The 13th annual Massachusetts Blue Ribbon Calf Sale was held March 17 and 18 at the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, MA. The event was organized by the Massachusetts 4-H Dairy Committee with the goal of having several different types of quality calves for sale in one location. At the same time, it’s a major fundraiser to support the Massachusetts 4-H Dairy Program. It’s also a prime opportunity to help youth learn about dairy cattle from some of the top professionals within the cattle industry.
“A lot of people that consign animals with us are past 4-H’ers who want to give back,” Vice Chairwoman of the Massachusetts 4-H Dairy Committee Lisa Norris said. “They like to do it to support the Massachusetts Dairy Program.”
There were a total of 69 calves at this year’s sale, made up of Holsteins, Red and White Holsteins, Milking Short Horns, Brown Swiss, Jerseys, Guernsey and Ayrshire. At the close of the consignment 68 out of 69 calves were sold. A final sales total is yet to be determined for this event but it’s worth noting last year’s total brought in a record breaking $107,525.00. The average price paid per calf this year was $1,540 with the highest sale going to a 4-H’er from Middlesex, MA at a price of $5,000 for a Jersey fall calf consigned by Cowbell Acres from Canton, NY.
Massachusetts Blue Ribbon Calf Sale Co-Chairperson Carrie Sears said she was very pleased with how this year’s event went.
“I think overall it was a very successful sale despite the slow start,” Sears said. “We were delayed with getting our calves here from a snowstorm that came in Tuesday and our numbers were slightly down because people were worried about predicted snow storm over the weekend,” Sears said. “Despite all this we had a lot of positive comments from people. We want give a special thanks to all of our sponsors and calf owners. They are the reason that our sale was a success.”
Sears also noted they used Facebook and Youtube videos for the first time this year to help sell a couple of their calves.
“Two of our 68 calves were sold by video, which is a first this year,” Sears said. “I think that this is the way that people are going when it comes to the future of sales. One of our thoughts is that people today have such busy lives that they can’t always come out to auctions. Also, some people are not comfortable sending young calves in weather like this. It is easier for us as well because there are less animals on site for us to take care of.”
There were plenty of other aspects as part of this year’s event including on site vendors. There was as a silent auction being held on high quality semen ranging from five to 10 units from different farms and organizations. There was also a Chinese raffle with various items donated by farmers and 4-H groups. According to Sears the Chinese raffle did very well this year raising just under $2,000 in a matter of four hours.
The entire event kicked off one day prior to the actual calf sale with a pizza dinner for all 4-H participants and their parents. Prospective buyers also had the opportunity to stop by on this first day of the show to preview the sale cattle.
This was followed by a pair of informative clinics led by employees from Arethusa Farm out of Litchfield, CT. The farm is well known for the development of premier home-bred Holsteins, Jerseys and Brown Swiss show cows.
The first clinic was conducted by Carly Coon, a show barn manager at Arethusa Farm with an Agri-business degree from SUNY Cobleskill. Coon discussed the different types of equipment and supplies needed to prepare cattle for the show. Arethusa farm manager Matt Senecal came afterwards to discuss the different aspects of proper showmanship.
Following the presentations all the participants got the opportunity to practice their showmanship skills with an actual calf. After this, participants took part in a fun showmanship contest in which allowed them to win prizes based on how well they were able to show their animal to its best advantage.
“In this type of contest the kids are being judged on their ability to present the animal,” 4-H leader and show volunteer Kristie Kelly said. “Judges are looking at things like how they are holding the halter, how well they are pulling the calf’s throat and how well the animals feet are positioned. In a real show they would also be judged on fitting, cleanliness, conformation based on nutrition and how much they have worked with the animal.”
In addition to this there was a drawing which took place among participants in which one lucky winner received $100 off the purchase price of one calf at the sale.
According to Kelly there were approximately 100 youths ranging from ages six to 18 taking part in the clinics. The wide age ranges and strong participation was welcome news to Massachusetts 4-H Dairy Committee Chairman Martin Shaw.
“This group of kids here today is the foundation of our cattle and dairy industry,” Shaw said. “This turnout of kids here today shows that there is a family history involved. It also shows that agriculture is alive and well.”
Twenty-three-year-old Katie Shaw of Oxford, MA is one former 4-H’er who has come full circle and is now in a leadership position helping the youths at this year’s Blue Ribbon Calf Sale.
“I’ve been with 4-H since seventh grade and with this sale since its inception,” Shaw said. “Now I’m one of the leaders here. I’m also one of the fitting staff. I’m helping to coordinate a lot of the youth activities here and helping the youth so that they learn to work together as a team.”
Shaw says she was inspired to be where she is today by watching what older youths did at the event when she was younger.
“When I was younger I watched a lot of the older kids here go off to college and it motivated me to do the same,” Shaw said. “I knew I wanted to get involved in the professional side of the dairy industry ever since I was in 4-H.”
Shaw, who went on to get her bachelor’s degree in animal science from Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, says she hopes to use her education to help motivate the youths of today to do the same. Shaw says youths who are involved in programs like 4-H and events like the Blue Ribbon Calf Sale are on their way to learning a lot of relevant skills related to the dairy industry.
“It’s definitely a great way to learn professional dairy industry skills in terms of fitting, organizing and running a sale,” Shaw said.
For more information on the Massachusetts Blue Ribbon Calf Sale, including photos and updates from past consignments, visit blueribboncalfsale.com .