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Serving as dairy princess is Orth's way of giving back

By Janet Kubat Willette

Date Modified: 08/30/2013 1:20 PM

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WINONA, Minn. — Eryn Orth's baby calves are really good listeners.

The Princess Kay finalist from Winona County rehearsed her speeches for the county competition and the Princess Kay competition while doing calf chores.

"I always have my things memorized," Orth said.

Dairy princess contestants don't have to memorize their speeches, but she prefers to. She's learned from watching other dairy princess contestants. Orth, 18, has tagged along with her mother, Laurie, to dairy princess events in the county since she was 7 years old.

Her parents, Jim and Laurie, were on the ADA board for years before stepping down as president of the county organization in April.

Orth served as a junior dairy ambassador and ran for dairy princess this year, the first time she was eligible.

Serving as a dairy princess is her way of giving back to the industry. Being raised on a dairy farm has made her who she is, Orth said.

She will make appearances with the Little Red Barn, ride in parades at small town festivals and hand out ribbons at the Winona County Fair.

The Winona County dairy princess competition prepared her well for the Princess Kay competition, Orth said. The Winona County dairy princess judges were thorough and expected candidates to have a depth of agricultural knowledge, she said.

Orth said she was upset with herself after missing one question at the Princess Kay judging.

She's dreamed of being a dairy princess for years and has wanted to be a butterhead since she found out what a butterhead was.

Her dream came true that May weekend when she was the third Princess Kay finalist announced. She didn't have time to be nervous.

Orth knew it was her when the emcee said the princess will cross the border in the fall to attend the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and major in agribusiness and minor in dairy science. Her mother knew it was her, too.

"When I turned around to get off my chair, there was my mother freaking out," Orth said. Her mother and a friend had come to the banquet.

Her next memory is the longest, most shaky hug of her life from Princess Kay Christine Reitsma.

The announcement of the 12 finalists probably lasted no more than five minutes, she said, but it seemed like an eternity. She enjoyed watching as the emcee introduced each girl, watching the girls look around the room and seeing faces light up as each girl realized she was a Princess Kay finalist.

"It was a fun experience," Orth said.

She is the first Princess Kay finalist from Winona County since 2009. The county hasn't had a Princess Kay of the Milky Way since 1977 when Beth Aarsvold Olson was crowned.

Orth will spend this summer working on the family's Golden Prairie Dairy. They raise corn and alfalfa and milk 52 to 60 cows. Their herd includes Jerseys, Guernseys, Holsteins, an Ayrshire and crossbreeds. Most of the Jerseys are registered, and all the Guernseys are registered.

The cows are milked in a tie-stall barn in the winter and a flat parlor in summer. The cows are on pasture in the summer and are kept in the barn in the winter.