Brownstown teenager to write fair diary for The Tribune


As his final Jackson County Fair as a 4-H’er approaches, Ryland Nierman would be happy if he adds more accomplishments to his résumé.

But when all is said and done, he realizes that’s not what it’s all about.

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He’s focused on his own future and that of his younger siblings and other 4-H’ers.

“The ribbons and trophies are nice, but 4-H has ultimately taught me the life skills that I’m going to need as I go to college and as I get a job,” the 18-year-old Brownstown resident said. “In five years, you’re not going to really remember how your cow or your projects did, but you’re going to remember the hard work and the stuff that you did with that and the life skills you learned from that because that will last your lifetime.”

For the 10th year in a row at the fair, Nierman will be showing dairy cows and having his woodworking and memory book projects on display.

He will be sharing his experience with readers of The Tribune as the fair diary writer. Look for his entries each day of fair week, which is July 21 through 27.

Starting showing

The Nierman family has had Brown Swiss cows since Henry Nierman brought two of them from Wisconsin to Brownstown on a train in 1945.

“I think he had some Jersey, but he was interested in the Brown Swiss, so he bought the Brown Swiss up in Wisconsin because there were more Brown Swiss up there,” said Henry’s grandson and Ryland’s father, Brian Nierman. “They just trained them down here at that time. That was probably the best transportation there was was trains.”

Brian and his father showed Brown Swiss cows, so that makes Ryland the fourth generation to work with the breed.

Ryland said he began with open shows when he was 4 or 5.

“The dairy farm has been in the family for a long time,” he said. “I’m the fourth generation. The history, I feel like I need to do it, but I did it, and I liked it, and I’m glad I did it. It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun.”

Ryland learned the basics of dairy cows and how to feed and take care of them and show them.

“Our daily routine is get up at 8 a.m. to catch them, tie them up. We have a show barn, and we have them tied up over there, and we’ll spread straw and get their bedding all set,” he said. “Then we’ll feed them. That’s your basic calf show feed and grain, hay, stuff like that. At about 3 or 4, feed again. We usually go over there about 6, take them to the water, lead them to that.”

Then Ryland works with the ones he plans to show at the fair to get them used to being led around.

“To me, I’m obviously biased, but I think they are the prettiest out of all of the breeds,” he said. “They are very docile. If they are just walking out there in the cow lot, they will all just come up to you. They don’t run away. They’ll just walk up to you, and they are curious. They are like pets. They are nosy. Also, especially with showing, they are really headstrong, they are powerful.”

At this year’s fair, Ryland plans to show eight Brown Swiss cows, while his brother, Brayton, 10, will take six, and their cousin, Landon Nierman, will take two.

Brian helps them determine the best ones to take to the fair.

“With the smaller ones, I know how to judge them, but he picks the ones that he likes,” Ryland said. “He’s around them all of the time. Three hundred sixty-five days a year, he sees them all of the time. He’ll ask what I think, and then we’ll go out and pick the ones we think (will be good to take). We’ll tie up more than the ones we’re going to take because they’ll change the way they look through the summer.

“Then the bigger ones, usually, we pick some of the same ones we picked when they were little because they still look kind of like that,” he said.

Through his time on the farm and doing dairy judging for 10 years, Ryland knows what a good dairy cow looks like.

“You want them to have a rib because for dairy, a lot of rib means that they are making a lot of milk,” he said. “Basically, you look at the structure of the animal, and you look at their feet and legs, the way they walk. For dairy, you don’t want them really fat, but you don’t want them really skinny and narrow.”

Each year at the county fair, Ryland likes seeing all of his hard work pay off when he gets to parade his cows around the show arena.

“When you’re in there, you don’t think about anything else. You’re just trying to get the cow to look its best, and you’re paying attention to everything,” he said. “You’re just in the zone showing.”

Earning an award is a bonus.

“It makes you feel like you’re accomplishing something because it takes a lot of work to get them ready and to get everything ready for the county fair,” he said.

Ryland said he has won supreme cow more than once, showmanship twice and master showmanship for dairy. This year, he hopes to qualify for the supreme showman contest, where he would show swine, boer goat, sheep, dairy cattle, beef cattle and dairy beef cattle.

