Varnado to show at 4-H Achievement Day

Published 11:54 am Sunday, April 21, 2013

There will be a familiar face among the hundreds of Washington Parish students showing off their skills in various agriculture-related pursuits Thursday during 4-H Achievement Day, Ashley Varnado.

The event will be held at the fairgrounds, and Varnado, 17, of Franklinton, will compete in dairy judging and livestock judging.

She has racked up an impressive collection of awards for her dairy showmanship. For the past three years, Varnado has received the overall exhibitor for dairy award at the Washington Parish 4-H banquet, and for two years in a row at the Washington Parish Junior Livestock Show has been the recipient of the McLachlan Award for overall showmanship, which comes with a $1,000 college scholarship.

At this year’s LSU AgCenter state livestock show, Varnado placed second in overall showmanship and was received awards for Ayrshire grand champion and Holstein reserve grand champion.

She has received awards for overall showman and the titles of Holstein best fitted and overall Ayrshire grand champion during competitions at the fair.

When she was in seventh grade, Varnado, now a junior at Franklinton High School, won the overall showmanship award at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, the largest event of its kind in the world. She hopes to make another trip to that show next year.

Showing dairy cows, though, is only one part of the busy schedule kept up by Varnado.

She is a three-year member of 4-H, FFA, Interact, Beta Club and Student Council, serving as secretary of both 4-H and Student Council, and joined the National Honor Society last year. Additionally, she is a Demonette, named a captain next year, and plays tennis and basketball.

Varnado’s school day is filled with college-prep classes and dual enrollment courses, through which she has earned a number of college credits.

“Then I usually have some kind of practice I go to after school, she said. “I either go to tennis or basketball or dance, and then I go home and do homework.”

Added to that is an afternoon-and-on-Saturdays job helping run the tanning beds at Patten Metal Mart. Varnado said she keeps up with it all with the help of her friends, many of whom are involved in the same activities, and the support of her parents, Van and Frances Varnado.

The Varnado family got its first Holstein calf, Domino, when Ashley was in fourth grade and met the minimum age requirement for taking part in a regular show. She decided she wanted to start showing, following in the footsteps of her grandmother and great-uncles, after seeing a cow contest one year at the fair.

The family is up to 27 cows now. The barn at the Varnado residence is currently home to about 10 cows.

Ashley Varnado said has the responsibility of feeding the cows and calves each day, making sure they have enough rye grass and fresh water.

“It also teaches you a lot of responsibility, because whenever a cow has a calf at 2:00 in the morning, you’ve got to go outside and you’ve got to get the cow,” she said. “You’ve got to milk the cow. You’ve got to feed the calves.”

She said the cows have to be milked every 12 hours — the family has a portable milker — and then they are brought to Kenneth Ray Gill’s dairy until they are ready to have another calf.

Her grandparents, Dan-ny and Florence Loftice and Jean and Lester Turner, are also big supporters and help with taking care of the cows.

Varnado she has made many friends while taking part in the shows. It is something, she said, that teaches respect and responsibility and brings people together.

Her mom said she is happy the family got into dairy showing.

“I love it. I like the family time, the time I get to spend with Ashley,” she said.

One of the best parts of going to the shows is the people the family has met and they experiences they’ve had, she said.

“Everybody works together to help each other out,” she said. “It’s one big family.”