Showing cows at the county fair may seem like kid’s stuff, but for Penny Wood and her daughter Haley, 18, of Nunda, NY, the Hemlock “Little World’s” Fair in Hemlock, NY, proves a good place to showcase the work that goes into breeding their registered Angus.
Their operation, D/P Angus, has 56 head on their 156 acres and finishes about 20 annually, along with selling about five bulls. The family brought two steers, three hogs and a bull calf to the fair.
Haley has been showing since age 7, and this year marks her last as an exhibitor. She won Grand Champion in the Bull Calf division and placed in the Market Class. In addition to helping teach responsibility to her four children, of whom Haley is youngest, Penny views the fair as means to promote the farm.
Penny used to work a full-time job off the farm that the family purchased 18 years ago, but about three years ago, they started raising 200 calves at a time for a local dairy farm. Her husband, Dana Wood Jr., works off the farm – even though he came from a farming background and Penny didn’t. Instead of the conventional “farmer and farmwife” arrangement, “I’m the one that does the work on the farm and he’s the secretary,” Penny said with a laugh. But he does pitch in on the weekends, as do their children.
During the fair, Penny found herself driving back and forth to the farm to keep the calves fed. Raising beefers is easier, as they can be stocked up with fodder and rely on their automatic waterers for hydration.
The beef herd receives baleage and dry hay which Penny harvests on 50 acres, rotating the paddocks to become pasture after the first cutting. They sell the meat as freezer beef. They process with Warsaw Meat Packing, located about a half-hour from the farm. To avoid processing bottlenecks, Penny schedules her beef harvesting about a year in advance.
She finally succumbed to creating a Facebook page, choosing this platform as “everyone in the world has it – except I didn’t. Everything’s promoted through Facebook.”
She did note one exception: many of her older clients still rely on Craigslist to find things they need.
Educating customers has always been challenging, and “if they’ve never done freezer beef, they don’t understand,” Penny said.
Some customers need to learn the overall process, that they commit to purchase their beef, pay Penny and pay the slaughterhouse when they pick it up. “I have a lot of new and regular customers, and so far, I haven’t had a complaint,” she said.
She likes to keep the farm transparent, welcoming anyone who wants to see the animals to come to the farm. Her openness and straightforwardness have helped her farm succeed. Penny hopes to continue to increase her herd and improve it through breeding to get better growth on the animals she sells.
Over the years, her ability to help her children with showing has grown with the help of 4-H leaders. Her son started showing at 7; he’s now 24. Penny advises parents that “it doesn’t matter about winning. It’s for the kids to have a good time and meet more people. It’s the 4-H family. They keep in touch more with them than their friends from high school. They work together and do things together every year.”
Haley sold her last show steers – a bittersweet moment for her mom.
“The next time we come, it will be with my granddaughter,” she said. “Showing is awesome; I’ll miss it until then.”