Future farmers at dairy show

Junior dairy event teaches youth teamwork, showmanship and mentoring skills

RED DEER — One hundred young people gather every year for the Western Canadian Classic to learn all they can about the dairy business in a week’s time.

This is the 31st year for the event, which is open to participants 12-21 years old. This year it was held Aug. 18-22 in Red Deer.

Mike Flaman of Vibank, Sask., and Katelyn Crest of Athabasca, Alta., have each attended for 11 years, where they learned the science of dairy, marketing, grooming, judging and showmanship. Points are earned for each category.

At age 21, this will be Flaman’s final event as a youth member. Last year, the junior dairy event was held in Abbotsford, B.C. and he was the high point participant, which earned him a place on the 2015 Team Canada at the European Young Breeders School in Belgium.

He leaves for Europe Aug. 31 and will be joining five others from Atlantic Canada, Quebec and Ontario.

A fifth generation dairy producer, he has earned an agriculture diploma from Lakeland College at Vermilion, Alta., and returned to work on the family farm in Sask-atchewan, where they milk registered Holsteins.

Events like this opened his eyes to a wider world. He has met youth with similar interests and hopes to give something back by mentoring younger members. Part of the program encourages older competitors to teach the novices.

“It is not all about the prize money. What you learn here is priceless,” he said.

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Flaman has met people from across the country and made lasting friendships.

“Of my 20 best friends, 10 of them are here today,” he said.

“We are all competitive and strive to do our best.”

Crest won the grand champion honours with her junior yearling heifer.

This was the fourth time she earned the grand champion banner at the Classic. Many of the participants borrow cattle to show, but she owns a half interest in this female, which will likely appear at the fall shows where she enters the open classes. This female was named reserve champion at the Leduc Dairy Congress in Leduc, Alta.

Most of the year she works at her family’s Sky Crest Holsteins where she also does advertising and web design part time. Later this year, she and a friend will travel to Australia, where they will work for six months on a dairy and attend shows.

Young people like Flaman and Crest who gain considerable experience at shows like this are the future for the industry, said Lexi Wright, who chairs the WCC committee. An alumnus from this show, she is part of the team that publishes Cowsmopolitan magazine in Didsbury, Alta.

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“These are future farmers and future industry people because of all the stuff they are learning from being here: teamwork, competition and camaraderie,” she said.

“It is an incredible program for that.”

Many of the participants are from junior clubs or 4-H and receive points for participation in classes such as showmanship, quizzes, clipping and judging. They also learn how to defend their evaluations of cattle.

British Columbia and Alberta can each send 30 competitors plus two alternates, while Saskatchewan and Manitoba are allowed 20 entrants and two al-ternates each.

The event, which is similar to a large junior show held at the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto, was founded by a group representing the four western provinces.

The show will be held in Brandon next year.

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