Gone but not forgotten
By Brandy Harrison
HAMPTON When Tim Sargent got the call that a showstopper his family bred more than two decades ago had been crowned Jersey cow of the year, it felt about 18 years overdue.
The Hampton dairy farmer remembers the 1996 Royal Agricultural Winter Fair like it was yesterday. The judge waffled between another cow and Enniskillen Tops Grove, changing his mind more than once, but finally putting the other cow at the top of the five-year-old class.
“There was almost dead silence in the ring. There were 200 people watching and five people clapped. Grove was the crowd favourite that day,” says Sargent, who runs Enniskillen Jerseys near Bowmanville with his wife, Sharyn, and their five children, Stephynie, Bruce, Daniel, Melyssa, and Benjamin. “Its been a long haul. Now shes recognized as one of the top four Canadian-bred Jersey cows. It doesnt get any better than that.”
Descended from a cow bought by the Sargents former partner, Frank Stenger, in the 1970s, Enniskillen Tops Grove Sup-Ex 95-5E has been dead for more than a decade but she was eligible for cow of the year when a rule change allowed deceased cows to compete if they had progeny born in the contest year.
It was dumb luck one of Groves frozen embryos produced a heifer last year, says Sargent.
Here is what made Grove stand out.
Best production record: 7,303 kg as a 10-year-old with 365 kg of fat at 5 % and 282 kg of protein at 3.86 %
Offspring: A four-star brood cow, Grove has 18 progeny in North America, Australia, and Europe, including two EX, five VG, and one GP daughter.
Standout qualities: Sargent knew they had something special right away.
“I dont know if it was a sixth sense, but I knew she was the one,” he says.
Over 12 years, Grove had eight lactations, scoring Excellent even after her 10th birthday. She and her dam, Enniskillen Title Grove, were the first dam and daughter to both score 95.
She was sweet, he says dairy with a lot of refinement and quality of bone, and a good udder.
“If they arent sweet, theyre on the truck. She carried herself with grace and elegance. She was long and very dairy, with a very deep rib and just a smashed-on udder you couldnt have got it on any tighter.”
Show-ring pizzazz: Honourable mention overall at the 1996 Royal, Grove was nominated all-Canadian seven times, earning reserve all-Canadian honours in 1994, 1995, and 1996.
She lived for the show ring, says Sargent.
“If someone came into the yard with a trailer, shed be the first one with her head up. It was like flipping on a light switch. She was always good in the barn but when you got to the show, she got her game face on.”
She had many admirers and the Sargents even turned down an offer of $40,000 for her in 1994 back when top-end show cows only sold for $10,000.
“Its not too often you get a once-in-a-lifetime cow and we thought wed just see where we could take her. It was fitting she died on Valentines Day. Shes just a cow we loved to death.”