Spring Valley Farm holds proud history with judging
By ANDREA HAINES
Special to The Delmarva Farmer
WESTMINSTER, Md. (April 18, 2017) — Love for the little brown cow, the ability to hand-pick pristine genetic traits, and the overwhelming desire to teach both these qualities makes for great people in the dairy world.
The Stiles and Heath families of Spring Valley Farm, in Carroll County are these people, with a sustained tradition of sharing their prowess in dairy cattle judging.
This family-farmed herd branched out into the butterfat-giving breed of Jersey cattle in the 1920s and hasn’t looked back since. But, that is a more familiar story to anyone in dairy circles.
It’s the passion for quality genetics that fashioned a true need for cattle evaluation, a skill brothers Wayne and Allen Stiles, and nephew, Michael Heath have taken to the next level.
John Stiles, Wayne and Allen’s father, was the first Stiles to judge on a 4-H team. “Dad made the 4-H team in the 1920s,” Allen said. “He got us interested in judging and we all followed in his footsteps by later competing on teams.”
Allen said his father was an inspiring factor to others with the need to judge as Spring Valley Farm has been hosting state and county judging practices for over 50 years.
“Our father started the trend by hosting a cattle-judging clinic for adults. The late John Morris approached him to host and they later decided to open it to youth, too. This got the ball rolling and they kept returning each year,” Allen said.
“Judging is just an inherited trait for us,” added Wayne with a chuckle. “We didn’t really see it as an option to not do it since the farm’s been so positioned around judging for that long.”
Each year, teams from Maryland and neighboring states visit Spring Valley Farm and the Jersey herd to enhance their shot at judging greatness.
“We usually try to choose classes that will be interesting for the teams to talk about [in reasons],” Wayne said.
Both the Stiles brothers and Heath each have been honored with the membership of a state judging team.
“We all have gone on to compete at national contests,” said Allen as he humbly recalled the time his team set the record for highest score in 1974 during the contest held in Columbus, Ohio. “We went on to Europe that year. I really enjoyed the experience it provided our team,” he said.
Judging not only helps one evaluate genetic flaws and successes, but also allows fellow dairymen the chance to learn from one another.
“My favorite experiences were the times we got to travel,” Wayne said. “I enjoyed visiting other farms and seeing what works for other producers. I’ve even tried to incorporate some things into our operation.”
Speaking of progressive acts, once contests were open to female participants, the Stiles name rose to the top, much like cream in a bottle. “My Aunt Barbara Stiles (now Riggs) was the first girl on a 4-H team,” Allen said.
Wayne and Allen weren’t their parents’ only children. They shared John and Charlotte’s attention with four other siblings: Howard, Betty Ann, Charlotte and Clifford. Betty Ann, now Heath, could often be found in the barn just like the boys.
“Betty Ann enjoyed showing a lot of our strings we took to the fairs,” Allen said. “We all enjoyed our time on the farm and at shows.”
Betty Ann, Michael’s mother, who herself always had an eye for good cattle is also married to Billy Heath who was a cattle fitter at the time, but is more widely known for his cattle photography.
“Billy coached the county youth teams for a long time,” Wayne said.
Even Michael can remember his father at practices before he was old enough to judge.
“We lived next door to the main farm and I was pretty involved in the chores when I could start helping,” Michael said. “My dad purchased about 4 or 5 heifers to get us started and I was able to grow my own herd by breeding from them.”
Michael remembers being engrossed in studying cattle magazines for herds with the best bulls and pedigrees.
“Our father banned him temporarily from the farm for judging too much,” Allen said, laughing. “It was innocent, but he would ‘get after him’ for holding up chores sometimes because he wanted us to pick out animals for him to practice judging on in the barn.”
Michael’s devotion to cattle evaluation has proven fruitful for him and the makings of the Jersey breed. He has had the honor of serving as officiant to several well-known shows like the Royal Winter Fair, Swiss Expo, and World Dairy Expo, where he judged the International Jersey Show in 2015.
“Wayne served as my associate judge during the Jersey show at [World Dairy] Expo,” Michael said. “I was proud to have him there next to me.”
Michael’s been credited many times in his judging speeches for thanking his family for their mentorship.
It is this mentorship that has carried Spring Valley Farm to the top choice of judging locations. If there’s a chance of youth attending a judging practice, the members of Spring Valley Farm will be there to lend a helping hand and share their extensive wisdom.
“There’s always time for the kids,” Michael said. “They are the future of the industry.”