Red hot at the Royal, young cow makes mark on show’s 100th year

TORONTO, Ont., Canada — On the heels of her October performance as the Red that was reserve grand champion of the International Holstein (black and white) show at World Dairy Expo in Madison, Blondin Unstopabu Maple-Red (Unstopabull) doubled-down to make history at the 100th Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in November. 

Not only did the senior 3-year-old win her class in both the Holstein and Red and White shows, she earned three top titles in three days: grand champion Red and White on Thursday, Nov. 10; grand champion Holstein on Friday, Nov. 11; and Supreme dairy cow Saturday, Nov. 12.

“She exceeded our expectations. It was surreal. It’s hard to take credit because Maple did it. She excelled. She has the udder, first of all, and that length of frame, silkiness and ring presence you need in the Holstein show. Piece for piece, and part for part, Maple was on a mission” says Kevin Doeberiener. 

He and Lindsay Bowen, as co-owners and caretakers of Maple, talked about the experience in a Farmshine phone interview after returning home with the history-making cow to their West Salem, Ohio farm on Sunday evening. 

The double-grand and supreme champion of the 100th Royal with owners and show sponsors (l-r) Bryce Fisher, R&F Livestock; Bill Schilling; Barclay Phoenix at the halter of Blondin Unstopabu Maple-Red; Ari Eckstein, Quality Seeds; Lindsay Bowen and Kevin Doeberiener; and Curtis McNeal, Semex. Photo by Ella Wright

The couple met through their love of showing cows. They have operated their cattle marketing business together for 13 years and are grateful for good partners in cows like Maple. 

Bill Schilling of Decatur, Michigan has been a partner in Maple from the beginning. More recently, R&F Livestock, Bryce Fisher, of Saskatchewan, Canada became a partner. 

“We couldn’t have done it without them,” says Lindsay.

She also notes Maple’s leadsman “Barclay Phoenix is one of the best. As a team, they both have that showring attitude of being in it to win it.”

With her calm disposition, she’s a tough one for getting her ears up. That’s something Barclay noted right away in a phone interview Monday. However, he shares what a pleasure it was to lead her, especially in the final stages of the Royal Holstein championship after the judges had separated some contenders.

As they turned past the tables and into the lineup, “she put those ears right up and kept them up the entire time after that,” Barclay reflects. “It was so cool. She wanted to win. Thinking about that moment still gives me goosebumps.”

Barclay has led many cattle over the years, including some great cows at big shows like World Dairy Expo and the Royal. When asked where Maple ranks among them, he says “she is easily, far and away, the best cow I’ve ever led, and she’s a young cow, that’s the thing. We will be seeing her for a while. She has a real future ahead of her.”

Having three calves to her credit certainly worked in the senior 3-year-old’s favor.

The World Dairy Expo is the top show in the world, says Barclay, “but the Royal has a special vibe for me. I’ve never led a Royal grand champion until this year, and it was the 100th Anniversary. That was special. We’re only an hour away, so local friends and family could be there,” he relates, sharing some of his own connections and bittersweet memories with the show, wishing his father could have been here to see it.

“I’m so happy for Bill. He has always wanted to be part of a Supreme champion, and now he has that. I’m happy for Kevin and Lindsay. They are humble and work hard. It was an honor to put on my boots and walk for them,” says Barclay, who has led some of Bill’s best cattle for over 20 years.

Barclay also tells of a historic connection for R&F Livestock. “Bryce is a great livestock man, and when they got back into this, they acquired the Continental show box. It’s a neat piece of history connected to Continental’s Scarlet, the last Red cow to win the Holstein show here 40 years ago,” he confirms.

According to records from the Royal Winter Fair, the last Red grand champion Holstein was in 1982 before there was a separate Red and White show. Until now, no other cow has been champion of both shows at the Royal.

Checking with other sources, we could not find an example of another cow winning three championship banners in three consecutive days, especially at a show of this caliber. 

Maple was bred by Ferme Blondin of Quebec and Riverdown Holsteins of Ontario.

“It’s truly a dream come true,” writes Blondin’s Dann Brady in an email response crediting her owners for their work with her. “There is no feeling like breeding a grand champion at the Royal. Having Maple win in the Reds was amazing but (also) in the black and whites, that was absolutely incredible. Maple combines everything we have been working at… all the things we breed for and work towards in our own herd and with customers of our Blondin Sires program.”

