Buttercup, Lady, Veer and Morgan had quite the showing at dairy cattle shows this summer.
The Benter Family Farms cows and heifers were on the grand stage at the Indiana State Fair and Kentucky State Fair, competing in 4-H and open shows.
Buttercup, a cow shown by Will Hackman, won reserve grand champion milking shorthorn at both 4-H and open shows at the Indiana State Fair.
Lady was shown by Kevin Benter and placed first in the senior 3-year-old Holstein category in the open show at both state fairs and was reserve supreme cow in the Hoosier Midwest Classic open show in Franklin.
Veer, a heifer shown by Charlie Hackman and Kevin and Ryan Benter, was junior champion milking shorthorn in the Indiana State Fair open show, reserve junior champion milking shorthorn in the Kentucky State Fair open show and junior champion at the Franklin show.
Morgan was reserve supreme heifer in the 4-H grand champion drive, junior champion milking shorthorn in the 4-H show and reserve junior champion milking shorthorn in the open show, all at the Indiana State Fair. Will led her in the 4-H shows, and Kevin showed her in the open show.
Also, Simon Florine won 4-H junior showmanship milking shorthorn at the Indiana State Fair.
Ryan, son of Kevin and cousin of the Hackmans and Florine, said while the family has shown dairy cattle since 1956, it has really established its name in the milking shorthorn breed at the state level in the last five or six years.
Other families know the Benters do a good job matching animals and breeding them.
“That has been very rewarding. More than anything, it’s just nice to get out and just be up there with family and show and see so many friends you only get to see certain times of the year because we’re all busy,” Ryan said.
“Our dairy numbers aren’t quite what they used to be, but the quality that comes out of Jackson County, whether it’s Greg Peters showing his Holsteins down there at the Kentucky and Indiana state fairs or Niermans with their (Brown) Swiss or us with our shorthorns, mostly anybody in our county fair could go on and do very well at the next level or compete,” he said.
The members of the family who showed this summer are the remaining ones working with dairy cattle.
Ryan and his older brother, Kyle Benter, both were in 4-H, and they started showing at the state fair when they were in fifth grade and seventh grade, respectively.
While Ryan still gets to show cattle these days, he also likes being a mentor to his younger cousins. Charlie is a junior at Trinity Lutheran High School, while Will is a seventh-grader and Simon is a fourth-grader at St. John’s Sauers Lutheran School.
“I enjoy it, and they all do a super good job,” Ryan said. “It’s neat to see that light switch go off in their head. They figure out what it’s all about. Just to see that kind of stuff pay off for them, not only are they having fun, but they are learning skills and responsibilities and starting to grow up a little bit. I think the 4-H program is very good about helping build our better leaders of tomorrow.”
Some of Ryan’s other cousins show other animals at the Jackson County Fair.
“When our family branched out and my aunts got married, some of them took up different species,” he said. “I’ve got quite a few cousins that are very competitive in the pig shows and stuff of that nature.”
The Benter family’s start with dairy cattle was after Robert “Bob” and Marilyn Benter were married in 1956.
“Their wedding present, my grandma got two Guernsey cows, and Grandpa got three Jersey cows, and that’s how it all started,” Ryan said. “Then they grew up, they ended up switching over to predominantly Holsteins and they milked, and they had the five kids.”
Kathy, Karen, Kay, Kevin and Karla all showed dairy cattle, too.
“Then as far as my cousins go, there’s maybe one or two of them that didn’t show growing up, but other than that, they all showed,” Ryan said. “Even some of us, when we weren’t old enough to show on our own, were showing beside somebody else.”
Ryan said they quit milking in 2018 and handed that job over to the Nierman family, but they have remained involved in showing.
At the county and state fairs, the family makes it a point to gather for a photo to capture the memories made together.
“For us and most of the other people that show, this is our vacation,” Ryan said. “We go to the county fair, we go to the state fair, we just see other people from the state, and then not only that, but it’s like we worked hard all this summer, we raised this calf, we bred this calf, just going up there and saying, ‘Here’s what we’ve got. How’s it going to compete at the state fair?’ Then we’ve got so many friends from across Indiana and Kentucky that we’ve met. It’s just special.”
Ryan sees the family keeping the cattle showing tradition going.
“As far as Dad and I are concerned, I think we’ll never quit,” he said, smiling. “Kyle and my cousin, Derek (Rieckers), they are interested in it, as well. When we quit milking, we sat down and made it a point that we weren’t going to just fizzle out or anything. We wanted to keep showing. Dairy has been such a huge part of our lives. It was just kind of hard to put away.”