Abbie Evans can’t remember why exactly she was drawn to the large, pearly pink-eared, steel-gray and jet-black nosed Brown Swiss, but Evans’ mother said that was all the young dairy woman wanted.
In 1999, Evans got her first Brown Swiss from the Daubert family at Victory Acres in Pine Grove, Pennsylvania, and in 2000, her second calf came from the Demay family of Towpath Farms in Palmyra, New York. Now, the majority of the 80 cows of A Joy Swiss & Kuhl Kows, which Evans and her husband, Andrew, manage can be traced back to those first two calves.
“This was always the dream,” Evans said.
Many young farmers like the Evanses found buying land difficult, but they are renting their milking barn in Rome, Pennsylvania. The couple recently moved into a new barn that is a 20-minute drive from Evans’ parents. The couple purchase the majority of the feed from Evans’ father, who farms 200 acres only 20 minutes away. The heifers are also housed on Evans’ parents’ farm.
Since Evans and her husband have moved into their new milking parlor, Evans has noticed that the cows have adjusted to the new environment, which she feels is a reflection on the breed. The breed also has great milk components, she said.
However, Evans loves the breed for the personalities she has housed in the barn. Brown Swiss are super friendly and easy-going.
“They are all up in your business,” she chuckled.
Both Evans and Andrew work off the farm; she is usually in a classroom substitute teaching and he is traveling as freelance fitter for farms going to shows or sales. If Andrew is not on the farm, then she is managing the operation and vice versa, Evans said.
For Evans, the preparation for the show string begins by getting the cows bred and calved in by June. The couple start clipping their cattle in the spring and continue to do that once a month. When a show gets closer, she and her husband increase the clipping to every two weeks to keep the hair growth under control, Evans said.
In addition, Evans halter breaks the calves, as the majority of the herd is semi-halter broke, she said.
The farm travels to the county fair, regional shows in central New York, New York State Fair, and All-American, and sometimes they make the journey to National Agriculture International’s Livestock Exposition. During the New York shows and All-American, Evans and her husband assist youths who lease cows from them.
The Evanses were recently at World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisconsin. “Just making it out there is incredible,” she said. “The quality of cows is unbelievable.”
The farm placed in the top 10 for the following categories: earned spring heifer calf, summer yearling heifer, junior 2-year-old cow, senior 2-year-old cow, 5-year-old cow, best three females, best junior three heifers and produce of dam.
There is no criteria of qualification to show dairy cattle at World Dairy Expo, but it is a gamble due to the high expense of traveling out there. Evans analyzes that the risk is worth it since she knows her cattle have what it takes to place in the top 10 of their classes.
However, if she ever loses the feeling of enchantment that World Dairy Expo gives her when the truck pulls into the expo grounds, that is when she will stop attending, Evans said. However, that hasn’t happen yet and Evans is looking forward to going back in 2020.
Despite the wins, it hasn’t always been all roses, though, Evans said. “We struggle, too.”
But the Evanses know that working odd jobs off the farm and doing other penny-saving methods allows them to keep the view they love the most, a barn full of happy, cud-chewing Brown Swiss.
“To stand here and look at a barn full of Brown Swiss — it’s a dream come true,” she said.