No matter how it is labeled, to be considered a star in a chosen field by your peers is something experienced by few. Through investigating the paths that were traveled in obtaining this lofty position, there are indeed similarities with drive, ability and the ambition that these individuals all possess, but there are differences in backgrounds, ages and geographic locations. This is a profile of six men who have judged countless shows on the grandest stages, have worked with countless great cows, experienced the ultimate awards and have been universally recognized by their peers in one fashion or another. There are no “Silver Spoons” in this group, there are no “birthrights”, just a lot of determination, hard work and a whole lot of respect by the people in
their business. Here is the story of their Training Grounds.
Wayne Sliker was born in rural New Jersey just fifty miles from New York City. His father was a mechanic, welder and airplane trader and his mother was an elementary school teacher. Although they were not farmers, Wayne’s grandfather had a small farm where Wayne kept some project animals. At a young age, Wayne enrolled in 4-H and FFA to learn more about farmers and particularly dairy farming. After working on some local farms as a teenager he obtained a Junior Breeder loan sponsored by the New Jersey department of agriculture. After high school, Wayne worked for Castle Hill Brown Swiss where the foundation for his Top Acres Brown Swiss was started and is still going today, some 57 years later!
There were certain pitfalls when it came to farming in New Jersey in the 1950’s such as high priced land and limited feed and labor resources, however as a training ground for a future “All Star” the location allowed access to some of the world’s finest farms and role models within a short drive. Farms such as Marlu Farm Jerseys, Pineyhill Holsteins and first and foremost, Lee’s Hill Brown Swiss were just a hop, skip and a jump for the future Brown Swiss icon. Hall of fame mentors included Peter Heffering, Dave Younger and above all, Vernon Hull the manager of Lee’s Hill Farm. Interesting that Top Acres would replace Lee’s Hill atop the list for number of
All-American Brown Swiss, a lofty title that is still being added to every year.
When profiling great cow people, the talk always turns to favorite cows and in Sliker’s case the one that holds a special spot is, Kilavock Snow Storm, purchased with her dam as a foundation some 47 years ago. As well as being a great cow to work with, she would become a seven time All-American nominee and one of the most influential brood cows of any breed. There are over one hundred All-American nominees from her direct maternal line, plus the # 1 Genomic heifer in the U.S. and # 1 PLI cow in U.K. are both “Snowstorms”.
This business is truly a team sport and Sliker is quick to recognize the important members on the successful team. Wife Connie has raised more All-American Brown Swiss than probably the next five (editor’s guess) calf raisers total, with Top Acres registering 1,577 heifer calves and 486 bull calves to date. Palmer Hoffman, who migrated to Ohio from New Jersey with Sliker, was Wayne’s right hand man until his passing in 2003. Both Wesley Lambert and Jayson Garrett have been with Top Acres for over 25 years. Mentoring the next generation, Brian Garrison followed his idol Sliker into the ring, judging at World Dairy Expo several times as well as being on the halter of several Top Acres Champions himself. Sliker and his Top Acres team have rewritten the record book and it is fair to say these records will be implanted for a long time. Not a bad accomplishment for an FFA project in a suburban area.
Ernie Kueffner Jr., like Wayne Sliker, was not born on a farm. His dad Ernest Kueffner Sr. worked on a Registered Brown Swiss farm in Indiana. The family moved to Wisconsin where “Senior” would work for the World Famous Norvic Farm owned by the Magnussen family. The love of cows passed from Senior to Junior and from age seven the young Kueffner knew this would be his calling. When Kueffner was ten years of age his father started the Fullpail sales arena in Hartford, Wisconsin, and from that time forward the arena would be a gathering place for not only great cows but also great cow minds alike. Chores and a great “German” work ethic
were expected before and after school and for extra income relief milking was done at
neighboring farms. After high school Kueffner attended the Western College of Auctioneering and was soon splitting the auctioneering duties with his father. Ernest Sr. was considered one of the finest auctioneers of his era and Junior was privileged to tag along whenever it was possible. On one such occasion in 1963 at age 12, while dad was taking bids, the younger model was “Manning the shovel” at the world famous Welcome In Brown Swiss dispersal in Ohio, which is still considered one of the greatest dairy sales of all time.
In “those” days, many a mile was spent travelling selecting cattle for the sales arena and purchasing cattle for auctions so Kueffner had access to some of the sharpest minds in the industry, “the cattle dealers”. From age sixteen on, when not in school, the boots would be on and in and out of yards and the barns provided the “Higher Education”. Kueffner is often reminded of a quote from one of the cattle dealers the first time he met him, “Sonny, the good deals never quit winning, and the poor deals never quit losing.” To this day, 50 years later, it still holds true. But when it came to role models, his father and grandfather taught him some of his greatest lessons in cleanliness, neatness, timeliness and striving to perfection. Anyone that has
ever visited a stable where Kueffner is in charge will soon see those lessons have carried through to this day.
