Newly-elected Arkansas FFA State Officer Julie Griffin has a deep family history in the dairy business
Julie Griffin fell in love with the dairy life at a very young age.
Her family has always been involved in dairy from before she was born. At age 2 she was showing her brother’s cattle in open shows.
Unfortunately, her family sold the cows and milking equipment while Julie was still very young, but that didn’t stop what was in her blood.
“When I turned 5, I joined 4-H and started showing in youth shows,” Julie said.
She grew to love the dairy industry and production agriculture. As Julie, the daughter of Jim and Jackie Griffin of Siloam Springs, Ark., got older and more involved, she realized a lot of work comes with the dairy life, but she was determined to balance 4-H, FFA, school, family and church.
Julie said she had a wonderful support system as she balanced her dream and her daily life.
“My dad and brothers helped me out on the farm, and my ag teachers and agents gave me support with everything else imaginable.”
Her herd grew to about 75 head, consisting of Holstein, Guernsey, Jersey, Milking Shorthorn, Ayrshire and Brown Swiss. She has continued to show her cows over the years, typically showing at county fairs, the Arkansas State Fair, Tulas State Fair, the 4-State Dairy Show, and occasionally at the World Expo in Madison, Wis.
Having a herd of dairy cattle without a dairy barn can present challenges, but Julie was able to work with other producers to get her cows milked.
“I keep all the heifers at my house and then when cows are dried off, they come back to my house to calve out again,” she explained. “I’m very thankful to the farmers who let me keep my cows there; it’s a great opportunity.”
Although there are many things Julie likes about her cattle, she said being able to see the transformation is her favorite.
“Having one of my cows calve and then raising that calf from a bottle baby is honestly so rewarding,” she said. “Seeing hard work pay off and then watching them transform from a heifer to a cow in production is such a blessing.”
Julie, who obtained her AI certification last year, gives great detail to her breeding program, working to produce high-quality females that will excel in the show ring.
“We really are selective in our breeding,” she said. “Nothing on our farm gets bred to the same bull unless it’s proven in our herd. We try to diversify the bulls we’re using because what’s winning in the ring now might not be in the next couple of years.”
At the 2019 Arkansas FFA State Convention, she was named the Arkansas FFA Star Farmer.
“I really wasn’t expecting it, so it was really awesome. It’s been a really, really long time since someone with a dairy production project has won that award, and there being so few with that SAE across the state,” Julie said. “I feel like it’s helped get the word out there that you don’t have to live on a dairy farm to have a dairy production SAE.”
Julie was also elected northwest vice president at the convention. She attends and leads camps, summits and other events. This fall she will be attending Arkansas Tech University in Russellville and majoring in agriculture education.
Because of her duties as a state officer and entering college, Julie has recently reduced her herd numbers.
“I’m thankful I know where they are going and that they are going to other showing families around the state,” she said. “My dad and brothers are helping me maintain some of my cattle, so I plan to show through this year, at least, and maybe at a few open shows after that. We’re still going to run the show calf operation as well. In our county 4-H program, our numbers are declining, so I have let a couple of families borrow some heifers to show. It’s a really good way to help get those kids involved and to help out our county show numbers a well.”
Continuing her family’s legacy in the dairy industry in her own way has been very rewarding for Julie.
Julie says she loves the dairy industry with all her heart and it is troubling to see what is happening to the industry currently with alternative milk ascending and U.S. cow milk prices dropping.
“If I could say one thing, it would be drink milk, eat cheese and enjoy ice cream, because someone’s livelihood is counting on it,” she said.