Around the world with Brown Swiss

20 Oct, 2004 10:00 PM
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JUDGING dairy cattle and bungee jumping are all in a day's work for Jay Fledderjohann.

He was a long way from home when he attended this year's Perth Royal Show to judge the dairy cattle competition and although there was nothing eventful like bungee jumping on offer, he said it was a fantastic experience.

Jay lives on a 324ha (800ac) dairy farm in the north-west corner of Ohio, halfway between Cleveland and Cincinnati, US, where his family are fourth-generation Brown Swiss stud breeders.

His passion for dairy farming, in particular Brown Swiss cattle, has seen him journey extensively around the world to judge at shows.

After attending university and gaining a degree in agriculture, with a major in dairy science, he obtained a place on a list of what he called county fair judges, who attend different county or country shows where all breeds of dairy cattle are shown.

"You also judge the handlers or the showmanship, as we call it, at those shows," he said.

"Probably, honestly, getting on the judging team, I probably learned more from doing that than all of the other courses I have done."

When asked about his credentials, he admitted to having been a dairy cattle judge for longer than he cared to admit - approximately 25 years.

He said the opportunities made available to travel around the US and the world had allowed him to expand his knowledge and return home with some quirky tales to tell.

"Most places I have been to I never dreamt in my life that I would ever get to," he said.

"There have been lots of interesting places.

"I was four times in Brazil, kind of all over the country of Brazil.

"Brazil is so different, depending on where you're at. It's like you're in different countries when you travel there.

"The south of Brazil is very European, the north is very jungle like.

"It's very scary to go into some of those places, but yet still interesting."

He said one of the most eventful places he had judged in was Bolivia, where the unforgettable bungee incident had occurred.

"I judged in two different places in Bolivia - the town of La Paz, which is up in the mountains and very rugged and the town of Santa Cruz, which is down in the jungle and very different," he said.

"When I judged in Santa Cruz, there was a bungee jumping tower set up right beside the dairy ring.

"So I would basically judge a class, then somebody would bungee jump and everybody would watch, then we'd go back to the show and I'd judge a little more.

"Until about halfway through the show, all of a sudden I heard they were starting to chant because the person up there wouldn't jump, so they were all saying jump, jump, jump.

"Finally the person jumped and the show went on."

He said the most interesting country he had been to was Zimbabwe because of its vastly different culture.

"Everything is handled so differently and it was a different atmosphere to what I am used to," he said.

"Ninety-eight per cent of Zimbabwe's population is black and so I felt for the first time in my life as a minority would feel."

Jay learnt something he did not know about his own family during a visit to Cuba two years ago for an agricultural study tour.

"Almost all of the cattle we saw there had some Brown Swiss influence in them," he said.

"I was surprised by that.

"I did a little research and I found out my grandfather had sent Brown Swiss to Cuba in the 1940s and '50s.

"But when Castro took over in 1959, no more cattle were imported, registered or exhibited. Everything was stopped."

He said one of the most amazing things he discovered was all the field work was done with oxen teams.

"They bragged about having 400,000 oxen teams to work the fields," he said.

"A lot of these oxen had a little bit of Brown Swiss influence in them."

Jay said the WA dairy cattle on show were good and well worth the time taken and distance travelled to judge.

"The only disappointing thing is that there wasn't more of them," he said.

"But what was there was very good and that makes it easier as a judge.

"Because it is always difficult if you have a class and there is really none of the animals that deserve really to be first, but yet you still have to place them.

"Here in Perth, there was not a lot of numbers, but there was a lot of good quality."

Jay was impressed with the representations of the different breeds and the different attributes the WA dairy cattle breeds had to their counterparts around the world.

But when asked about the most memorable entry he had judged around the world, he referred to, of course, a Brown Swiss cow in Brazil.

"I was out at a show that I didn't expect to have very good quality," he said.

"Suddenly this cow, one cow I hadn't seen before - I hadn't seen any of them - she walked into the ring and I just fell in love with her.

"It was like, I'm so glad she's here. It makes me so proud of the Brown Swiss breed."

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