Young Dairy Producer Enjoys 'Teaching Ag' at Farm Show

1/5/2013 7:00 AM
By Charlene M. Shupp Espenshade Special Sections Editor

Kerri Wickard loves showing at Farm Show. For this Penn State student, the show provides an opportunity to catch up with fellow dairy producers and answer the public’s questions about farming.

Wickard and her sister Sarah, both from Newville, Pa., will show their prized Brown Swiss cattle this Friday during the Farm Show’s dairy contest. The sisters’ farm operation has changed in the past couple of years. The family decided to disperse the herd in 2009.

Kerri said she and her sister wanted to keep their connection to dairying. They reached out to friend Jason Nailor who had started his own dairy herd at a nearby farm.

“We had grown up in 4-H together and showed together,” Kerri said. Nailor was looking for some additional milk cows. Today, Wickard’s milking cows are at the Nailor farm, and the heifers are at her grandfather’s heifer barn. She owns 12 Brown Swiss.

This spring, she will wrap up her agribusiness associate’s degree with a focus in animal science at Penn State.

Showing cows sparked Wickard’s interest in developing quality cows and top genetics. In the future, she said, she would like to milk a herd of her own with her fiancé, Rob Weber.

Wickard said that with her cows at another farm, communication is very important. She’s in constant contact with Nailor. Conversations include discussions about breeding cows, cow health and herd improvement.

“Jason is really good about letting us know every step of the way when things happen,” she said. Kerri and Sarah also help out on the farm whenever they can, and if Nailor is on vacation, they make sure they are at the farm.

The Farm Show is like a living classroom of sorts, one where Wickard spends time educating people about the life of a cow. She has passed her days talking to visitors, describing what happens on a dairy farm as well as combating misconceptions.

Answering questions is a part of the “Farm Show experience,” she said. “They are in awe of the cows. It’s neat to teach them about the dairy industry and see their world expanded.”

One of her funniest Farm Show stories centers on a young girl and mother walking by the show string as the mother was telling the girl that “cow pee was fake.”

She also usually spends time telling people that Brown Swiss do not make chocolate milk, but white milk just like every other cow.

However, the best story she has comes from the 2007 show. Wickard decided to take a nap next to one of her Swiss. The cow wrapped her head around Kerri as she dosed. When Kerri woke up, she found people crowded around her taking her picture.

The show is also a time to connect with others. Wickard shows at the Farm Show, Shippensburg Community Fair and the All-American Dairy Show. At these shows, she has enjoyed meeting other breeders and the friends she has made along the way.

“Even though it’s a lot of work, it’s worth it,” she said. “I love being with my cows and hope to always do so.”

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