While competing in Wednesday’s 4-H dairy cattle show at the Jackson County Fairgrounds, Ryan Benter had all kinds of ribbons stuffed into his pockets.
“I’ll find a place for it someplace,” the 18-year-old Brownstown Central High School senior said of his collection of ribbons.
It was easy for those watching the annual show in the fairgrounds show arena in Brownstown to realize the nine-year 4-H’er knew what he was doing when it came to showing dairy cattle.
“It’s just great,” he said of being in the show arena. “Some people don’t get the chance to have a champion. But just showing your cow, showing people what you’ve worked with, that’s the real prize.”
Several times during the show, Benter Family Farms in Tampico was mentioned, as Benter’s cousins, Kasandra Rieckers, 18, Derek Rieckers, 16, and Charlie Hackman, 10, also competed. In all, the family had 20 dairy cattle in the show, and they collected several awards.
The four relatives were carrying on a tradition, started 59 years ago by Bob and Marilyn Benter.
“It’s a family thing,” Benter said. “My brother (Kyle) started showing, and I just wanted to be like my brother, following in his footsteps. He helped me with my calves or if I had any questions about showmanship, he’d help me out or if I had trouble leading a calf, he would try and break it for me.”
Siblings Kasandra and Derek Rieckers both said they are happy to carry on a family tradition.
“I felt like it was something that I needed to do and I really wanted to do,” said Kasandra, who graduated from BCHS in the spring. “I grew up watching my cousins show, and I wanted to be out there with them and doing the exact same thing.”
One of the best things about it is having family support, Kasandra said.
“If you have a lot of family that has done it and they come out, they just support you, and you always have a cheer block,” she said. “I can ask a question, and anyone will answer it and try to help you do the best you can do.”
Derek, a junior at BCHS, said it’s all he has known.
“Ever since I was coming out of preschool, we’d go half-day, and I’d come back from preschool and just go home and help them,” he said. “I wanted to. It’s just what we do.”
This is Charlie’s first year of 4-H, and he said his relatives have been a big help.
“It’s just like a big family,” the St. John’s Sauers Lutheran School fourth-grader said. “They would walk with me and help me and teach me. It has just helped me so I could get better and better.”
Looking back on when he began showing cattle, Benter said it was a lot to learn.
“But as soon as you get it down, you’re good to go,” he said. “Usually, the judges we have here, they are looking to help the 4-H’ers. They will tell you what you’re doing wrong, what you need to do with your calf and just about anything.”
At the family farm, they are milking seven breeds of dairy cattle, including red and white, Benter said. That consists of around 75 cattle, predominantly Holstein.
In the summer, Benter balances time working with cattle on the farm and preparing for the football season.
“It’s pretty hard, but I find time for the cows after I get done with football,” he said.
Benter also has gained knowledge of the dairy cows by participating in the 4-H Dairy Youth Academy. He was on a judging team with Shelby Nierman, Ryland Nierman and Breonna Bottorff that placed in the top five at a district contest and first at state to qualify for the upcoming World Dairy Expo in Wisconsin.
Last year, he qualified for the event when it was conducted in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
“We’ll judge all six breeds and give reasons on the six cow classes,” he said. “I think it will be real nice to judge some really nice cows up there.”
Kasandra Rieckers is in her 10th and final year of 4-H. She said she has improved in showing over the years.
“I think I’ve gotten a lot more confident and just more comfortable with showing them and handling them when they act up and just knowing how to respond to different situations,” she said.
She said she gets a thrill out of competing in the show arena.
“It’s very intense in the show arena, especially with competing against your brother and your cousins because you’re all trying to beat each other,” she said. “But it’s also very rewarding when you do win. You can’t always win, but just knowing when your hard work pays off, that’s a huge relief.”
Kasandra said she gives a lot of credit to Benter’s father, Kevin, for helping her and her relatives.
“Kevin is the man behind it all,” she said. “He has really helped us a lot with all of our animals and getting us ready. He does a lot, and we appreciate it.”
Even though her 4-H stint is nearly over, Kasandra said she plans on taking one of her cows to state fairs in Indiana and Kentucky and open shows.
Derek also has been a longtime 4-H’er, and he said he is still learning new things about dairy cattle.
He said it has been nice to have family members to help when needed.
“We get really close, and we help each other a lot of times, like showmanship and asking each other questions,” Derek said. “Like today, I asked Kyle some of my weaknesses in my cow when I was showing in showmanship.”
Derek can then pass that on to other relatives.
“I like teaching them what I know just so they can do the best that they can do,” he said.
Charlie said he learned a lot while competing in the show arena for the first time.
“It was pretty good. It felt nice,” he said. “It feels good when you’re done, though.”