The story of Maple Fudge of 12 Oaks is the stuff fairy tales are made of. And the story of her owner and handler, Ashley Brandel, is just as sweet as Fudge.
Maple Fudge was purchased at the Wisconsin Dairyland Milking Shorthorn Sale as a baby calf, the last calf in the sale. “I really wanted a cute baby calf,” says Ashley. “My mom was getting ready to go and I kept putting my hand up and bidding and she kept trying to pull my hand down.” But Fudge was destined to go home with Ashley that day, even though it cost her all the money her piggy bank.
The Brandel family had reached out to other breeders about what a good breed to invest in would be. “We wanted to get into a breed with less bulls to choose from,” says Ashley’s mom, Tracy. “We wanted a breed where the kids could grow in their dairy industry knowledge and make good sound mating decisions.” The family had no Milking Shorthorns previously in their 220-head Holstein herd, making Fudge the first of what has grown into a dozen.
Fudge was shown as a Spring Calf, so Ashley and Fudge have definitely grown up together. “Fudge knows when it’s Ashley,” says Tracy, “it’s been really neat to watch them together.” And while Ashley is usually at the halter of Fudge, all four of the Brandel kids love showing animals.
Fudge has now been on the colored shavings for three consecutive years, winning Grand Champion of the Junior Show each time, but this year is the first time she’s won Grand Champion of the Open Show, a feat very few Junior exhibitors have accomplished. A low-key cow most of the time, “when Fudge steps in the ring she knows its game time,” says Ashley. “I barely have to hold her head up, she just loves being in the ring!” Although they have had a few offers to buy Fudge, Ashley says, “nope, we are not selling her.”
During show season, Fudge lives at Hildebrandt Family Farm, near to the Brandel’s Straussdale Holsteins in Lake Mills, Wisconsin. Fudge calved with a heifer named Frannie, who Ashley hopes to show next year, on June 10, 2018, and has lived at Hildebrandts all summer to help her get ready for the show season. There Fudge has her own boxstall and her diet can be monitored closely. Fudge is entered in the NAILE show in Louisville, KY, but after that she’ll come home to Straussdale for the winter.
At the Struassdale stall, amidst the buzz of winning Grand Cow, Ashley, who is only 12 years old, had hopes of serving ice cream at her grand cow party. The seventh grader at Lake Mills Middle School says, “my friends think showing cows is kind of weird because they don’t really know what it’s all about, but they congratulate me anyway.” The excitement in the aisle is palpable for a great kid, with a great team of people behind her that have helped and encouraged every step of the way, and of course a great cow in Maple Fudge of 12 Oaks, who makes it all possible.