Fair premium books also tell of Calumet ag history

Premium books for the Calumet County Fair from early in the 20th century that are being preserved at the Calumet County Historical Museum southeast of Chilton provide an insight to the diversity of agriculture in the county at the time.

The fair’s 1908 premium book, which was the 17th edition for a fair that was reorganized in 1891, had entry categories for Holstein-Friesian, Guernsey, Jersey, Shorthorn, and Devon dairy cattle along with Polled Durham, Hereford, and Galloway beef cattle. The swine breeds listed in the premium book were Berkshire, Yorkshire, Poland China, Chester White, and Victoria.

Sheep breeds in the 1908 premium book were Cotswold, Southdown, Shropshire, Oxford, and Merino. More than 20 breeds of turkeys, geese and ducks were eligible for entry in the fair that year.

Among the grains, the premium book listed white and red winter wheat, five varieties of spring wheat, rye, buckwheat, barley, and oats along with peas, white and navy beans, timothy grass, and Alsike, red, and white clovers. Variety names for potatoes in that premium book were Beauty of Hebron, Early Ohio, Burbank, and Early Rose. Ten varieties of grapes were also listed.

The 1908 premium book had advertisements from many businesses and merchants around the county. But the only ad with a specific connection to agriculture was one from the New Holstein Cooperative Creamery, which made butter and cheese.

The cover of the county’s fair premium book for 1919 proclaimed that Calumet County was “The Milk Vein of the World.” This phrase, coined by Royal Klofanda, a veterinarian who served at the county’s Extension Service agricultural agent from 1917 to 1921 and who was a founder of the county’s historical museum, was used for several succeeding decades while the county’s number of dairy cows was greater than its human population.

This was true until a few years after 1970, when the county had about 32,000 cows and a human population of 27,060. Calumet County had about 29,000 milk cows in 1945—a number that then increased by a few thousand in the following years, dropped to about 22,500 in the late 1990s, and then rebounded to 29,500 again in recent years while the human population approached 49,000.

According to the ads by dairy farm owners in 1919 and again in 1922, butter production was used as a primary evaluation measure for the value of dairy cows. An ad placed in 1919 by W. H. Steffensen of Appleton indicated that one of his cows had produced the equivalent of 145.66 pounds of butter in 30 days, which was considered to be a world’s record at the time.

Another major effort at the time was testing dairy cattle to be sure that they were free of tuberculosis. A fair premium book ad identified an “Honor Roll” of 12 dairy herds which had been tuberculin-

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