Strong, Silent Type

September 1, 2010 11:54 AM
 

Expo’s reigning Supreme Champion quietly goes about the business of winning

Champions generally fall into one of two categories. Some are flashy, with a flair for the dramatic. Others are quiet and unassuming, confident that, even without the flash and glitter, they’ll eventually be recognized for what they have to offer.

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Harvue Roy Frosty, with leadsman David Dyment on the halter, take their walk during the Parade of Champions at the 2009 World Dairy Expo.
Harvue Roy Frosty, the five-year-old Holstein who captured Supreme Champion honors at last year’s World Dairy Expo, is the latter. "She’s a trouble-free cow," says Mike Duckett of Rudolph, Wis. Duckett is part of the "Frosty" ownership team that includes his wife, Julie; her parents, Jim and Nancy Junemann; and Green Bay, Wis., veterinarian Scott Armbrust. "With a lot of show cows, you always have to adjust your schedule to get them ready, milking them at different times so you can get their udder filled up just right. With Frosty, it’s different. You just milk her and get her full of feed, and she’s ready for the showring."
 
The Ducketts purchased Frosty from Dave and Debra Hardesty, owners of Harvue Farms in Berryville, Va., in the summer of 2006. At the time, the Ducketts were living in Maryland. "Actually, we made the trip because I wanted to look at another cow of theirs I had seen," Duckett says.
 
Almost immediately, Duckett was impressed with Frosty, a daughter of Harvue Sam Heidi (Ex-93) sired by Roylane Jordan-ET. "She’s a big black cow that just grabs you," he says. "She looked a little immature in the udder. But it also looked like that would get better with every calf she had. We didn’t leave until I had bought her."
 
Duckett’s instincts proved to be accurate. At three years 10 months, Frosty produced a 365-day record of 38,953 lb. of milk with 1,747 lb. of butterfat (4.5%) and 1,229 lb. of protein (3.2%). At the 2007 Expo, she captured the Intermediate Holstein championship and was named Reserve Grand Champion. 
  
Those honors and accomplishments drew plenty of attention. The Ducketts had several opportunities to sell Frosty, but they weren’t ready to part with her. At that time, the Junemanns and Armbrust became part owners.
 
"Mike understood Frosty could be a franchise animal, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and he didn’t want to let go of that," says Armbrust, who had done embryo transfer work for the Junemann family. "He had her pegged from the very beginning. It’s
a very special talent."
 
In a move that surprised some observers, Frosty’s owners decided not to show her at Expo in 2008. "We set up a two-year plan," Armbrust says. "We set a target of getting her bred back to calve in June 2009. That way, we could get her in condition and milking enough to be in perfect form when Expo rolled around."
 
There was a marketing component to the strategy, too. "We wanted her to have a few calves on the ground to build up a little demand in case she won at Expo," Armbrust says.
  
Adds Duckett: "Being in the show is a lot of fun. But you have to think about paying the bills, too."
 
Fresh only nine days, Frosty scored Excellent 95. Throughout the summer, U.S. and international visitors streamed to the farm to see her. "From everything we heard, we felt she was going to be considered one of the favorites heading into Madison," Armbrust says.  
  
The marketing strategy developed by Frosty’s owners appeared to be right on target. By the time Expo 2009 rolled around, Frosty had 16 calves—nine heifers and seven bulls—on the ground. At the 2009 World Classic Sale, one of the heifer calves sold to a syndicate from Mexico for $95,000.
 
Even so, Armbrust admits to being a little nervous as Expo approached. "When you take any animal out of her normal environment, you never know how she’s going to react," he says. "You can have a real good feeling about your chances, but there’s always the possibility you’ll stumble coming out of the gate."
 
Frosty, though, handled the week’s activities in her typical self-assured fashion. "She’s used to being in shows," Armbrust says.  "She travels well, rests well and eats well. She doesn’t let too much upset her. That’s the way she is at the Ducketts’ farm. No matter what’s going on around her, she just goes about her business."   
  
On the Thursday before Expo, Frosty tested 173 lb. of milk. "She does it so easily it’s unbelievable," Armbrust says. "She’s the epitome of dairy strength."
 
The next day, Frosty was named Grand Champion of the International Holstein Show, going toe-to-toe with the previous year’s Supreme Champion, Thrulane James Rose. When the 2009 Supreme Champion was announced Saturday night, Duckett says, he felt like a weight had been lifted from his back. "You spend so much time getting her ready and holding your breath. And then you win, and you feel like you’re on top of the world."
  
"We had always been pleased with her and hoped for the best," says Nancy Junemann. "But there are never any guarantees. This was absolutely wonderful."
 
But Frosty wasn’t quite finished racking up honors. Six weeks after her win at Expo, she competed in the prestigious Canadian National Holstein Show, held in conjunction with the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto. Along with notching top honors in the five-year-old class, she was named Reserve Grand Champion. "It was a tough field," Armbrust says, "but we were happy. One of the main reasons for going to a show like that is to promote the cow and her offspring. From that standpoint, Frosty did great. She made a ton of new fans."
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