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Minnesota Hosts National Red & White Convention
June 7, 2017

KASSON, Minn. — For nearly 100 years, red and white Holsteins were despised compared to their black and white counterparts.

Minnesota Hosts National Red & White Convention The coloration, which is caused by a recessive gene, was considered a negative.

Today, it’s a different story. The upcoming National Red and White Convention in Kasson will celebrate the success of red and white cattle and bring together dairy farmers from across the country who raise them.

“One of the best things that can happen on a dairy farm is to have a red and white calf,” said red and white cattle expert and author Ron Eustice, who will be in attendance. His brother, Bob, who lives in Byron, is a member of the statewide committee that planned the event.

The convention, which runs June 7-9, will feature meals, farm tours, youth events and speakers — plus a sale and calves to be won in raffles. A new queen to represent the breed will also be chosen.

What’s the deal with red and whites?

Ron Eustice has written two books about red and white cattle, with his second to be showcased at the convention, titled “They Saw Red! History of Red and White Holstein Dairy Cattle in North America.”

He said “the red factor” has long been present in some of America’s best-known Holstein herds, yet for years, farmers disdained having calves with the coloring.

“A red and white calf would appear and spoil their day, because they didn’t understand genetics,” Eustice said. “What I have done is studied the early history of some of the most well-known herds of cattle in the U.S. and Canada and traced those pedigrees back to the Netherlands, and also taken a look at paintings in Dutch museums going back to the 1600s. In all cases, there were red and white cattle in those paintings.”

According to his research, a cow named Clotilde was imported to the U.S. in the late 19th century from the Netherlands, and she carried the recessive gene for red and white coloration. She had seven heifer calves who also carried it, and by the early 1900s, the gene had spread across the country.

Eustice said he and a research team looked at records from about 10,000 cattle. The book details the history of how the red gene spread, including a mention of a famous bull from Austin sold to Carnation Farms by the Minnesota Holstein Company. Though the bull was popular and lived to be 21 years old, Carnation Farms disposed of red calves. But the tide changed when Larry Moore, who lived near Green Bay, Wis., started a herd of red and white Holsteins in the late 1950s. The Red and White Dairy Cattle Association was established in 1964, and they’ve been having conventions ever since.

Along with the new book, there will also be a new painting on display at the convention that Bob Eustice commissioned. The painting features some of the champion dairy cattle of several breeds from the area. It includes red and white Holsteins, as well.

A message for dairy farmers

The convention will mostly take place at the Dodge County fairgrounds and Events By Saker, with a banquet on the evening of June 8.

Bob Eustice said he hopes all local dairy farmers will attend the banquet.

“We’re having Sarah Schmidt as the emcee,” he said. “I want to encourage all dairy farmers or anyone who has anything to do with the dairy industry to be there, because she is going to have a message for us.”

Schmidt is the director of public affairs for Associated Milk Producers, Inc. She’s been an announcer at the World Dairy Expo as well.

Ron Eustice will give a half-hour presentation about his book at the banquet.

The banquet costs $20 for adults and $5 for youth and is open to anyone. The annual meeting of the RWDCA will follow.

Opportunities for youth

Also on June 8, Little Valley Dairy, south of Plainview, will host an afternoon for youth.

“I would like to see 200-300 youth there,” Bob Eustice said. “I don’t care if they’re farm youth. I just want them here to experience the day, to learn about the farm and the cattle, what they’re all about.”

Holly Thompson, who operates the dairy with her family, said she will give kids a tour after they eat a free lunch. Then Steve Searles will give demonstrations on showmanship.

“I’m going to go way back with the showmanship thing and start with how to tie them up, how to get them broke to lead, and how to wash them,” Searles said. “That’s part of showmanship, and I don’t think a lot of kids know how to get an animal clean, and there’s never been a demonstration on how to do that. Then go to the showmanship part of it in the ring.”

There will also be a couple of low-key judging contests.

Youth can join the RWDCA Juniors chapter. It costs $25 for a lifetime membership. If they join at the convention youth events, they can enter to win a red and white cal in the raffle. Eustice said he’s hoping to have lots of prizes to give away, including 10 show halters donated by John Bierbaum, and a box of items donated by Accelerated Genetics. Youth are encouraged to attend the banquet.

Farm tours and more

Convention attendees can visit up to five dairy farms: Sheeknoll Farms south of Rochester (the home of Dairy Expo champion Thomas); Little Valley Dairy for youth events; Schoene Kuh Dairy in Zumbro Falls; Mahoney Holsteins in Cannon Falls; and Rodash-View Holsteins in Wanamingo. At Rodash-View, the Minnesota State Holstein Association will have a field day in conjunction with the visit.

Attendees can drive to the farms themselves or take a bus from the motel in Kasson. There will be a free meal at Rodash-View as well, on June 9.

The convention will finish up on June 9 with a meal at the fairgrounds and the raffle of another calf, then a sale of about 80 cattle and embryo lots.

“It’s an elite sale,” Eustice said. “We’ve got consignments from all over the United States of red and red carrier animals. We just hope for the best, but the dairy economy’s not very good, so you don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Regardless, the reputation of red and white dairy cattle has dramatically shifted for the better, and that’s being celebrated in southeast Minnesota.

“Now people will pay a premium for reds because some people just want something different in their barn,” Thompson said.

By: Brita Moore


Summer 2018