Phillipsburg, Mo., teen garners big win at the World Dairy Expo
PHILLIPSBURG, MO. – Whitney Yerina has been at the halter of more than one champion, but the “big” win at the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wis., was just beyond her reach – until now.
The 17-year-old senior at Conway High School in Conway, Mo., exhibited the 2021 International Intermediate Guernsey Champion of both the junior and open shows, and the 3-year-old cow, Dix-Lee Method Journey, was crowned the 2021 Junior International Grand Champion Guernsey.
“It is a big deal for me,” Whitney said. “I won reserve grand for two years in a row (in 2014 and 2015) with my Fawn cow. I thought she would go back and win it, but she got sick and never went back. I never had a shot at winning intermediate or grand again; then, I took Journey. I kept saying I wasn’t going to get my hopes up, but she is a really good cow.”
The 2021 Expo was Journey’s first trip to the colored shavings and only her second season of being shown.
“She won just about everywhere we went,” Whitney said of the 2021 show season. “She’s had a heck of a year. The way the judge (Molly Sloan of Columbus, Wis.) and her associate (Glyn Lucas of Dumfries Galloway, Scotland) talked about Journey during the intermediate shows, I knew we had a pretty good shot at winning. The senior champion was going to be the biggest obstacle to get around, but the more you looked at the senior champion, you could pick a few things apart like she didn’t blend well. The longer we stood there, the more excited I got. They [the judges] were taking, but Molly flew through them. She sent out her associate judge to pick the champion, and he, for a second, cut back to the senior champion, then made a beeline for me with a big smile. I was like, ‘Oh, yeah!’ This has been an epic year. Just knowing I had a cow good enough to sit at the top is a pretty good feeling. Judges usually like older cows because they have developed into what they want to see, so for Journey, as a young cow, to go in and win grand in the junior show means she is an exceptional cow.”
Whitney didn’t show Journey until she was a 2-year-old, and Journey was a second choice for the show string.
“There was another heifer I showed as a spring calf in 2018,” she said. “That heifer went to Expo, and she was fifth in the junior show and 11th in the open show. Then when she calved in, she got a DA (displaced abomasum) and didn’t turn outright. Then Journey calved in, and she was looking really good for a 2-year-old. I was like, ‘Mom, I want to show her.’ She said OK. Then I had to halter break her as a 2-year-old. Cows are generally harder to break than heifers, but she has always been super friendly.”
Journey may not have been Whitney’s first choice, but the teen is now very smitten with her.
“Besides her structural feature and mammary system, she is the most easy-going cow,” Whitney said. “She has a great disposition. I tell everybody I love a cow that looks good and is nice to me while I’m trying to make her look good. She and I are a team.”
Whitney showed Journey at the 2020 Ozark Empire and Missouri State fairs, where she began to rack up titles.
After Journey calved in May, Whitney said she only got better and earned even more titles, including the 2021 Missouri State Fair Supreme crown in the junior show.
“The judge said when Journey walked into the show ring, it gave her chills,” Whitney said, recalling the Missouri State Fair. “That’s what I was hoping to hear. I’m glad everyone feels the same way I do about Journey. I loved to watch her develop, and I think everyone else has, too. She’s just going to be that special cow that keeps going. I’ve had a lot of people tell me they can’t wait to see what she turns into as an older cow.”
Journey and her dam were born on the Dix-Lee farm near Phillipsburg. Journey’s dam and the dam’s and twin remain a part of the Dix-Lee herd.
“Her mom just calved in this spring with another heifer calf, so we might come around with a Journey Junior,” Whitney said, adding that Journey’s dam was not a show cow.
Journey will have her third calf this spring, and Whitney is hopeful for a heifer. Journey’s first two calves were bulls.
Whitney’s family is deep-rooted in the dairy industry. Dix-Lee Guernseys, operated by Whitney’s grandfather Keith Dixon and her mother Katie Dixon, has a well-known reputation for its Guernsey breeding program, winning high honors in the show ring and in production, as do other members of her family involved in the dairy industry.
“I want to follow in their footsteps,” Whitney said. “My mom was National Guernsey Queen in 2000, and I am going to run for National Guernsey Queen. They have young breeder awards, master breeder awards and so many others. They have bred cows that show their worth in production here at home and in the national show ring; that’s what I see in my future.”
Whitney’s father, Brett Yerina, is also a well-established dairy manager in New York.
Journey was the only cow Dix-Lee and Whitney exhibited at the 2021 World Dairy Expo, but she wasn’t the only animal in attendance with Dix-Lee generics.
Katie explained the reserve to Journey and Whitney in the open and junior shows, and reserve grand was a cow bred at Dix-Lee, and the farm also bred the first-place winter yearling. Then an honorable mention female is a granddaughter of a cow the Dixons sold about 12 years ago.
“Four of the five champions had our genetics in them, and then the cow that won grand, her genetics go back to Missouri,” Katie said. “It was like the perfect storm.”
Whitney, Journey and few other females from the Dix-Lee herd will close out the show season next month at the North American Livestock Expo in Louisville, Ky.
Whitney is the president of the Conway FFA Chapter and hopes to obtain a dairy-related degree after high school.
“There are two colleges in New York that I’m really looking at,” Whitney said. “SUNY Cobleskill is only about 45 minutes from my dad, and they won the judging contest at Madison this year. I want to continue to judge cows and be on a good team. They have an excellent dairy program, so those are factors for me. I have also applied to and been accepted to Northwest Missouri State University, which recently got a new Guernsey herd. There are some things to figure out, but I want to continue in the dairy business. I want to continue to show, and I like judging. I don’t want to run a big operation, but I would like to have a small show herd.
“I want to breed some awesome genetics into them and have a showstopper like Journey; I am going to keep pushing for that. We are going to push for the open show next year.”