At Rooster, we have deep and enduring ties with agriculture. Most of us were raised on family farms and livestock operations. Many of us are still active in daily operations or have family members who farm. Here’s an example.
Rachel Torbert, Senior Media Relations Specialist, Rooster Strategic Solutions
When did your family get started in the dairy business? Before they were married, my grandparents both raised and showed Jerseys near Kenney, Ill., west of Champaign. My grandfather didn’t have a barn, so he started growing his show string in his parents’ garage. Legend has it that my grandma had a cow that he couldn’t beat at any of the local shows … so he married her to get that cow! And the family just continued that trend. In 1997, our family was recognized at the Illinois State Fair for 50 consecutive years of showing registered Jerseys.
Why Jerseys? Holsteins are the more popular breed of dairy cattle because they have such high production. But Jerseys have a higher protein and butter fat content, so people who raise them enjoy the advantages of component pricing. But I’m guessing that my grandfather chose Jerseys because they’re smaller and fit better in his garage!
What are your earliest memories on the farm? There’s a picture of me when I was around four years old our local parish show. I started working at a very early age with my grandparents and uncle and aunts, practicing with the cattle, learning how to get their bodies conditioned, and teaching them to lead for the show ring. Since you can’t joint 4-H until you’re 8 years old, I’d help take the cattle to fairs and, while there, help brush and wash. When I was old enough, I joined 4-H and FFA and showed my animals in junior shows in Illinois.
The best cow I ever owned was named RRF Boom Doreen. In 1998, she won just about every award possible: Senior and Grand Champion of the Illinois Junior Jersey Show at the Illinois State Fair, Supreme Champion in the Junior Dairy Show at the Illinois State Fair, Senior, Grand and Supreme Champion at the DuQuoin State Fair, and she helped me win Champion and Supreme Showman in the Junior Jersey and Junior Dairy Show at the Illinois State Fair. She also placed well at our national show in Louisville, Ky. She was a temperamental cow, though. At Louisville, they had metal signs that rotated to show different messages, and she hated that noise … we had to work especially hard to get through that!
I also ‘did my time’ as the Illinois Jersey Princess. In Illinois, there weren’t too many girls old enough to serve as the Jersey Princess, so we all took turns representing the breed for the state. I also was a state FFA officer between high school and college and showed cattle when I could. When I couldn’t, I stayed involved in the industry by joining the University of Illinois’ Illini Dairy Club, serving as editor of The Pipeline, their news magazine. I also got to travel to Italy, Switzerland, Germany and Austria with the club, touring dairy facilities in Western Europe.
Are you still active today? Yes and No. My grandparents moved off the farm and my aunt, uncle and his wife manage the herd now. Grandpa still goes over there regularly to feed calves, and I help when I can. One of my side-hustles is announcing horse shows, including the Illinois State Fair. Last year, the announcer for the Illinois State Fair open dairy shows decided to move on, so they asked if I’d be interested in taking his spot. It’s a great gig because you get to watch class after class of great cattle!