County cow gains fame as pin-up

October 20, 1994|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Sun Staff Writer

Like the Mona Lisa and other unknown models before her, Maple Dell High Kick Sweet Pea of Woodbine had to settle for posthumous fame.

Weighing about 1,450 pounds in her prime, Sweet Pea has passed on into immortality as her breed's premier pin-up cow.

Her spectacularly straight-backed profile and well-attached udder have been put to canvas and are destined for the walls of extension service classrooms, 4-H centers and dairy businesses around the world.

Some of the nation's foremost dairy cow authorities selected Sweet Pea, who died two years ago at the age of 7, to represent the latest in bovine genetic engineering in a poster of the six main dairy breeds.

Sweet Pea was picked to represent the Ayrshire breed, a sort of half-white, half rust-colored cow.

James Patrick and his brother David bred the poster cow on their Maple Dell Farm in Woodbine, but are low-key about the honor.

"I guess it's an honor, that of all the cows of the breed she was selected," David Patrick said. "It says something for the cow."

Does it ever.

This was a cow with great lines. Straight lines.

It wouldn't have gotten Betty Grable or Cindy Crawford anywhere, but straight legs and a straight back are what gets an Ayrshire noticed in places like the World Dairy Exposition in Madison, Wis., where Purina's poster was unveiled this month.

"At the World Dairy Expo, we sold well in excess of 1,000 posters. There are some that we've shipped England, Italy and ** Mexico," said Dick Poeppel, dairy marketing manager for Purina.

Of the hundreds of foreign dairy farmers and business people visiting, "a lot of them were just amazed at the poster and wanted to buy it." About 3,000 of the posters are being shipped overseas as a result.

Closer to home, dairy aficionados can purchase them from local 4-H clubs or chapters of Future Farmers of America. The posters cost $10, half of which benefits the local group.

Although Sweet Pea stunned the dairy world with her raw good looks, she had statistics that would impress any dairy farmer. During a 305-day period, she put out 3,140 gallons of milk, and in 1991 she was named High-Protein Cow for 1991 with 900 pounds of protein.

Time was, butterfat was the standard for quality milk, Mr. Patrick noted.

As for Sweet Pea's legacy, it lives on in blood as well as ink.

Using the amount of semen that has been sold from Sweet Pea's only offspring, a bull named Soldier, Mr. Patrick estimated that Sweet Pea has about 550 granddaughters around the country.

The poster uses reproductions of paintings of top cows in the Ayrshire, Holstein, Guernsey, Jersey, Brown Swiss and Milking Shorthorn breeds done by Minnesota artist and dairy farmer Bonnie Mohr.

The poster is an update of a 1962 poster, which Purina commissioned to honor genetic achievements in dairy breeds.

Since then, Mr. Poeppel said, dairy cows have been bred larger, with "more dairy character," which includes "a larger udder, a larger mammary system on the cow -- and that's just a dollars-and-cents area of the cow."

Of course Sweet Pea had those characteristics, in spades.

"Everyone was very positive about this cow," said Ms. Mohr, who painted all of the six cows from photographs.

Sweet Pea's strongest lobby, she said, were the Ayrshire Breed Association members, who "really wanted a cow that could put milk in the bucket."

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