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Mollie Miller, a seventh-grader at New Richmond Middle School and member of the Forest Timberwolves 4-H Club, will show Duke, the jersey steer who was raised at New Richmond High School, at the St. Croix County Fair this weekend. (Photo by Jackie Grumish)

NRHS' calf to make appearance at fair

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Duke has come a long way since he first arrived at New Richmond High School on Oct. 16, 2012.

At the time, the 3-week-old jersey bull calf weighed just 79 pounds. When he returned home to the Jim and Chris Miller farm at the end of the school year he weighed about 450. Now, Jim said, Duke probably weighs even more.

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"We won't know for sure until he's weighed at the fair, but I'd guess he's about 650," he said.

Duke won't make weight (1,050 pounds) for the auction, but the Millers' daughter, Mollie, 12, still plans to show him in the beef class on Friday, July 19.

Duke lived at New Richmond High School for most of the 2012-13 school year. Students in Rachel Sauvola's agriscience classes were responsible for caring for the calf -- some of those responsibilities included weaning, cleaning, castrating and dehorning Duke.

Sauvola said she hasn't seen Duke since he left the high school and she's anxious to see him at the St. Croix County Fair.

The Millers agreed that it was difficult to have Duke away from home for so long.

"He came home for Christmas and when he went back to the high school he got sick," Jim Miller said. "At one time we thought we were going to lose him."

Miller said he credits veterinarian Veronica Schommer, of Baldwin Veterinary Center, with saving Duke's life.

"She came out here every day to see him," Miller said.

Now that Duke is home for good, Mollie, a Forest Timberwolves 4-H member and seventh-grader at New Richmond Middle School, is responsible for raising the steer until he's the proper weight for slaughter.

Mollie says it doesn't bother her that Duke will eventually end up on her dinner table.

"Jason (the first steer Mollie showed at the fair) is in the freezer right now," Jim said with a laugh.

Mollie said part of being in 4-H and presenting at the fair is to educate people about where their food comes from.

"Last year we met a lady at the fair from Chile and we got to tell her all about our pigs," Mollie said.

As part of the requirement for showing at the fair, Mollie was required to attend a species specific clinic and the Meat Animal Quality Assurance program.

Showing Duke at the St. Croix County Fair is a way for Mollie to get practice. She's shown animals in the past, including pigs, chickens and steers -- but never a jersey, she said.

"I'm a little nervous because Duke is sassy," Mollie said.

Growing up at NRHS spoiled him, Mollie and Jim agreed.

"He got a lot of attention and was babied there with so many people taking care of him," Jim said. "When he first came back (to our farm) he just stood outside and moo'ed and moo'ed and even now he's kind of a pig and will knock over his food bucket or water. They had a contained environment at the high school but we don't have that here."

Mollie said she's also worried that Duke hasn't had enough time to learn how to properly walk on a halter, something Sauvola's students had hoped to teach him at the high school.

"With the weather we had this spring, they just couldn't get him out enough," Jim said.

As a result, Mollie said Duke often walks ahead of her instead of by her side, like he should.

"He'll be used to the crowds though," Jim said with a laugh.

Jim said the public is invited to visit Duke any day of the fair and he especially welcomes any of the agriscience students who helped raise Duke during his time at NRHS.

"Anyone from those classes can stop by and take Duke for a walk," he said. "We'll be in the end pen, closest to the camping area."

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Jackie Grumish
Jackie Grumish has been a reporter with the New Richmond News since 2008. She holds degrees in journalism and fine art from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Ill. Before coming to New Richmond, Jackie worked as the city government reporter at a daily newspaper in Aberdeen, S.D. 
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