In the world of show cows, Barbara is a super star. Cattle shows are a world unto themselves with unique requirements and plenty of insider lingo. There are many specifics to show judging, and if you haven't taken part in this type of event before, take heed: every judge has his or her own system, which usually starts at the head and goes all the way through to the tail, looking at finer points along the way.
Ernie Kueffner compares his seven-year-old Holstein, Barbara, to a super model, touting her “tremendous style.” In addition to having top-notch body confirmation and mammary development, the champion cow has an impressive pedigree. Descended from the famous bull sire Goldwyn, Barbara (full name Butz-Butler Gold Barbara) was voted All-American three years in a row, beginning at the age of two.
Naturally, Kueffner and his wife, Terri Packard, were eager to carry on her line. So when Barbara struggled to become pregnant this year, they were concerned.
“Barbara seemed to be pooling urine when she was in heat,” said Kueffner. He and Packard decided to brave the Beltway traffic and make the nearly three-hour trip from Kueffner Holsteins & Jerseys in Boonsboro, Maryland, to New Bolton Center in early March.
“New Bolton has an excellent reputation, and we’ve built a wonderful rapport with the vets there,” said Kueffner.
One veterinarian with whom they’ve had a longstanding relationship is Dr. Marie-Eve Fecteau, Associate Professor of Food Animal Medicine and Surgery. She examined Barbara upon arrival and concurred with the finding on the farm.
“Barbara had a condition called urovagina, meaning urine was staying inside the vulva and accumulating in her vagina, thus causing problems with pregnancy,” Fecteau said. “This is not uncommon in older cows due to pelvic changes and growth of the uterus.”
For Barbara, it was important for her to conceive soon. “Typically after nine to 10 months, lactation starts to drop,” said Fecteau. “Barbara, however, had been lactating for over a year. At some point she needed to get pregnant again.”
Fecteau recommended urethral extension. “With this procedure, we extend the opening of the urethra so that when Barbara urinates, all of the urine comes out of the vulva,” she explained.
Kueffner and Packard agreed to proceed.
The surgery went well and a urinary catheter was placed for 72 hours. “Barbara was due to go home after we pulled the catheter,” said Fecteau, “but she was straining to urinate, so we put the catheter back in.” Thankfully the problem resolved and Barbara was discharged on March 24.
Following Barbara’s return to the farm, Kueffner and Packard discussed the possibility of showing her in the spring. “It would all depend on how she turned around after surgery and if her production would go up,” said Packard. “We didn’t make any definitive plans.”
They simply watched and waited.
Much to everyone’s surprise, Barbara’s production went up and she looked healthier than ever before. “She didn’t miss a beat,” said Packard. “The surgery made a huge difference. Even her hair coat and skin color improved.”
Kueffner and Packard decided to bring Barbara to the New York Spring Dairy Carousel in Syracuse, New York, in early April. Upon arrival, the seasoned show Holstein seemed eager to participate.
“She was ready to go!” said Packard. “She walked right off the trailer without any struggle and seemed happy to be there.”
By the second day of the show, Barbara had given 100 pounds of milk. “I knew then that we could get her filled up,” said Packard. And Barbara did not disappoint in the show ring. “It was the best I’ve ever seen her behave,” she said. “She showed off a bit.”
On April 10, 2017—exactly 30 days post-surgery—Barbara was named Grand Champion after winning 1st place in her class and champion of senior cows.
“She’s had quite a career,” said Kueffner with pride. Barbara also has a winning personality. “You hear of a ‘type-A personality,’ but Barbara has an A-plus personality,” he added.
What’s next for the champion Holstein? “Our singular goal right now is to get her pregnant,” said Kueffner.
The moderate weather this time of year is ideal for breeding, and according to Kueffner, Barbara loves being outside in the lush pasture. “Hopefully she’ll become pregnant before the weather gets too hot,” he said.
Fecteau, too, is eagerly awaiting news of Barbara’s progress. “She’s an incredibly beautiful and productive cow,” she said. “She really has the whole package. I’m hoping for the best for her.”
Caring for a cow with such high genetic value has been a major undertaking for Kueffner and Packard. “In some ways, show cows like Barbara are similar to athletes,” said Kueffner. “They have to be in good shape, be well taken care of, and be well fed. It’s a lot like raising a child except without the college costs.”
Thanks to the successful surgery at New Bolton Center, everyone has great expectations for the future.
“Barbara is a special cow and we’re looking forward to carrying on her line,” said Kueffner. “We’re optimistic that the procedure made a big difference.”