The annual North American Normande Association’s championship show was held in Mineral Point.
The show is something of a cross between a family reunion, a potluck supper and a cow show.
"I love coming to this show,’ said Barb Wogsland, a dairy producer from Scandinavia. "People are so interested in helping each other and everyone is interested in promoting the breed and building its numbers."
She showed the Grand and Reserve Champion dairy animals at the show. Her two-year-old in milk, New Hope Singleton Antoinette was named Grand Champion and her three-year-old in milk, New Hope Studio Penny was named Reserve Champion.
Dairy judge Matt Lippert, the Wood County agriculture agent and a dairy producer himself, said the top two cows were massive and angular and topped a fine group of cattle.
The Grand Champion Beef animal at the show for dual-purpose cattle was a beef summer yearling heifer, DMCC Levi Yorky 14Y, exhibited by Michael and Matthew Mueller of Rewey.
The Reserve Champion Beef was a calf shown by Wayne Dewey of Iowa Falls, Iowa, that had been at the top of the cow-and-calf class with his mother, Circle D Mouse Hawk 196S.
The judge for the beef side of the show was Dakota Bockenhauer of Mindoro, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and owner of a 30-cow Maine Anjou herd.
NEW HOPE NORMANDES
Though the Normandes are a small – but growing – part of the dairy herd Wogsland and her husband Karl operate near Scandinavia, they are her passion. She has even been to France – the birthplace of the breed – to visit with breeders and see their annual championship show.
"It’s like our World Dairy Expo, with the colored shavings and everything. But there, the Holstein show is very small and the Normande championship is what everyone wants to see."
There, cattle are pre-selected and invited to come to the show, she said, and there are 10-15 cows per class. As the judges whittle down their selections, the top five or six are left in the ring to build suspense.
"The top three are really showcased with music and special lighting. It’s part of their culture there."
Her family’s herd includes 300 cows; most are registered Holsteins, but they also have a growing group of 25 Normandes milking alongside their black-and-white cousins in a TMR confinement system.
"There’s something about this breed that attracts women and just generally appeals to people," she said, noting that her friend Rhonda Treml-Knebel keeps her Normande cows at their farm.
Wogsland’s interest in the breed was sparked by a booth at World Dairy Expo in 2004 where a Frenchman was selling Normande genetics from his homeland.
"I thought, well I’d like to have one of these," Wogsland said — but she didn’t stop at one.
She found a group of Normande heifers in Elk Mound and brought them home. When she saw the thriftiness and aggressive appetite they had, her interest grew. She crossed some Normande genetics with her Holsteins and also purchased Normande embryos from that French genetics company.
One resulting cow was flushed and some of her offspring are now bulls standing at stud.
Wogland often sells embryos as well, to other breeders interested in Normandes. She has found a market for her bull calves, too. "My purebred Normandes always sell as bulls and they sell pretty easily."
Those generally go to grazers, Amish and Mennonite farmers, interested in using it in a three-way cross — like Holstein, Jersey and Normande — because they want to keep the hybrid vigor of the crossbred. "They like what this breed has to offer."
A year ago she got together a group of 100 Normande embryos for sale to a Japanese buyer. She’s also had interest from Colombian buyers and has done embryo flushing for her own herd, to build numbers.
"I have a passion and an interest in building pedigrees. It’s a little bit science and it’s also an art."
Wogsland said that one day she’d like to have an entirely separate Normande herd. Another dream is to graze them and perhaps make farmstead artisan cheese from their milk one day.
The Wogland’s Normandes are kept in a freestall barn with their Holsteins where they are fed a total mixed ration and milked three times a day. The Holsteins average 28,000-30,000 pounds of milk while the Normande group stands at about 22,000-23,000 on official DHI test.
They make up for the slightly lower production with their components, though, she said. Normande milk has 4 percent butterfat compared to 3.5 percent from their Holsteins.
When she visited Brittany in Northwest France (just next door to Normandy) she found that every farm had a basic parlor, but most herds were in the 40-80 cow range.
Cows there were outside all the time but the temperate climate there makes it possible for cows to graze all year.
"We’ve found that Normandes are excellent grazers and they have exceptional hardiness and strength. They really love to be outside," she said.
More information on Wogland’s dairy herd and her Normande genetics is available at her web site www.newhopenormandes.com