This was one of our feature stories in our January 2020 issue written by Kathleen O’Keefe.
She was a popular choice as National Grand Champion at the All-American Jersey Show in Louisville, KY back in November – Edgelea Tequila Sheraton EX-93, the winning 4-year-old at the show. Owned by Budjon Farms and David Jordan, Sheraton was bred in Ontario by Joel Bagg, who retains his family’s famous Edgelea prefix. We’ve seen it over and over again – how there often is a little bit of serendipity in the background stories of these elite Grand Champions, and it’s no different with Sheraton.
If you follow Jersey breeding, especially in Canada, the Bagg family name and their several Jersey herds will be well-known to you. James Bagg (Joey’s great grandfather) registered his first Jersey in 1901; Alfred Bagg (grandfather) is in the Canadian Agriculture Hall of Fame; Joey’s father, Norm Bagg, attended the very first Royal Agricultural Winter Fair at 7 years of age.
The Bagg family has exhibited Jersey cattle at the Royal for 98 years (Joey’s daughter, Lindsay, is the 5th generation to compete), and in that time they have earned at least 24 Premier Breeder and Exhibitor banners. Alfred Bagg bred Edgeley Dreaming Countess, who was Grand Champion at the Royal in 1935 before being sold to Mrs. WH Clark of Missouri, where she subsequently was Grand Champion at seven state shows and named US National Grand Champion in 1936. According to Joey, family lore has it that her sale for a significant sum may have saved the family farm and Jersey herd in those dark years in the depth of the Great Depression.
The Bagg family bred and/or exhibited several Royal Grand Champions through the decades including Wvergoods Laurel, Pioneer’s Lassie, Edgeley Dreaming Countess, Edgelea Pinn Standard Belle, Edgelea Bonnie Annie. The family was dedicated to Jersey cattle and dedicated to the competition and cameraderie of showing which culminated in a great sale when Edgelea herd was dispersed in 1971.
Joey Bagg was a teenager at the time and for several years following worked the show season with the Gaymar herd in British Columbia. That illustrious show string traveled the regular ‘western’ circuit to the Calgary Stampede, Red Deer Exhibition, Edmonton Klondike Days, and still made the trip to the Royal on the railroad boxcars. Joey worked for many other prominent Jersey herds, before establishing his career as a county ag rep (extension agent), while always breeding and exhibiting some quality heifers under the Edgelea banner. In fact, from 1990 to 2001, Edgelea and partners had four Junior Champions at the Royal, three at Madison and one at Louisville. But that western experience in his younger days laid the groundwork for the Sheraton story, as he relates here:
“Back in 2003 when my father, Norm Bagg, was in palliative care, I got the bright idea that I would try to give him something good to think about by buying a descendant of one of his favorite cows, Gaymar Inspiration Shirley SUP-EX-93 (in those days the prefix went to the dam’s owner at time of calving, not the breeder). Shirley sold in our 1971 dispersal and had considerable show ring success, including winning the Interbreed Udder Class at the 1973 Royal (before the Supreme Championship class was initiated), beating the Champion Holstein, A Wataview Mark Babe. It was a huge deal in those days for a Jersey to beat the Holstein.
I logged on to the Holstein Canada website and found a maternal descendant at Green Hectares in Alberta and bought her over the phone from Greg Coleman. Sadly, Dad passed away before the heifer made the trip to Ontario. This bred heifer, Green Hectares V Stephanie, arrived the day after the Canadian BSE crisis hit and the border to the US closed. Cows became worthless overnight and I wondered, ‘What will I do with her now?’ I don’t milk any cows here myself – just keep some heifers – and it was impossible to find her a home. Cows were being culled everywhere, and I advised myself to get rid of her. But sentimental reasoning won out, and I was determined to keep this cow family going. I kept telling myself that something good would come out of it.
She had one heifer calf, Green Hectares Susannah. Susannah was not a show cow, but one of my favorites to work with. Eventually, I was able to impose on my friends and she made lactations with the Drentex, Hollylane, and Allykat herds. She classified VG-86 and had three heifer calves. When I had to euthanize her as an older cow, I sat on a bale of hay and cried like a baby.
Fast forward to 2016, I asked my friend Ari Eckstein if he was interested in partnering on and calving out a promising Senior Yearling, Edgelea Tequila Sheraton (great-granddaughter of Susannah) at Quality Holsteins. I couldn’t think of a better home for her and better partners to have. She competed well as a milking yearling and was nominated All-Canadian as a senior 2-year-old, when she was purchased at the Royal by Budjon, Peter Vail and David Jordan.”
The whole Edgelea history deserves a longer, more in-depth article, but this particular story of resilience and belief has all the hallmarks of a movie script. As Joey says of persisting through those hard years, “Something good did come of it!” Even in the darkest, hardest days, faith in making the next great one keeps many breeders marching on. And remarkably, the tale doesn’t end there! Sheraton’s daughter, Edgelea Gentry Sharon VG-88 was 1st senior 2-year-old & Reserve Intermediate Champion at the Ontario Summer Show, stood 4th at the International Jersey Show, and was nominated All-Canadian and All-American in 2019! Still owned in part by Joey Bagg (along with Quality, Agriber, and Beckridge), the Edgelea story continues, and the lesson of Sheraton exhorts us to ‘never give up’!