CE-MR-2-Very own calfby Richard Smith, Saratoga County Extension Agent
To have my very own calf and the places we will go was the theme of this year’s Saratoga County 4-H Calf Scholarship winner’s essay. She is 11 year old Libby Swatling who packs a ton of enthusiasm in her small frame. Libby first became a dairy calf lover when she lived on a Saratoga County dairy farm. She was introduced to cows and calves and instantly fell in love with, as she puts it, “Brown Cow”, a Jersey in a herd of nearly all Holsteins. It is easy to understand Libby’s attraction to the unique animal in the group, but the bond grew as did Libby. She mentioned in her letter that she could still call to the now mature cow and the cow would respond to her even after she moved away from the farm. The old saying “you can take the person off the farm but can’t take the farm out of the person” is as true today as years ago.
This wonderful introduction to calves and cows is what fostered Libby to dream of owning her own calf someday. Thanks to this well established program within Saratoga County the dream was a possibility. Encouraged by several of the Dairy Club leaders and volunteers, Libby submitted an application essay.
It was extremely well written, heartwarming and clearly a winning essay if I ever saw one. She mentioned her early life and her relationship with “Brown Cow”. More importantly she stated her desire to learn all she can and excel in caring for her own calf. Libby participates in the Dairy Club meetings and activities. One in particular was the Capital District Regional Dairy Quiz Bowl where she and her fellow team members won the contest. They will attend the New York State Fair and do some contest demonstrations to fairgoers. Seth Wadsworth, Herd Manager of Eildon Tweed Farm, is the 4-H volunteer coach and has dedicated a great deal of time coaching this team. His wealth of knowledge and genuine nature of instruction is evidenced in the outstanding team that represents Saratoga County.
Behind Libby’s contagious smile is one determined young lady. She demonstrated an exceptional novice showmanship year with her scholarship calf aptly named “Liberty”. Together they entered the show ring proud and standing tall. Oh yes, Libby smiled the entire time. While she didn’t place first she was nonetheless a thrilled participate and determined that was the beginning of no doubt what will be a long career.
Indeed Libby and her calf “Liberty” made a mark on the 172nd Saratoga County Fair. Her display and herdmanship skill garnered high marks and she won two days of the individual “Herdmanship Rosettes” and placed first in the Saratoga County Fair Herdsmanship Award.
While the efforts to excel are surely due to Libby and Liberty there remains the fact that the very opportunity is made possible by the forward thinking of the Saratoga County 4-H and the many volunteers who realized long ago the rewarding experiences that such a scholarship could provide.
Finally, the story is only complete once I reveal “the rest of story” as my hero radio broadcaster Paul Harvey would say. Libby’s dreams were fostered by so many in the farming community but none more than co-owners of Hanehan Family Farm Cliff and Kathy Hanehan. For it was there that little Libby fell in love with cows and in fact the “Brown Cow” she so loving commented about was either a scholarship calf (won by one of the Hanehan daughters) or the offspring of a scholarship animal. The Hanehans encouraged Libby and I bet it wasn’t hard to go for the opportunity. It was also the Hanehans and their interest in the program and Libby that helped make this outstanding calf available to Kayla Marois to provide for Libby.
Each youngster who wins a scholarship calf agrees to supply back a calf down the road to another deserving youngster. This year it was Kayla Marois from Willow-Marsh Farm’s turn to return a calf to the program. Kayla and family bargained with Cliff Hanehan to secure a calf to return to the program. Cliff Hanehan reported that in the process of researching the blood lines of Libby’s calf he found that little “Liberty” traces back to Willow-Marsh Farm breeding. I guess you could say that was kind of poetic justice.
Administering the Saratoga County 4-H Dairy Scholarship program is the highlight of my job and each year I’m amazed at the outstanding youth that have come through this program. Over my 10 years running this program I get a renewed excitement and thrill just like the winners do and this year I found myself smiling more than ever but not nearly as much as Libby.