Saturday the competition would begin in earnest with the All American Junior show. Many of today’s top breeders got their start with the show. Throughout the year, state Jersey associations would gather top talent to compete in the State Herd class and travel and expense would be subsidized by the state associations. As many as 15 states would compete. While the likes of Brian and Dean Sayles, Donna Knoop Griewe, Alta Mae Keightley Core, Steve Bachelor, and the Stiles Family, just to name a few got their start in the ring at Columbus, it was also a springboard for many of the breed’s greatest cows too. All American Open Show Grand Champions such as Beacon Bas Tulip, Mikes Draconis Rose and Fernhill Jestpin Dot were also Grand Champions of the Junior shows during the time frame of 1958-1968.
The first “Pot of Gold” sale was held in 1958 combining a sale and production contest for Juniors only. 25% of the sales gross was set aside and awarded to the three highest records of the heifers that sold three years prior. While several of the sales alumni went on to be famous cows in the breed, including bull mothers like A-Nine Top Brass and other contract cows, the most famous was Ettas Master Babe. Babe sold for $1,050 in the 1967 sale and went on to be a National Dairy Cattle Congress and World Dairy Expo Champion, Jersey Jug Winner, All American sale topper, and All American Junior and Open show Grand Champion, as well as winning the Pot of Gold Production contest. Owner George Barlass sold Babe in the 1970 All American Sale for $12,500 to Heaven Hill Farm.
THE JERSEY JUG
While the schedule changed at times, for many years the next event, and the most glamorous, was the celebrated Jersey Jug Futurity, which was patterned after the Jersey Jug Standardbred horse race in nearby Delaware, OH. Calves were nominated before their first birthday and a yearly fee was paid until the competition of their 3yr Old year. The pageantry of this show was unmatched with queens, trophies, blankets of roses and upwards of a dozen 3yr Old bulls and anywhere from 30-50 3yr Old cows vying for a significant check. In 1965 the winning female received a check for $1005, which in 2018 money would be near $8000. After 1961 the winner was not allowed to compete in the open show in class and was only permitted to show for champion. In the time frame of those ten years, just one cow, Advancer Sleeping Pamela, would win the Jug and be named Grand Champion of the All American show.
The next event on the agenda was the All American Sale. The limited offering was hand selected and approved by a committee and was the crème de la crème of the Jersey breed. The sale was always one of, if not the highest, averaging Jersey sales of the year. To even be selected as a consignor was an honor. Two-time National Champion, Jesterman J. Faith, sold in the sale in 1963 from a farmer breeder in Nebraska to Heaven Hill Farm of New York. Household names like Spruce Avenue Margs Cynthia, Pinn Blonde Oakland and Brampton Gareth Carom all crossed the shavings of the sale. The great strings of Vaulcuse, Heaven Hill and Happy Valley (Kentucky), used the sale to bolster up their string for the next day’s All American show. I Ettas Milestone Babe owned by Mykrantz Brothers, OH, won n 1964 a complete Junior Get of Sire by Advancer Sleeping Jester sold from four separate breeders to Vaucluse Farm. They would win the Junior Get class 24 hours later.
The bull shows were very important in that era and big show herds would have complete strings of bulls. The sale of these bulls to farmer breeders would help to defray the cost of having a show herd on the road. The Grand Champion bull awards were nearly as coveted as the female awards. The younger bull classes could have upward of 20 head, while aged bulls (3 years and older) could reach as high as 15 bulls, all fitted and trained to perfection.
Of course, the highlight of the festivities would be the selection of the All American Grand Champion Female, ensuring the winner in a place of history for the breed. From 1958-1967, only one farm was able to garner that award more than once. Heaven Hill took home the trophy four out of the nine years, in 1963-65-66-67. The farm was also awarded the Premier Exhibitor award six out of the nine years as well. Considering the level of competition and the highly financed show herds competing, it made Heaven Hill’s accomplishment that much more incredible.
During the time frame in which the Jersey breed held its National show away from the other breeds, their herdsmen were getting recognition from their peers as well. Clarence Okerland and Carl Bourne were awarded the Klussendorf Trophy in 1966 and 1967 respectively. They were followed in 1968 and 1969 by fellow Jersey herdsmen Paul Sparrow and Lewis Porter.
Some may call it the golden age of showing and few would disagree that this display of one breed of dairy cattle will never be duplicated as long as there are dairy shows.