2024 Threemile Dairy Heifer Program Kicks Off

A new year means a fresh group of Morrow County 4-Hers eager to meet their Threemile dairy heifers. On February 2nd, Threemile Canyon Farms kicked off the 2024 program welcoming 10 4-H participants, aged 10-16, to the farm for heifer pickup day. For some, this is the first time they’ve ever been this close to a 300-pound dairy heifer.

2024 participants gathered to learn about heifer health, nutrition, and animal welfare standards.

In its sixth year, the program has connected 72 heifers with local 4-Hers interested in showing an animal at the fair. To participate in the program, 4-Hers must complete the application-interview process and demonstrate the ability to properly care for the heifer. The program was created by Jeff Wendler, DVM, General Manager of Livestock for Threemile Canyon Farms, when he discovered the lack of opportunity to show dairy cattle in our county. Many local 4-Hers are interested in a future career in agriculture but lack the exposure necessary to gain practical experience with livestock.

Unique to the Threemile Dairy Heifer Program, the 4-Hers are paid a daily heifer raising fee and not required to purchase the animal. In essence, they are running their own heifer raising business for seven months until the animal returns to the farm after the fair. Upon returning to Threemile Canyon Farms, the heifers rejoin their herd mates and prepare for a career in producing milk for Tillamook Cheese. The Threemile team members, including vets and our on-farm nutritionist, provide mentorship and guidance throughout the program. 

4-H participants, KC and Kamryn with her new dairy heifer.

At pickup, the Threemile team walked the 4-Hers through health, nutrition, and animal welfare expectations. Heifers were randomly assigned to 4-Hers, who then weighed and haltered their animals and loaded them into trailers for the ride home.

Participants drew numbers to be randomly assigned their new heifer.

The 4-Her will spend the next few weeks getting acquainted with their heifer and teaching them to lead with a halter and lead rope. Throughout the seven months, there will be both on-farm and home visits by the Threemile team to evaluate the progress in showmanship, animal health, and nutrition. Threemile also provides fitting, showing and grooming clinics during the summer.

At the Morrow County Fair in August, participants will show off their hard work in confirmation and showmanship classes. In confirmation, the heifer is judged on her dairy characteristics, and in showmanship, the 4-Her is judged on how well they fit and present the animal to the judge. At the end of each day of showing, the judge will pick a Grand Champion Heifer or a Grand Champion Showman. After the 4-Hers show their heifer, they receive monetary recognition in addition to the awards given at the fair.

If you would like to watch the 4-Hers in action, the 2024 Morrow County Fair is August 14-17 and heifer events are open to the public.