On Maple’s maternal side, her dam is an EX-92. She was owned by Blondin, Riverdown and Richard Villeneuve. She was sold pregnant with Maple in a Blondin sale. Her second dam, Lochdal Shaquille Missy-Red-EX-93 was intermediate champion at the Royal in 2013.

Maple’s sire Riverdown Unstopabull-Red, named the premier sire of the Royal Red and White show, was bred by Riverdown and is owned by Blondin as one of the first bulls in their sire program.

“Reds are hot. It was clear at this year’s Royal that the top Reds are just as good as the black and whites. It’s a Holstein show, and for me, I want to see the very best Holsteins go head-to-head, regardless of color,” Brady relates, citing examples placing second and eighth in the senior 3-year-old class with Maple that were also Red Unstopabulls.

Official judge Paul Trapp tapped Maple-Red as grand champion of the Holstein show at the 100th Royal. Photo by Ella Wright

Why did Kevin and Lindsay decide to put Maple-Red in both shows at the Royal? They had aimed to show her in the Holstein competition, then realized the Royal’s rules for entering a Red required participation also in the Red and White show, which is very competitive in its own right.

“It was a nerve-wracking decision,” says Kevin. “We didn’t know how the timing would line up to do the Holstein show on the second day, and we knew the first day would be very competitive with big winners from the Red and White show in Madison.”

That included World Dairy Expo grand champion Ms Ransom-Rail Beth-Red (also sired by Unstopabull). Owned by Ransom-Rail, Milk Source and Laurie Fischer of Kaukauna, Wisconsin, Beth was senior and bred-and-owned champion, standing reserve grand to Maple at the Royal.

With Maple earning a second intermediate and grand championship the next day, the reserve grand champion honors in the Holstein show went to senior and bred-and-owned champion Jacobs High Octane Babe of Ferme Jacobs, Quebec.

Missing from the Royal Holstein competition was the World Dairy Expo Supreme champion Oakfield Solom Footloose (Solomon). Her co-owner Mike Duckett of Duckett Holsteins, Rudolph, Wisconsin served as associate judge of the Royal Holstein show with official judge Paul Trapp, also of Wisconsin.

Together they sorted through nearly 500 Holstein entries, 184 of them were milking animals, which included a handful of Red and Whites that had been judged the previous day by Blair Weeks of Prince Edward Island.

“This was what we were trying to achieve, and she did it. It’s all her,” Kevin affirms.

Asked how they managed her udder in those three days of consecutive championships, Kevin gives Maple the credit for holding her milk high in that high rear udder and adds: “We used a lot of Udder Comfort.

“We had to be ready to compete on that first day, but we also knew we didn’t have the amount of time between shows to bag for the next day’s show. We milked her three times. We milked her after each show, and we used Udder Comfort continually throughout the three days. She filled and just kept coming back balanced, and basically looked the same the whole way through,” Kevin explains.

Edema can become a problem in the hours between the class show to intermediate to grand, especially for a young cow.

“By the time you get to grand, and get through all the pictures, you almost always see some edema, but Maple won her senior 3-year-old class the first day, and five hours later for grand, she still looked good. Then she came back the next day for the same routine and again on the third day for Supreme. That’s on her, but the Udder Comfort sure helped,” Kevin reports.

“We use Udder Comfort at every show,” adds Lindsay. “We use it when they calve. We use it before and after a show. As we’re bagging, and as the udder is getting fuller, we apply Udder Comfort every 15 minutes to soften and keep the quality.”

“Frankly, we’ve never done without it,” says Kevin. 

Lindsay also credits Maple’s personality. “When she gets to the show, you can see she is feeling the mood. At the same time, she’s calm, cool and collected. At the pack, she stands and eats and eats and lays down and seems to enjoy the attention. It’s like she knows where she is and what’s expected.”

The couple purchased Maple in the summer of 2021 from Hodglynn Holsteins of Ontario. They showed her at World Dairy Expo that year, where she won her class as a fresh 2-year-old.

