A fair tradition
BY KRISS NELSON
SPENCER – The third generation of the Vernon and Suzanne Winterhof family is considered the workforce behind their Guernsey show cattle.
And thankfully, said the elder generations, the younger intends to maintain this tradition of showing Guernseys at the Clay County Fair.
The Winterhofs were present at their 36th year at the Clay County Fair, assisted by their grandchildren – Renae and Marcus Hinkeldey.
Vernon Winterhof, said Renae Hinkeldey, who holds a degree in dairy science from South Dakota State University, can answer his dairy cattle-related questions.
Marcus Hinkeldey is attending Iowa Lakes Community College, majoring in ag production.
He is the “farm boy,” Suzanne Winterhof said.
“If it wasn’t for the grandchildren I don’t know if I would still be here,” said Vernon Winterhof. “They are the workhorses behind showing the animals at the fair.”
Although showing Guernseys is the main objective, the Winterhofs said they enjoy being part of Ag-Citing, an experience at the Clay County Fair.
The Ag-Citing program is sponsored by Iowa State University Extension professionals with the help of many sponsors to promote the importance of agriculture and natural resources among young people.
It does this while developing their understanding, appreciation and application of science through a variety of hands-on activities.
“It is one way for us to help make the public aware of farming and the dairy industry,” said Suzanne Winterhof.
“Some have no concept of where their food comes from anymore,” said Vernon Winterhof. “I actually had a fifth-grader once try to tell me his milk didn’t come from a cow, that it came from the store and the store got it from the factory.
“I told him the cow is the factory.”
This problem, Vernon Winterhof added, is due in part of the multi-generational gap separating children from the farm.
“Most of the small children coming through here are four to five generations removed from the farm,” Winterhof said.
With the Ag-Citing program, Suzanne Winterhof said the children get classroom-like learning on all aspects of agriculture on display at the Clay County Fair, from machinery to animals.
The Winterhof’s Guernsey cattle display is no exception.
“We try to give the kids a knowledge of what agriculture and dairy is,” she said.
At the fair, the Winterhofs’ Guernseys included five heifers and a 1-month-old calf, Jolee, situated in the cattle barn. This makes it easy for fair-goers to visit with the family.
Vernon Winterhof said he loves visiting with show-goers as well as the other dairy farmers at the fair.
“I am a people person and what a better opportunity than this to be right here to visit with people,” Winterhof said.
Many of these acquaintances return annually, as do the dairy farmers.
“The camaraderie of the other dairy exhibitors is great,” Winterhof said. “It’s become like a fraternity, we all work and cooperate with each other.”
He said that over the years, they have placed well in competition at the fair.
At one time, for three consecutive years, all but one of their entries was in the lineup for junior champion, which means they were either first or won their class.
They have won several premiere breeder and premier exhibitor awards, including junior champion and grand champion.
This year, the family earned junior champion and overall reserve champion at the Clay County Fair 2015 dairy show.
To the Winterhofs, the Clay County Fair is at the top of shows and fairs.
“It is in par with the Iowa State Fair, there’s something for everyone here,” Suzanne Winterhof said.
Vernon Winterhof added, “The management here makes us feel welcome and always ready to come back.”
The Winterhofs began raising Guernsey cattle when they were married 56 years ago.
Vernon Winterhof said his father-in-law had a good heifer crop that year and told him that when he was ready to start milking he would help him get started.
But they had an understanding that although milking takes up a lot of time and labor, to not forget he married his daughter, not the cows.
Since then, they’ve developed and operated a registered Guernsey herd for 40 years.
The Winterhofs farm a section of land near Aurelia, raising corn and soybeans in addition to their Guernseys.
They’ve been farming and raising cattle with help of family, so hiring outside help has seldom been necessary.
“We have managed to live and make a living on the same piece of real estate my entire life,” said Winterhof.
The Winterhofs said they have begun to scale down their operation and no longer milk cattle – selling their calves to another dairy and are focusing on show cattle.
Renae Hinkeldey is currently using her dairy science degree working with Westview Dairy, in Harris, and said her family will continue showing Guernseys at the Clay County Fair for many years to come.
“If I have my way we will keep on showing,” she said. “We all take turns showing and I like getting together with the other dairy industry people.”
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