HARRISBURG, PA — On the show circuit, every farm family wants its animals to be the first to walk out of the ring, blue ribbon pocketed or purple banner in hand. Even with the competitive spirit that generates, it fosters a sense of family who cares about each other’s successes, cow families and relationships. That camaraderie is evident at the All-American Dairy Show in Harrisburg, PA.
For the Younker brothers, Andrew and Joel, exhibiting their dairy cattle, especially at the All-American, has always been a part of farm life. They have a strong passion for showring competition, breeding top-quality cows and maintaining the friendships they make along the way.
The Younker family’s Kirbyville Holsteins is near Fleetwood, Berks County, PA. It was established in 1995 by the boys’ parents, Jim and Sue Younker.
Bitten by the show bug
The boys’ childhoods included chores in the barn, playing around the cows and learning to respect the farm. It also included owning their own animals. Early on, Jim and Sue purchased Andy’s first 4-H animal, Favreutiere Igniter Pamtouf, from Canada. She would become his foundation cow.
“That first cow got me hooked,” said Andy.
Pamtouf’s September Storm daughter, Kirbyville SS Pamelama-ET, built on her mother’s successes by winning three Best Bred and Owned awards, including at the 2009 All-American Premier National Junior Show in Harrisburg.
MD-Dunloafin Starburst also brought Andy success, producing two Goldwyn daughters that brought home blue ribbons in the youth divisions of the Fall Yearling in Milk and the Fall Yearling classes at World Dairy Expo in 2011.
Kirbyville Goldwyn Sass, one of those two daughters, stands out as one of Andy’s finest. Sass did well as a calf, yearling and a 2-year-old cow. As a fall yearling in 2011 she stood first in class at the expo and in its Junior Holstein Show. As a 2-year-old she took intermediate champion, reserve grand champion and best bred-and-owned honors in the Premier National Junior Holstein Show. Sass was nominated Junior All-American for three consecutive years.
Andy has accumulated more than a dozen best bred-and-owned awards. Joel has also found showring success so far in his show career.
Joel developed a respect for the Brown Swiss breed and now seven of his 15 animals are Swiss. He received his first Swiss, Northkill Creek Brownie, as a Christmas present.
Joel’s favorite cow, Windy-Knoll View Prudence, earned Junior Champion honors at the Grand National Junior Holstein Show at Louisville in 2010. That year she was nominated Junior All-American Winter Calf.
Learning from the Pros
Jim has played a key role in his sons’ dairy experiences. Their herds have improved because of Jim’s attention to the details of breeding decisions that advance each generation of the Younkers’ showstring. Andrew and Joel participate, learn and grow.
The boys acknowledge the skills of hoof trimmer Jim Taranto for “pointing us in the right direction” with feeding techniques to grow outstanding heifers. They credit their showring performance to mentors like Brad Hoover, Bryant Hlavaty and Nate Heim who taught them how improve as showmen and fitters.
One important lesson they’ve learned: “Showing doesn’t start in the summer — it’s a year-round commitment that starts from the calf’s first day.”
And their advice for younger showmen: “Find a mentor. Watch older exhibitors and pay attention to the details that matter to them — take note of successful showmen. That will help you when it’s your time in the ring.”
Looking to the Future
Andy works at a welding shop and helps on the farm. He looks forward to the opportunity to return to the farm full time. Joel, a high school junior, works on the farm when he’s not in school.
Show season starts early for the Younker brothers and keeps them busy juggling work, farm and time at local, state and national dairy shows.
“Showing is an expensive hobby,” said Andy with a smile, “but the skills, experiences and memories last far beyond ringside.”
The young dairymen look forward to managing the family dairy, continuing to exhibit at major shows and breeding for excellence, building on the successes made by their parents.