With the 2021 Royal canceled due to Covid restrictions, they took her to Saint Hyacinthe, Quebec, deemed the Canadian National Show that year. She was grand champion of the Red and White show and a class winner and honorable mention intermediate champion in the black and white show. She went on to be 2021 All-Canadian and All-American Red and White 2-year-old.

In April 2022, she was intermediate and grand champion of the Red and White show at the New York Spring Carousel. She was also intermediate and reserve grand in the black and white competition.

“She’s been in full stride ever since,” says Kevin.

Barclay Phoenix led Maple-Red at the 55th World Dairy Expo in October, where official judge Pierre Boulet made Maple-Red reserve grand champion of the International Holstein Show after naming her intermediate champion and placing her first in the senior 3-year-old class. She did not compete in the International Red and White Show at the 2022 World Dairy Expo. Photo by Sherry Bunting

When they saw how well she calved into her third lactation on August 1, just eight weeks before World Dairy Expo, they started leaning toward putting her in the International Holstein show instead of the Red and White show in Madison.

“No one does it, and we made the final decision at the last minute. We kept thinking, how many opportunities will we ever get to do it? This was the cow, and this was the time, and our partners were okay with it. Our goal at World Dairy Expo was to see her win her class and be a contender. When she did that and was named intermediate champion, we could breathe again,” he recalls.

For Lindsay, “that win — in itself — was amazing,” and then Maple went on to be World Dairy Expo reserve grand champion Holstein as well.

That decision was a difficult one also because at Expo, a Red Holstein that meets the registration qualifications for both shows has the option of entering either show — not both.

In addition to their cattle marketing business, Kevin farms 1000 acres of corn and soybeans in Northeast Ohio and has a seed business with Becks Hybrids. Lindsay is an Ag teacher at Hillsdale Local Schools in Ashland County. They came home from the whirlwind of shows in Toronto to duty calling — Kevin shelling corn and Lindsay practicing parliamentary procedure with her FFA students.

While they have different teams helping at the various shows, Kevin and Lindsay do the day-to-day chores for their string of show cows and heifers, with additional calves on the ground and more coming from IVF work with Maple.

“We both grew up on farms and showed cows. We both love the challenge and the friendships we’ve made,” says Lindsay. “We’re both very competitive people, and you could say this is our outlet for that.”

Asked about the inner-city location of the complete agricultural showcase that is the Royal Winter Fair, Lindsay describes the atmosphere as “intense and exciting” with large attendance and many school groups and families coming through. To have a dairy show attract top cattle from across North America as part of a complete agricultural showcase — set within Canada’s most populous city – it’s a different feel.

“We also like the Royal because it’s the end of the show season. What you achieve here, no one can take away from you,’” Kevin relates. As nervous as they were about their decisions this fall, Maple not only handled it, she exceeded their expectations. In a cattle marketing business with the goal of turnaround, Maple is one that is pretty special to her owners.

“We look for animals we can work with and improve, typically buying cattle from herds off the farm and developing them,” Kevin relates.

“Every animal is different. For me, it’s the challenge of developing each one and seeing how they improve to reach goals,” says Lindsay.

“That bar is set pretty high now,” Kevin admits. “We used to be happy with much less. We’ve had junior champions at the Royal in the past, and a reserve intermediate at Expo — but nothing like this.”

The couple plans to start the 2023 season again building up the show string that will undoubtedly include Blondin Unstopabu Maple at the 2023 New York Spring show. She has been serviced for a potential calving before the 2023 fall shows.

Story by Sherry Bunting

For the Comfort Team at Udder Comfort, it’s all about the cows… and the people!
Lining up for photos after the World Dairy Expo International Holstein Show in October, Barclay Phoenix with reserve grand champion Blondin Unstopabu Maple-Red in hand took time to stop Mark Comfort, co-founder of Udder Comfort and congratulate him as 2022 World Dairy Expo International Person of the Year. “Mark is such an icon of the business as far as I’m concerned in getting Select Sires and U.S. genetics into Canada, and in developing the great product Udder Comfort. He’s someone who takes the bull by the horns. There’s no saying no to that guy!” says Barclay. “Most people don’t realize it, but Mark is a longtime Holstein breeder too, and a breeder in Red and Whites and polled for years now. That’s neat!”

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