Perfectionist, competitor and brilliant were all words used in describing Duncan MacKenzie (or as his many friends referred to him as “Dunc”) but the words most used were “Gentleman”, a true gentleman. Born in Montevideo, Minnesota located 140 miles west of the Twin Cities in farm Country, Duncan migrated to New York at a young age when his father took a job at Foremost Guernsey Farm owned by J.C. Penney. The farm manager at the time was a gentleman named William Hepburn Jr., considered one of the greatest farm managers of his time.
When Hepburn took a job at Forsgate Farm in New Jersey he brought his friend Duncan with him and it was a nearly unbeatable combination. Forsgate had a milk and egg business and bred both Guernsey and Holstein cattle. While the Guernsey’s supplied much needed cream for the dairy the Holsteins were their main show herd and what a show herd they were. Woodyglen Queen Mazie , was Grand Champion Female in 1952 and 1953 at Waterloo after being purchased at the Ohio State Fair where Bill Hepburn Jr. was judging and the three time National Grand Champion bull (1950-53) Smithland Supreme Champion was purchased as the National Sale topper in 1950. And although the herd mainly showed their Holsteins they did purchase a Guernsey cow out of the sticks by the name of Hagen Farms Merry Song, who was sold for the then unheard of price tag of $ 10,000 and would become a three time National Champion herself after her sale. (One year a full string of Guernsey’s was shown at the Royal Winter Fair and made a pretty good showing of six first place ribbons to go along with the Holsteins Grand Champions).
The show herd would travel in 2 box cars which would accommodate 24 head and 4 men, one of which who’s jobs were manure removal and housekeeping and filling water buckets as each animal was watered by hand at chore time. (Chores were done on a strict schedule every six hours, which included feeding, watering and brushing). At two of the chore times, milking by hand was done as well.
MOMMA KNOWS BEST ! The scene was Eastern States Expo. 1953. Forsgate was there with all the famous Holsteins that one young fellow had read all about. Smithland Supreme Champion was tied on the end and beautiful Mazie was also looking incredible. Both would be named Grand Champion. It was like a little league baseball enthusiast being in the same ball park as Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle. And to top it off this boy was tied right across the aisle. So by golly he was going to impress these people and every time the wheelbarrow was even close to full he would empty it. That’s a lot of emptying for 24 head of Holsteins. And if there was any job that needed done, this young 12 year old gentleman was “Johnny on the spot”. And yes MacKenzie and his assistant Bill Hughes were impressed, so much so they asked this lad if he would like to join the on their upcoming trip to Waterloo and Chicago. Heck yes, was the answer and so his cot was moved across the aisle as well as his suitcase and he was good to go. Well almost !! Show day came and the boy’s mother and father arrived and all the kid had to do was “inform” them of his future travel plans. Whoops, one snag. Mrs. Bill Briggs said no, even with as many “but mom’s” as he could try, it would be back to Turner Maine and 8th grade for future Klussendorf Winner and master of Brigeen Farms, Steve Briggs. His time would come and eventually he made the trip to Waterloo and Chicago and would care for several National Champions in his own right.
After the Forsgate dispersal sale Duncan went to Grace Farm in Pennsylvania for two years and then was offered a position at Irvington Farm in Maryland. It was with Irvington Farms where Duncan was awarded his coveted Klussendorf award in 1961. From Irvington Duncan’s next position was as manager of Homestead Farm in Connecticut. Duncan would later become a herdsman at the World Famous Carnation Farms in Washington where he would hire his friend from back east Clarence Okerlund, whom would receive his Klussendorf in 1966, thus making Carnation Farms the home of three winners of the award with Al Hay in 1958 and MacKenzie and Okerlund.
At the first meeting of the Klussendorf association (made up of previous winners of the award) after MacKenzie’s death it was decided that an award should be made in his honor and a committee was named to come up with guidelines. MacKenzie was a man behind the scenes who was “liked” by everyone. He was not always on the halter but made sure every animal under his care was ready when called to the post. Thus the winner should have these qualities and those of a “potential” Klussendorf winner. (As of 2016 four MacKenzie winners have went on to receive the coveted Tiffany Trophy).
The first winner of the award (A beautiful wood carving depicting Duncan with a pitch fork in hand was commissioned) was Barry Quickfall. Quickfall had worked with more Klussendorf winners up to that time than anyone in the business and was a logical winner. Peter Heffering was a huge Duncan MacKenzie fan and one of the proponents of the new award and the two men behind the success of his well-traveled show herd were the next winners, Willis and Wayne Conard.
Duncan MacKenzie would have been proud of this line-up and in fact there would be four future winners of his award with this group from Lylehaven Farm. This show herd would lead the country in All American nominations for this particular year.
The team of Mark and Nikki Rueth always have a beautiful display of cattle with attention to detail and cattle comfort always coming first at their Rosedale exhibit. Individually they were awarded the MacKenzie trophy in 1995 and 2010.
Now nearly thirty years after his death, and when very few working today had the opportunity to know him, Duncan MacKenzie’s legacy lives on as the inscription on his trophy says “ Above all else, the person who helps makes the show string successful”