Seventy-eight contestants from a dozen states and two foreign countries, Denmark and Canada, signed up for the women’s (age 13-21) World Dairy Expo dairy fitting contest on Sunday, Oct. 2.
One – Barron native Brooke Hammann – emerged as the title winner.
A Barron high school graduate now studying in Wausau, Brooke is the daughter of Barron farm owners Scot and Becky Hammann.
“This is a big deal in the world of dairying,” noted retired teacher (and dairy farmer) Sue Wohlk, of Almena.
Fitting is a competition that tests someone’s ability to “get a cow ready for showing in the ring – clipping the hair, making a nice topline, making sure the tail is fluffed (properly),” Wohlk added. “She had one hour to do it.”
“Anyone can sign up (for the international competition) from that age group,” Hammann said in a phone interview Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2022.
“We met in a competition tent, and we brought our own animals and equipment,” she added. “You’re given one hour to fully get the animal ready for the ring (while being observed by) two judges. They watch your technique, how comfortable you are doing the work, how you manage your time.”
Dairy competitions run according to a set of time-honored rules governing what the animal should look like. Contestants begin to learn fitting techniques as they progress through age and organizational competitions, from 4-H through FFA and into adulthood.
“You’re going to want hair in certain spots, and you need to know where to remove hair,” Hammann said. “The hair might not be in a straight line, so you blend it. It’s a question of making the animal look the best you can make it look, and to look as natural as possible — not gaudy, not overdone.”
When it comes to dairy fitting, there are benefits for both the competitor and the observer – even for someone that doesn’t know much about dairying.
“I personally enjoy it because I like to see how an animal can change during the process,” Hammann said. “I like the challenge of getting the animal ready for the show ring.
“There are a lot of moving parts to the process,” she added. “In the dairy industry, there’s a lot of time spent on these animals. It’s kind of like an art form. It takes time to get good at it, and every process has its own niche. A painter might mix good colors for a sunset, just as a fitter uses sprays to color the animal.”
Hammann entered the competition with her jersey heifer, Oakley.
“We use similar letters for the names of all of our animals to keep the family line the same,” she said. “Her mom had an ‘O’ name.”
The Hammann farm raises both Jersey and Holstein cows, and currently milks about 45 of its 100 dairy animals.
“We also raise beef cattle,” Brooke said. “What we found that helps us keep going the past few years is diversity. You can’t have everything in one area of agriculture. The way the markets work nowadays, (a lack of diversity) wouldn’t necessarily benefit you economically.”
Besides dairying, the Hammanns raise turkeys and grow crops.
“I like (farming) because each day poses its own challenge,” Brooke said. “Some days are super smooth and some days, your patience is tested to the extreme max. But I get to work with my family every day, and we’re all working toward the same goal. My personal favorite (experience) is watching animals grow. I love working with them.”