Knapp credits others for help in earning FFA star
EPWORTH, Iowa —Austin Knapp, 18, says he may have received the Iowa FFA Star in Agriculture Production but the many people who stood behind him helped him achieve the honor.
His family's farm, Knapps' Guernseys, sits on 43 acres south of Epworth. They plant their acres to corn and rent an additional 70 acres of hay ground. They buy additional dry hay, and purchase a grain mix that goes into the total mixed ration.
They milk 70 cows, mostly registered Guernseys, and have 180 head of young stock of which 50 are recipient heifers that are implanted with embryos.
They raise 20 to 25 Guernsey bulls each year. All are sold for dairy purposes or go to artificial insemination services.
"Marketing is a big thing here," Knapp said. "We're constantly buying and selling animals and embryos. Embryos help us get exposure overseas. We sell a lot of embryos to Japan, Thailand and Brazil and we've sold embryos or live animals in 42 of 50 states."
Their operation is completely family run.
"My dad, Randy, is here full time," Knapp said.
His mother, Wanda, helps out and also works part-time as a registered nurse with Medical Associates. His brother, Landon, 13, does much of the field and mechanical work.
Showing is a big part of the operation. They exhibit cows from the end of June through November across the state and country. They show at the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wis., the North American Livestock Exposition in Louisville, and the All-American Dairy Show in Harrisburg, Pa.
"My brother and I have shown three national champions at Madison, and we're very proud of that accomplishment," Knapp said.
The herd, which has a long line of awards, has a good history of type and production, Knapp said.
"We have cows that win in the show ring as well as produce enough milk to be profitable here in the barn," Knapp said. "We go to the Naitoal Guernsey Convention every June and we do very well in production contests because of that good balance of type and production."
The Knapps buy Guernseys from other farms because they want more genetics to better their herd.
Knapp started his FFA Supervised Agricultural Experience as a freshman.
"I had a good start with cattle I owned from before I got to high school, and it took off from there," Knapp said. "I started with a few milk cows, a few heifers and a couple of embryos that I turned into an enterprise. Today, I have 22 milk cows, 44 young stock and 110 embryos that I can implant in recipient heifers or sell."
Knapp said three other students from West Dubuque FFA in Epworth got their Iowa FFA Degrees with him this year — Megan Rauen, Kate Schlueter and Josh Thibadeau.
"They all encouraged me a lot along the way," Knapp said. "Megan was also a star finalist, and we pushed each other to achieve our best potential."
Knapp can't say enough about his FFA advisor Matt Lansing.
"He was such a big help," Knapp said. "He believes that class time is for teaching, but he'll help you any time you need help after school. He is a very good adviser and has achieved a lot in a short time."
Knapp has many mentors in the Guernsey industry. Jeff Hammerand, who coached him in 4-H quiz bowl and dairy judging, is another mentor. Knapp was on winning teams coached by Hammerand.
His mother, brother and extended family of aunts, uncles and cousins have encouraged him.
"But my biggest mentor is the person I'm most like, and that is my father," Knapp said. "A lot of people say, I'm a carbon copy. We share the same passion not just for Guernseys but for the dairy cow in general. We believe in doing everything we can to make each cow as comfortable as possible. My father started our farm from scratch in 1988 and built it to what it is today."
The first cow his father bought for him, Sunrise Luxury Tami, cost $2,000. The cow came from a North Carolina breeder who couldn't get the cow pregnant. The Knapps put her in with a bull, Knapps Perfecto Ace, and she settled on first service.
"We didn't know how good a bull Ace was until he was gone," Knapp said. "Tami had a heifer calf, Knapps Ace Tamera, and the deal was we would send the calf to North Carolina for them to show as a heifer. Tamera came back here, and when she was ready to calve, another cow in the calving pen stepped on her teat and ripped it off. It was devastating, but my dad said that when you get lemons, make lemonade. We flushed Tamera and got three heifers out of the deal. One of those heifers, Knapps Regis Tambourine, is now the best cow on the farm, maybe the best we've ever owned. The other two daughters have done well too. That Tami family skyrocketed into a dynasty, and not only changed our herd, but the entire breed. Tami is one of the best brood cows of all time. It started with the first calf my dad ever bought me."
Knapp has two goals for the future —taking over his family farm and breeding and owning a national champion Guernsey.
"We've come close, but I want to get one over the top," he said.
He plans to earn his American FFA Degree and recently sent in his national dairy entrepreneurship proficiency award application.