Farming, promoting, showing – Dairy Princess loves it all

Jones County Dairy Princess Abby Fairbanks can often be found doing what she enjoys, working with cows. (Photo by Pete Temple)

Abby Fairbanks of Anamosa showed the Supreme Champion at the 2019 Great Jones County Fair Dairy Show, a Holstein Aged Cow. (Express file photo)
Pete Temple
Express Sports/Ag Editor

     It would be hard to find a county dairy princess who adores farming, cows and the dairy industry more than Abby Fairbanks does.

     “I love everything about it,” the 18-year-old from Anamosa said. “I have a passion for caring for animals, and I love cows. I don’t know why, I just do.”

     Becoming the Jones County Dairy Princess, then, was a natural fit for the recent Anamosa High School graduate. She learned about the possibility from the previous year’s princess, Gabby Gadient. Fairbanks was crowned as princess at the Jones County Dairy Banquet in February.

     “I just thought it would be a nice opportunity to get to know more about the dairy industry and to promote what I love doing,” Fairbanks said.

     Granted, being a dairy princess during the COVID-19 era has a different look.

     “Usually, dairy princesses promote the dairy industry in more communities, like going to Fareway to promote dairy products, or being in parades and throwing cheese sticks, or reading to children in the library to educate them about the dairy industry,” she said.

     “This year, it’s been more one-on-one things, because we can’t do those (other) events. So I’ve taken ice cream pies to the care center to help the essential workers there, and ice cream bars to the hospitals to help the essential workers there as well.

     “That’s really nice too, to still be involved with things, even though it’s difficult.”

     Fairbanks said she hopes to help out at the Great Jones County Fair as well.

     “Hopefully we can get more events planned, and hopefully I’ll be able to help out at the Jones County Fair even though it’s just a 4-H fair (this year),” she said.

     Fairbanks will have plenty to do at the fair, as she and her family have had much success showing cows at the annual Dairy Show. In 2019, Fairbanks’ aged Holstein was Grand Champion. Abby’s sister Kaylee, 14, showed the reserve champion, a Holstein two-year-old.

     Abby has had success in other shows as well. At the 2019 World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wis., she took third place in the Junior Show with a Jersey cow.

     But Fairbanks said it’s the process, and not so much the accolades, that she enjoys most about showing dairy animals.

     “I love it all,” she said. “It’s every moment for me. I don’t really enjoy one specific moment, I enjoy them all, from the second I tie them up to the second they’re in the show ring.”

     Preparation, she said, is key to show ring success.

     “It’s all about creating a bond with the animal you’re working with,” Fairbanks said. “Getting them to be your friend, basically, making them like you, creating a bond between you and the animal so that she wants to walk with you.

     “It’s just time, and building their trust, so they’ll know that you’re their caretaker because you walk them to water. And you give them a treat everywhere they go.”

     It’s another part of farm life that Fairbanks loves.

     “I just love being with them, and I don’t know why. It’s something you almost can’t explain,” she said.

     Fairbanks said she doesn’t remember when she started showing animals.

     “How old can you be when you first start showing?” she asked. “I was in it the second I could be, I guess.”

     The World Dairy Expo was cancelled for this year, but Fairbanks said she hopes to have other opportunities to show.

     “I’m showing at the Jones County Fair, and there’s talk of having an Iowa Holstein show and maybe a mixed breed show,” she said.

     In addition to Abby and Kaylee, their older brother Pierce, 20, also showed dairy animals for many years. Younger brother Luke, 9, has gotten into it as well.

     They and their parents, Doug and Jodi, have won several of the high herd milk awards that are presented at the Jones County Dairy Banquet each year.

     “Ever since we started farming, my family has taken a lot of pride in our herd quality,” Abby said. “We’re focused on just improving our herd, mating cows to improve their genetics, and ensuring that we’re getting better generation after generation.”

     Abby took part in the Anamosa High School graduation ceremony, for which a stage was set up in the school parking lot, and students received their diplomas through the windows of their vehicles, before participating in a parade.

     In the fall, Fairbanks plans to attend the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. Not surprisingly, she plans to study animal science and ag business.

     “I haven’t sorted things out that far ahead in the future, but I would definitely like to come back to this area and help my father with his farm,” she said, “because I love farming and cows and everything.”



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