Farm Horizons, June 2016

G-SL student named state’s top FFA dairy cattle handler

By Marie Zimmerman

Ben Donnay has been showing cattle since he could walk, and this year he walked away from the 87th annual Minnesota FFA Convention as the top dairy cattle handler in the state. He will now have the opportunity to represent Minnesota at the 89th annual National Convention and Expo this October in Indiana.

It was the first trip to state convention for the Glencoe-Silver Lake High School junior, and his first year in the dairy cattle handler career development event (CDE). Only 27 dairy handlers from Minnesota’s eight FFA regions — encompassing more than 10,000 members — earned the right to compete in the state CDE.

“To get to state in that contest in the first place is a pretty big deal,” said Glencoe-Silver Lake High School FFA Advisor Becky Haddad, adding Donnay’s first-place finish was “huge.”

But, Donnay has been humble in success and a role model for his peers, she added.

“The way he’s handled himself through the whole thing has just been really cool to see as an advisor,” Haddad said.

In dairy cattle handling, each contestant receives a cow at random to show. Judging is based on poise of the handlers and their ability to display animals to their best advantage.

“It’s different every time, because you never know what animal you’re going to get,” Donnay said.

Despite hearing he drew a “mean cow,” she did fine on the halter, Donnay said, and he had a good feeling about the show. Finding out he placed first still overwhelmed him.

“To be going to nationals is pretty exciting,” said Donnay, who has been an FFA member since middle school.

The state convention made an impression on him too, with more than 3,600 FFA members, advisors, and guests from across the state in attendance, and activities hosted all around the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities campus.

“The speakers were great and everyone in one stadium — it’s just incredible, the energy that it brings,” Donnay said.

Haddad attributes Donnay’s state success to the amount of time he puts in and his passion for the dairy industry.

“Ben’s a super hard worker,” she said. “He is incredibly dedicated to the dairy industry. He’s been showing for a very long time.”

Last year, Donnay secured reserve champion showperson in the senior division at the Minnesota State Fair 4-H dairy show. He’s a member of the Glencoe Junior Pioneers 4-H Club and shows his family’s registered Holsteins throughout the year, in addition to projects in photography and fruit.

Parents John and Connie operate a 44-cow dairy farm just outside Glencoe, and Donnay feeds animals, milks, and does odd chores. He is the fourth of four boys, and has a younger sister.

With his first-place finish in dairy cattle handling, Donnay will no longer be able to compete in that area, and plans to do dairy judging next year. His goal is to finish first at the state fair dairy show this year.

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