By Tom Collins
SPENCERVILLE — For the third time in four years, Riverdown Holsteins was honoured with the top calf at the EastGen 4-H Showcase.
Riverdown Atwood Jiggajoyride was crowned as champion calf at the Spencerville show on July 9. The calf, shown by Jocelyn Taylor of Carleton County, is owned by Riverdown Holsteins, which is run by John and Karen Velthuis and their son, Justin, at Metcalfe.
Karen said that when that calf was born, Jiggajoyride had the extremely long legs, long body and long neck that judges like to see, a thought echoed by EastGen judge Andrew den Haan, of Fergus in Wellington County.
“For me, she was an open-framed heifer that you admire with the pin and with the hook,” said den Haan. “She tracks out extremely well, and has a good leg for the size of the heifer. Just that overall mass and openness that the heifer exemplifies is what got her (top spot).”
Velthuis says her family ensures the calves are born at the right time. While there are certain cows in their herd that they count on to make the show calves, they also look to specific bulls — such as Atwood, Doorman, Denver, Douglas, Avalanche, Sidekick and Unstopabull — to get better show heifers.
This year, the Velthuis’ have 12 4-H calves entered at various shows. With that many animals, Velthuis has a system to determine which calf each 4-H kid is going to show.
“The little kids are going to have March calves because they are not big enough to have anything else,” she said. “My older members that are not too tall will have the September-December (calves). That means the taller ones have to show junior yearlings and summer yearlings.”
The kids that are the best showmen get the best animals, which is how Jocelyn Taylor wound up with Jiggajoyride.
“She’s a smart kid,” said Velthuis. “You can make a good showman out of a smart kid. She’s very articulate about the little points. She knows how to pinch them properly and to keep the feet under them and little things like that. Sometimes you can’t teach that. You either have it or you don’t.”
With so many 4-H calves, there are also as many kids coming in to look after them. Some kids are there every day helping with chores, while others show up two-to-four times a week. Of the 12 calves, only four are shown by children of dairy farmers.
The shows are a family affair. On show days, Justin gets the calves looking their best before the ring while Karen works with her 4-H showpeople on showmanship. John is in charge of trucking.
Raising good show calves is about paying attention to the small details, said Velthuis, who spends about six hours a day looking after the 4-H calves. She is very diligent about feeding the animals, giving them milk three-to-six times a day as newborns. There are 16 calves in the show barn and no two are fed the same ration.
“When they hit the ground, it’s pretty obvious sometimes that they’re going to be show animals,” she said. “You can feed whatever you want, but if you’re not starting off with a good one, you’re not going to end up with a good one.”
As they get older, the calves eat a lot of protein and hay and are housed in a separate barn where they are hand watered. The barn is well-ventilated with nine fans and the calves go into an exercise yard at night. Every day, top lines are washed and they work on the hair.
The farm has participated in 4-H shows for more than 50 years. After 40 years of leading 4-H clubs on and off, Karen retired as a leader last year, but is chairing the National Holstein Convention when it comes to Ottawa in April, 2021.
Here are the results from the EastGen Showcase:
Champion showperson: Logan Merrett of Carleton County
Reserve: Courtney Orser of Frontenac County
Champion calf: Riverdown Atwood Jiggajoyride, shown by Jocelyn Taylor of Carleton County
Reserve: Duckett Sidekick Ollie, shown by Jasmine Uhr of Stormont County
Overall champion: Taylor Van der Meulen of Northumberland County
Reserve: Natalie Templeton of Grenville County
Top quiz: Alicia Sutton of Grenville County
Best exhibit: Leeds County
Premier county: Carleton County