It was a good show experience for the Byma family, with several impressive wins in the state fair show ring, thanks to three generations’ involvement in showing.

Although retired from milking dairy cows after 35 years, Linda and Benjamin Byma still feel close to the industry – and their family – through dairy cows. The couple sold their farm but now raise 15 head of show calves and heifers on their 10-acre B&L Holsteins in Ilion, NY.

“I decided it was boring and we needed something to do,” Linda said with a laugh. She works for a fuel company and Benjamin works in property management.

Their son Jesse and daughter-in-law Renee Byma milk around 80 head near their home. Son Brett and daughter-in-law Christina Byma work off their farm, but also raise about 30 head of beef cattle in nearby Frankfort, NY.

So why get back into raising calves after selling the farm (other than the aforementioned boredom)?

“I enjoy it,” Linda said. “It takes me back to when their fathers were little. It was something to do with the boys. My husband is hands-on too. He comes home from work, and we go out and take care of the calves.”

They’re also hands-on with teaching their grandchildren how to show, if they’re interested. Jesse and Renee’s children (Luke, 13; Levi, 11; and Faith, 8) all enjoy showing. Luke’s winter calf, bred by B&L, won Junior Champion at the 4-H Show.

Kaylee, 11, is Brett and Christina Byma’s daughter. She won first place with her spring yearling, also bred by B&L. Her brother Nathan, 7, also shows, but isn’t old enough to show at the state level yet.

Showing draws generations together

Kaylee Byma, 11, clips a show cow for B&L Holsteins before showing at the New York State Fair. Photo by Deborah J. Sergeant

“It takes a lot of hard work and practice,” Linda said. “You get out of it what you put into it.”

She recommended selecting good breeding stock as the foundation of raising successful show animals, but “it’s always in the calf raising,” she said. “Good care makes a good calf a really great calf. It’s nutrition and cleanliness. A clean calf is a happy calf and a happy calf grows. I can’t say what might make one calf do well compared with another calf. You have to adjust your nutrition on each calf.”

The children practice with the animals and handle them at least every other day so they’re used to having a halter on and being led. Linda coaches the kids to remain calm in the ring.

“The cows are like people – you have your very calm cows and very high strung,” she said. “We have one in the show cows who’s very jittery. We practice in the ring while people are walking around. You have to get them used to the noise.”

In addition to the New York State Fair, the Byma grandchildren participate in the Farmers’ Museum Junior Livestock Show in Cooperstown, the Otsego-Herkimer-Montgomery (OHM) Holstein Club Show and the Otsego County Fair. Smaller events like these are dress rehearsals for the stiffer competition at the New York State Fair, held Aug. 23 – Sept. 4 this year.

“You have to bring your ‘A’ game,” Linda said. “You will be competing with other kids competing as much as you have. You have to try your hardest and have fun.”

She sees the long-term benefits of showing including the notion that “effort and hard work will help you succeed in life. If you want it, you’ll have to work for it,” she said.

Linda also enjoys the way that showing draws the family together for a common goal.

“We all work well together,” she said. “On show day, we were five adults and five children, and we all worked together.”

by Deborah Jeanne Sergeant