Winning Ways: Life Lessons

August 19, 2015 12:20 PM

“A family affair” is Hank Van Exel’s summation of World Dairy Expo. Van Exel milks 2,000 cows at his farm, Exel’s Holsteins and Jerseys near Lodi, Calif., and has been showing at WDE for 35 years.

His adult children, Adam, Sarah and Jennifer, have all shown at Expo. His seven grandchildren now show at Holstein and Jersey shows. “So I’m hoping there’s another generation coming along that will be showing here,” he says.

The Van Exels’ successes at Expo include multiple class winners in both Holstein and Jersey shows over the years. They also have had Reserve Grand Champions in the International Holstein Show and the International Jersey Show.

Hank believes that doing well in the showring is mostly a matter of attitude. That’s something he’s tried to impress on Adam and his wife, Lacey, who have now taken the helm in the showring for the family.

“It takes a lot more work than a lot of people realize,” Hank says. “And it requires a tremendous amount of time and patience. You might not always have the best day. But you have to treat it like you had a great day. You do the very best you can with what you have and then hold your head up high.”

Participating at Expo has benefitted the family on a variety of levels, Hank says.

“It was a thrill to be Reserve Grand Champion in both of those respective breeds because you know how hard it is to accomplish that,” he says. “And we’ve gotten to know people from throughout the country and from all over the world through our involvement here. They’ve become a kind of extended family.”

“This show is the very best,” Hank adds. “If you love cows and love this business, it’s the place to be.”

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