The world’s grandest stage in dairy cattle shows is the World Dairy Expo where Ernie and his charges have been putting their names in bold lettering with icons like Alanvale Inspiration Tina, Tri-Day Ashlyn, Ron-Net Maple Dorie Dee and Hillcroft Leader Melanie and of course Huronia Centurion Veronica. Labeling just one as a favorite or a “game changer” would be next to impossible but “Veronica” and “Tina” run neck and neck as not only great show cows but also cows that started influential cow families that continue to impress generation after generation.
Born in town, raised with a strong work ethic and attention to detail Kueffner has carved his name along with the legends in the show game.
Roger Turner was born on a small 30-cow grade Holstein farm in Eastern Ontario. Like Wayne Sliker, Turner was first involved with Registered cattle through 4-H. A meager beginning in the registered business, the Railhaven high quality herd was developed over a twenty-five year span. At the time of its dispersal in 1997 there were over 20 Excellent cows, numerous star brood cows and many champion banners from a tough county and regional area in Canada. The dispersal of their Railhaven herd at Brubachers resulted in the 2 nd highest herd sale average of the year in Canada.
Roger was “bit by the bug” at a very young age. From following dad to the barn at 5:00 a.m. to occasionally skipping school for an important cow function, Turner thought for sure that his calling would be being a farmer. After witnessing some of the finest cattlemen up close and personal he soon became enamored with preparing cattle for shows and sales and became an accomplished “fitter”, starting with neighboring herds of Stoneden and Suncrest Holsteins and from there on to Browndale, Cherown, RockyMountain and others. Several of Canada’s big
timers of their day would enlist Roger as their clipper of choice.
Roger was hired by Alta Genetics and worked there for a quarter of a century and is quick to give credit to the entire group at Alta for trusting in him. The list of educators or coaches Turner credits is like a virtual “Who’s who” in the Holstein business from Paul and Ari Ekstein to the Browns of Browndale Farm, The Walkers of Walkerbrae, The Frasers of Spring Farm and Fraeland, Bert Stewart, Lowell Lindsay, Dr. David Chalack, Doug Blair, Peter Heffering and Ken Travena, Norm and Marg Atkins, Tom Morris and Horace Backus. However, first and foremost the credit of making Roger Turner into Roger Turner goes to his parents. It is with the upbringing of hard work, integrity, honesty that Turner relies on every day in his current position
as general manager of major A.I. company, Jetstream Genetics.
You would think of all the great cows like “Charity”, “Boots Jewel”, “Whitney”, “Kid Wendy”, “Laurie Shiek” and “Jet Crystal”, it would be hard for Turner to label a favorite, but it wasn’t and he even called it easy and used the quote “Bar None”. ACME STAR LILY. And using the following quotes that only a “died in the wool cow person” could relate to: “She had a spark”, “Willing to cooperate”, “Flame and Fire”, “never give up”, “Character” and “a true pleasure to work with”, is how Turner described this 3X Royal Winter Fair Champion.
To know a great cow, you must have worked with a great cow and in Turner’s case, several of them, thus qualifying him to be “pedigree expert” and considered the finest in his field of pedigree announcing. The list of high profile, high dollar cows that Roger has announced would fill volumes and that, along with his extreme likeability, makes Roger the finest in his field(s).
Eddie Bue grew up on a small grade Holstein Farm in West Central Wisconsin. The farm milked 25 cows and Eddie’s dad worked as a logger cutting timber. When Eddie’s dad was killed in a logging accident the cows were sold. Eddie would work for neighbors John and Gloria Curran who milked 80 registered cows and thus kindled his love for the registered business. All through high school he worked for the Currans and they allowed him to show some of their cattle and taught him the basics of breeding and caring for good cows. After graduating from high school he started a career of fitting cattle and traveled throughout the U.S. and abroad fitting cattle for some North America’s best herds including Pinehurst, Stookeyholm, Elmvue, Butlerview and Budjon.
With the list of farms above, Bue gleaned knowledge and “cow sense” from the likes of Jeff Stookey, Bob Finberg, Randy Fraiser, Dave Bachmann to name just a few, but he credits the Curran family, Joel Kietzman and Perry Phend with peaking his interest in the purebred world.
Perhaps unknown to Eddie he was also learning great lessons in the genetic part as well as the preparation aspects. In the last six years the Ludwig Farms herd, of which Eddie and wife Mandi are co-managers, has been one of the leading “Breeders” of All-American nominations. This past year the homebred Ludwigs-DG Goldwyn Ellie EX-95 was named Grand Champion at the Illinois Championship show, one of 9 homebred class winners for Ludwigs at the show.
When the talk turns to favorite cows the one that brings out the smile is a cow named Brookvilla Jasper Aka that was introduced to Eddie at “Madison” as a Junior Three Year Old. Labeled a “True Sweetheart” and one of the first of the “moderate sized” cows that was perhaps a few years ahead of her time, but it was her personality that made her a favorite for sure.
