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Cows, tradition draws families to the Clay County Fair

By Renae B. Vander Schaaf

Date Modified: 10/03/2012 10:12 AM

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SPENCER, Iowa — "Dairy cows, let's go look."

That reaction from a boy shows why the Clay County Fair remains so popular.

Doug Schoof was milking his registered Jersey cows. Earlier the Schoof family had earned the Grand and Reserve Champion Jersey Awards and Junior Champion Jersey for Non-milking Class.

Doug and his wife, Sandy, have been milking Jersey's since their marriage in 1981.

"Fairs are a family reunion time for us," said Sandy. "Our oldest son Lee, is now an ag lender in Schleswig, and our daughter, Kristy Roose, is married, living near Waverly. But we all get together at the fair. While Doug and I do the chores at home, those two older ones and our son Alec are taking care of things here."

The Schoos milk 30 registered Jerseys on their farm near Primghar. From May until October, the cows are rotationally grazed on three pastures and supplemented with grain. Bull calves are sold at weaning, with heifer calves retained for replacement.

The Schoos farm has been primarily Jersey since 1968. Henry Schoos, Doug's father, moved to the farm when he was five years old. Now 78, he and his wife Eunice live in town. All those years, the farm had dairy cows, except for a few years when Henry had severe back problems. To supply milk for the family, they had a nice Jersey cow, said Eunice. Because of that cow, the farm now is exclusively Jersey.

"When we bought cows again, I thought it was for farm income," laughed Eunice. "But instead we got into registered Jerseys and began going to shows and at times selling breeding stock."

Jerseys were a great choice.

"Milk is now paid on components, instead of volume. While our Jerseys may produce a little less milk, they do have higher butterfat and protein numbers."

The Best Udder Award and Premier Breeding and Exhibitor Award went to the Schoofs.

Brown Swiss have been the mainstay on the Luitjens farm near Ashton since 1936, according to Larry Luitjens. Grandpa T.H. Luitjens always had Shorthorns. In the 1930s his cows tested positive for tuberculosis and were slaughtered. He replaced them with Brown Swiss.

"They seem to be able to withstand the hot temperatures pretty well," said Luitjens. "Originally from Switzerland, they can take the cold. They do produce a milk that is high in protein."

Luitjens nephew Loren and his wife, Heather, are the fourth generation on the farm. The cows are milked twice a day in a tie-stall barn.

The Luitjen family has been coming to the fair since 1947, when Larry's father Arnold began showing cattle. His wife, Maggie, has always brought the meal from home on show day.

"With chores at home, it was always a bit of work to get it all done," said Maggie Luitjens. "I usually bring potato salad, jello, some hot meat like barbecue and pulled pork, but no pie."

They brought three milking cows and six heifers to the Clay County Fair.

The Chapman family traveled to the Clay County Fair from North Bend, Neb. Tom Chapman and his son Terry were showing Guernseys and Jerseys for Tom's daughers Dakota and Cassidy.

"They are in school now," said their grandfather.

Until 10 years ago, the Chapmans milked cows and have retained ownership of some cows that are milked at a dairy near Wahoo. The genetics in the Jersey cows are the same as Tom Chapman showed as a Future Stockman 4-H Club member. His children are in the same club and now his granddaughters are in the Wahoo Rustler 4-H Club.

Wayne Tiedemann of Hull was kept busy with seven grandchildren who were competing in goat, sheep and swine competitions.

"I'm loving every minute of it," he said.