Outside of the county fair, the Nierman family also does open dairy shows in the area and takes cows to the Indiana and Kentucky state fairs and a North American show in Wisconsin.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Ryland said. “Me personally, I like working with the animals. I’m going to Purdue (University) for animal science, so I really enjoy that animal aspect, specifically the dairy.”

Other 4-H involvement

With woodworking, Ryland picked up that interest from his grandfather, Armin Apple, who lives in McCordsville.

“He does woodworking and stuff, and I just did it my first year (of 4-H). I made a toolbox, and I liked it, so then we did it the next year, and I liked it,” Ryland said. “From that point, we started making bigger things and more complex things and just advanced. I’ve just never stopped doing it.”

His projects over the years have included a nightstand, an end table and a hall tree. This year, he is making a pullout coffee table.

“It takes a long time because this year, I went up in the spring to get started on this and it’s really still not done,” Ryland said. “It’s already put together, but we have to put a finish on it.”

The memory book is a recordkeeping project of his 4-H achievements.

“My mom made me do it my first year, and ever since then, I just added on,” Ryland said. “It’s not a very hard project, and it’s a really good thing to put down everything you’ve done and looking in the past at what all you’ve accomplished and all of the projects you’ve done. It teaches you to be organized and responsible, so it’s a pretty good project.”

Ryland also has been a member of the Jackson County 4-H Tractor Club, which involves attending monthly meetings and participating in the annual parts and written tests and driving contest. The past couple of years, however, he said he hasn’t been able to attend meetings because he was busy practicing and playing golf for Trinity Lutheran High School. At Trinity, he also was in FFA and did livestock judging.

Ryland is a 10-year member of the Vallonia Friends 4-H Club, and he has been involved with Junior Leaders since seventh grade. Along with regular meetings, he said the Junior Leaders do a lot of volunteering.

“They are like the role models for the 4-H’ers,” he said. “It has taught me to lead by example to show the younger 4-H’ers you should do Junior Leaders, you should be a part of this. You meet a lot of new people, and you get to go different places with the meetings and stuff and holding offices. That teaches you to be responsible and things like that.”

Lots of benefits

Brian said showing dairy cows and being involved in 4-H have helped Ryland in a lot of ways.

“For one, it’s responsibility because they come over here in the mornings, get up in the mornings and they tie them up and feed them and take care of them,” Brian said.

“Then it’s competition,” he said. “You’ve got to learn sometimes, you win, sometimes, you lose. Sometimes, you might spend days working with them and you might not do as well as you think, and you go to a different show maybe a week or two later and you do the same amount of work and it pays off and you win. They learn what hard work is and the benefits of hard work.”

Time management is another takeaway.

“You’ve got to learn how to manage your time with the cattle, plus what other activities you’ve got to do,” Brian said. “He’s going to college here in a couple months, and he’s going to have to learn that time management deal, too.”

Ryland is majoring in animal science agribusiness at Purdue.

“I’ve always been interested in the dairy industry,” he said. “For a while, I kind of just wanted to farm and take over the farm, but the dairy industry is not really in a good spot right now. It’s a struggle, so I don’t know. I could still do that. I definitely like the animal aspect of farming, so I decided that I was going to do animal science, and I have a little interest for business and stuff like that.”

In college, he hopes to pinpoint what his future career will be.

“I just kind of narrowed it down to animals,” he said. “Hopefully when I get to college, I’ll figure that out.”

[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”Nierman file” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

Name: Ryland Nierman

Age: 18

Hometown: Brownstown

Residence: Brownstown

Education: 2019 graduate of Trinity Lutheran High School

Organizations: Jackson County 4-H, Junior Leaders, Vallonia Friends 4-H Club, Jackson County 4-H Tractor Club

Fair projects: Dairy cattle, woodworking and memory book

Future plans: Attend Purdue University to study animal science agribusiness

Family: Parents, Brian and Amy Nierman; sister, Shelby Nierman, 22; brothers, Brayton Nierman, 10, and Camdyn Nierman, 9