City kid shares dairy passion

May 16, 2024

As a city kid it would’ve been easy for Ella Raatz to choose a path outside agriculture. But the 17-year-old junior at Colby High School has developed a passion for the dairy industry. Recently she was recognized as one of eight finalists for Holstein USA’s Young Distinguished Junior Member award. The recognition honors youth ages 9 to 16 who demonstrate a working knowledge of the dairy industry, are role models and good spokespeople for the industry.

Dairy is still in her background even though she didn’t grow up on a farm. Her mother, Teri Raatz, showed dairy cattle growing up; she’s now an agriculture instructor at Mid-State Technical College.

Ella started showing cattle as a kid and in 2020 she earned two FFA Supervised Agricultural Experience grants to purchase her first Registered Holstein. Her work in the field has earned her Young Distinguished Junior Member recognition several times from the Wisconsin Junior Holstein Association. But this is the first year she’s been recognized at the national level. She said she was super excited; she wasn’t expecting to be named a finalist after applying for the award a year ago but falling short.

She said her growing involvement in the Junior Holstein Association could’ve played a part in her success this year. In addition to showing cows she’s involved in dairy judging and dairy quiz bowl. And she’s a member of FFA and 4-H. All that allows her to share her knowledge and be a role model for younger members. Her advice to them as they gain experience is to make connections to find people who are willing to help and can provide advice.

“Just because I didn’t grow up on a farm doesn’t mean I can’t be involved in things,” she said. “There’s so many people who’ve helped me accomplish my dreams and goals.”

Kathleen O’Keefe is one person Ella credits with helping her accomplish her dreams. O’Keefe grew up showing cows with Terri Raatz and has known Ella her whole life. She said Ella not growing up on a farm has made her path a little more difficult.

“But she’s worked so hard,” she said. “She’s out there every day, which is impressive for someone who could’ve stayed away.”

She said dairy is where Ella’s heart is. O’Keefe credits Ella’s family for helping her achieve her goals.

“She jumped in with both feet up to her neck and over her head,” she said.

After graduating from high school Ella said she hopes to attend the University of Wisconsin to pursue a career in dairy genetics or dairy marketing.

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