With tough cowboy boots and a soft heart for cows,
4-H’er shares critter-care tips

By Sarah Sakurazawa and Rowan Westwood

Jan. 5, 2023

This story was written as part of an agriculture-reporting internship with the Whatcom County Dairy Women supported by a grant from the Dairy Farmers of Washington.

Barnyard Kids 4-H Club member Addison Jager eagerly invites visitors to the dairy area at the Northwest Washington Fair to meet her cows. “I just enjoy getting to share my love of animals with people who also love animals and enjoy doing what I do. And then sharing that with people who might not necessarily know about animals.” 

A veteran of three fairs at 14, Jager values the friends, family and neighbors who’ve helped her: 

 “I’ve learned about cows from my friends the Polinders, my 4-H leaders, Mr. and Mrs. Bareman, Mr. and Mrs. Oostra. And Mr. and Mrs. Odens. And then a bunch of people in my 4- H club. Because they’re the best.”

Jager gives future 4-H competitors key points to remember while showing. Her main advice: Enjoy it. With a ready smile, she says, “Even if I get placed high or low, I still have fun.”

· Name: Addison Jager 

· Age: 14

· Hometown: Lynden, Wash.

· School: Lynden Christian High School 

· 4-H club: Barnyard Kids 4-H Club, since 2019

Connected through community: Jager showed Holstein heifers Dusty and Crystal at the Northwest Washington Fair. Sherm and Jeff Polinder of Ronelee Farms, family friends who are dairy breeders in Lynden, loaned them to her. 

Bovine buddies: Jager’s heifers Dusty and Crystal “make really good pillows, they’re nice and warm and soft. I take naps on both of them.”

Best foot forward: Jager says the fair is a time to show off the hard work she’s done — and all the months of being stepped on! 

Cleanliness counts: “It’s important to brush your animal because it keeps them clean and pretty.” It’s also crucial to make sure they’re fed and that their water is clean, she says, plucking a wad of straw out of Crystal’s water bucket. 

She persisted: “One of my favorite memories is my first fair in 2019. My heifer Ribbon and I were back in the old dairy barn and she freaked out after a Jersey (cow) did the Jersey flop into the judge’s table. It’s like they freeze up, stop walking and flop over on their side. So Ribbon dragged me halfway across the ring, leaping and bounding like a deer. The halter got out of my hand and she took off to the wild blue yonder.” Eventually Ribbon was caught, Jager took her back in the ring … and won fourth place! 

Tips for newbies: “I just watch the judge, focus on my animal, and I’m all good. Just have fun and let that shine through while you’re showing.”

Open mind: “You learn something new every day — I know I do.”

Barnyard Kids 4-H Club member Addison Jager talks about showing cows at the 2022 Northwest Washington Fair and explains how “throating” can improve a cow’s chances of winning ribbons. 

Produced by Sarah Sakurazawa / Blue Ribbon Stories

Music: “Unexpected Hoedown in the Bagging Area” by Doctor Turtle from FreeMusicArchive.com