In 2019, Megan Hill was listed numerous times in show highlights throughout the United States. She exhibited champion animals in the New England area, at World Dairy Expo and received several prestigious titles at the All American Junior Show. Her drive, determination and dedication for breeding quality Jersey cattle has truly shown.
In this interview feature, you will learn more about Megan’s background and her path to competing at high levels of competition with her bred and owned animals.
Please introduce yourself and tell us about your family’s farm, education and goals for the future.
I grew up and now work on my family’s 2400-cow dairy. It was initially started by my grandfather and grandmother in the early 70s. By the time my father and his siblings were finishing high school, the farm had grown to a few hundred cows. A few years before I was born, the farm built a new facility and parlor to be able to expand to over 500 cows. Since then we have continued to build new barns and expand the facility built in 1996.
In 2017, we put in a new parlor so we could continue to grow and expand. As of right now, we are milking close to 2400 cows with the majority being Holsteins. We currently have about 80 Jerseys and 30 Ayrshires. My grandmother always liked Jerseys so she was given a Jersey calf from her children as a Mother’s Day gift. Since then, there has always been Jerseys on the farm. Not until I was born and began to take an interest in Jerseys did we start registering them.
I completed high school in 2017 and then spent time at three different colleges – Morrisville State College, SUNY Cobleskill and the University of Minnesota – before receiving a bachelor’s degree in ag business from SUNY Cobleskill in 2018. I’ve been back on my family’s farm since finishing college in January of 2018. In my time back, I have been in charge of show cows and heifers, as well as reproduction, and also help make herd management decisions. My future goals are to be part of the third generation to own and operate my family farm and continue to grow and develop my Jersey herd.
When did you start showing?
When I was two-years-old and finally eligible to show in the local pee-wee showmanship class, we didn’t have any Jerseys young enough for me to be able to “show.” With that in mind, my father too me to a Jersey farm an hour away and let me pick the calf I wanted. The calf I picked ended up living to 13-years-old. Throughout the years, she showed me all the personality traits of the Jersey breed that I have grown to love so much.
Ever since the first time in the ring, I’ve been addicted! After every show I always reflect on what I could have done better and how I could have better prepared my animals in the months and weeks leading up to the show.
You had quite the successful All American Junior Show in 2019. After being named Premier Breeder of the Junior Show, had the best bred and owned individual of the show and bred the Premier Performance cow, please describe how you felt.
I had a huge whirlwind of emotions that day. I started the day excited to see what it would bring, but sad that it was going to be my last junior show ever. The banners I brought home made me feel extremely proud of what I’ve accomplished in only a couple generations with my Jerseys. It was years of studying pedigrees, hours of time treating cows when the odds weren’t in their favor and learning how to formulate feed programs for show calves and cows all finally coming together.
Last summer, I spent almost the entire month of July trying to save “Galaxy’s” left front quarter after her teat had been stepped on. Along with it having to be hand stripped every milking, it also flared up three times with bad e.coli mastitis. I think most everyone thought I was crazy to be spending so much time on what seemed like a lost cause. fortunately, three weeks later it finally healed enough where it could be milked with a milking machine and the quarter didn’t even go light. To be rewarded with winning Best Bred and Owned with “Galaxy,” the cow I had put so much effort into, was a dream come true.
Winning Premier Performance Cow was a huge honor as it combines both phenotypic traits, along with genotypic traits, which awards a cow that I think most everyone strives to make. When the announcement came over that I had won Premier Breeder, I didn’t think I had heard it right at first and was in such disbelief. The entire walk from the barn to Freedom Hall I was trying to hold back tears as I came to the realization that the award was a result of decedents from Kellogg-Bay Amedeo Gladys-ET. “Galaxy” is a daughter and “Glorianna” is a granddaughter of “Gladys.”
“Gladys” was the first Jersey I showed on the colored shavings in Madison. Most of my best awards and memories during my time as a junior are with either “Gladys” or her descendants on the other end of the halter. It was pretty amazing to have my junior show career come to a close winning Premier Breeder, an award that wouldn’t have been possible without “Gladys” and her ability to transmit. I lost “Gladys” about a month before the All American, so it was definitely the perfect award to honor and recognize her legacy.
We have followed your success throughout this past summer. In particular, “Glorianna” did very well for you. Describe some of the emotions you experience when she went on to be named Grand Champion of the Junior Show at World Dairy Expo.
I’ve shown at World Dairy Expo for many years. A few years ago, I exhibited the Reserve Grand Champion of the Junior Jersey Show and up until this past year, that was my most proud moment in the junior show ring. Going into Expo this year, I didn’t have much for expectations, “Glorianna” had been doing very well all year, but Expo is a whole different ball game. I was super excited to be first junior in my class, but not until I was standing in the center of the ring did it hit me that I had a real shot at Intermediate Champion, then Grand Champion.
It’s hard to explain how I felt when I got “the handshake” but it was by far one of the coolest feelings I’ve had. Proud, humbled, accomplished, thankful and happy were just some of the feelings I was experiencing. I have always dreamed of being in the supreme champion ceremony at World Dairy Expo, but not until I was entering the ring and the director lights hit me and “Glorianna” did it really hit me how much of a privilege it was to be on the colored shavings Saturday afternoon. This is definitely a memory I will cherish for a lifetime.
What do you focus on in your breeding program? Do you make all the mating decisions for your animals and which bulls are you currently utilizing?
I have made all the mating decisions for my Jersey herd for quite some time, but when I was at school my father handled most of the mating decisions. With my Jersey herd, I focus on breeding a cow that works hard, but also looks good while doing it. For a while, I was mainly using just “high type” bulls, but a few years ago I realized I had lost a lot of production and needed to work to get that back. Don’t get me wrong, I still use high type bulls, but I am more cautious of who I’m using them on. I have been using a lot of cross-over bulls and so far, I love the type of cows they are making. My “Colton’s” are to-date the best group of cows I’ve calved, I’ve also started calving in some “Casino’s” and they look like they’re going to be a great group of cows as well.
Who are some of the mentors you’ve had along the way? Is there something in particular that has stuck with you that you’d like to share?
I’ve been fortunate enough to have many mentors along the way, but three people who I think have made the most impact are my father, Uncle Kevin and Joe Allen. My Uncle Kevin has always brought my cousins and I to shows. Throughout the years, he’s taught me a great deal about being a good leadsmen and taking care of and getting cows to look their best at a show. Joe Allen of Kellogg-Bay Genetics originally helped get some of his best genetics into my herd, Kellogg-Bay Amedeo Gladys for example, and then has always been willing to help guide me on making matings that make sense.
My father is a great cow man and has spent endless hours passing his knowledge and expertise on to me so that I can better manage, not only my Jerseys, but all the cows at home without relying on him as much.
Do you have any advice for younger Jersey youth?
Never underestimate how much everyone in the dairy industry is willing to help and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
More about Megan
To see more of Megan’s showring successes, visit our Shows 2019 page and look through the various shows covered throughout the year. You can also see the complete results from the 2019 All American Junior Jersey Show on our website.