Multi-talented and a favorite amongst his peers, Bue was awarded the coveted McKenzie award in 2005 and is one of the youngest to ever be awarded the honor. Since then he has been rewarded for his great eye for cattle by being named Associate Judge at Expo in 2015. Although maybe miles wise it is not that far, it is quite a journey from Taylor, Wisconsin, to John Nolan Drive in Madison.
Cowboy. Yes very few people know his real name. Simply known as “Cowboy”, this story pretty much should be an inspiration to anyone just starting out, reading the Cowsmopolitan or any breed magazine with a hope of achieving a goal or goals in this tough industry. This gentleman made his own breaks, worked hard, and parlayed his talent and personality to “Superstar” status although his humble demeanor would ask that the word superstar be deleted.
Pat Conway Conroy was born on a farm in Minnesota where his father was a herdsman for a fifty-cow dairy. During his schooling years he worked at local farms where he soon learned to appreciate registered cattle and the registered business. His love for cattle seemed to start at birth. At age six he started spending most of his summers at a neighboring farm, Elginvue. Elginvue was one of the most famous show herds of their day with a slew of winners in Minnesota and several All-Americans to their credit. The banners and trophies on display had to fuel the hunger that parlayed this future World Dairy Expo judge. Throughout his teen years Conway Conroy assisted local farmers doing every job thrown his way from chisel plowing after
school to milking and caring for cattle. Early mentoring by the owners of Elginvue and Annexstead Dairy proved invaluable to Cowboy.
After graduating from high school Cowboy took his show on the road and landed in Indiana with as he put it, “a box of Holstein Worlds and a few pairs of clothes.” In Indiana, the state he now calls home, Cowboy went to work for Penick Dairy who showed a little bit and his talents were soon discovered by the larger show herds, earning him the label of “go to guy” for the show herds not only in North America but worldwide as well. It would be hard to imagine a more traveled cow person. A quick study with teachers like Mark Rueth, Paul Petriffer and Jeff Stookey, this young fella was an “A student” when it came to cattle care and he graduated with honors. His assent to the highest plateau of judging was almost meteor like and while still young his judging career will rival all of his predecessors.
To this man who has worked with more All-Americans than he could count, (That wasn’t his quote) his favorite might surprise some people. That honor would go to a cow named Peaceful-Meadows Star Sassy of Mohrfield Farms in Ohio. “She did things on her own. She never quit trying and she wasn’t a “pansy” like a lot of today’s show cows.” Looking back, she was a lot like her biggest fan.
Mark Rueth was born on a small farm, milking 34 grade Holsteins, in Southern Wisconsin. At age 12 he received his first registered calf from his father for helping on the farm. Mark attended University of Wisconsin-River Falls and while there took an internship with Morris Ltd. This job got him into a lot of farms allowing him to polish his clipping and fitting skills. While traveling with the sales crew, Rueth would be exposed to some of the finest farms in the U.S. including Skagvale and Indianhead where he took his early training. It was at Indianhead that the future Klussendorf winner would get to take his first show herd out to the Wisconsin State Show. At
that first show, Indianhead would have Grand and Reserve Grand Champion and Rueth would continue to work for Indianhead for the next 12 years. Rueth was also in demand on the West coast after working a Skagvale sale and would fly out west as many as seven times a year to assist. It was during one of these trips that Mark discovered one of those cows that would expose the dairy world to his great eye for potential, with the purchase of a Guernsey cow named “Tom VeeDee”. This cow was Rueth’s first of several World Dairy Expo Grand Champions. Traveling out west Mark would watch the greats like Mike Deaver clip and prepare for the big shows.
Talent is a hard thing to hide and like the greats before him Rueth was soon in demand traveling throughout North America and overseas as well. Goal oriented and from the birthplace of such great herds as Crescent Beauty, Grey View, and Pinehurst, Rueth and his wife Nicky set out a course to have one such herd, complete with a trophy room chucked full of Madison champion trophies and banners. Hard work, long hours and determination achieved the goal. Household names have graced the red and white barns and several homebred All-Americans have laid down
in those pens.
After working with the likes of “Sexation Fleta”, his first champion clipped for Indianhead, “Tony Beauty”, “Charles Emily”, “Inspiration Lou”, “Linjet Ideal”, “Hazel”, “Paradise”, and “Redrose”, you might think it would be hard to name a favorite but really it is not. That honor would go to a cow named “Black Rose”. In Rueth’s own words, “My first All-American, a cool cow at a cool time.”
These six gentlemen exemplify the term “self-made”. While all would be quick to give credit to people that give them a hand on the way up, none were born with a silver spoon, none were entitled, but all have the similar drive and immense talent. To use sports metaphors they are all “All Stars” as showmen, breeders, judges, farmers and pedigree announcers. None of them were born into the big leagues but all obtained superstar status thanks to the “Training Grounds”.