Raised in a barn

Written by Molly Schmitt

Ellie Wantland (18, Niangua, Mo.)
Working on her family’s fifth-generation dairy farm with her dad and two sisters (Katie and Lila), Ellie found her passion for dairy in the show ring.

“I got started at 3 years old with bucket/bottle calves and that snowballed into my sisters and I wanting to show and get more involved in the dairy industry,” Ellie says. “We’re now at the point where all three of us girls plan to return to the agriculture industry or dairy specifically.”

Ellie and her sisters went from showing at their county fair to working their way up to state and national competitions. She also expanded her involvement by competing in dairy judging contests through 4-H and FFA. Her judging team found success at national competition and even have a chance to judge in Europe in the future.

Through FFA, Ellie has also become very involved as her chapter’s president and as vice president for her area. As an active FFA member, she was awarded second place in Dairy Placement Proficiency at the state level and went on to win the Missouri FFA Star in Placement award.

“Being involved in things like FFA and state breed associations has really opened doors to all the different things I can be involved in and possible careers,” Ellie says. “I used to think all you could do was milk cows in the dairy industry, but I’ve realized there are a lot of opportunities out there.”

On her family’s 70-cow dairy, which includes registered Holsteins and Guernseys, Ellie plays an active role. Not only does she own 20 cows herself, but she also takes care of her family’s show heifers and bottle calves. Additionally, she oversees the farm’s breeding program by choosing bulls to breed to their cows using AI.

“I work with breed associations and other people to build up our sire index and get new bulls to improve the milking herd and our show calves,” Ellie says. “On our farm, I honestly do everything from milking to working in the hay field and am kind of like my dad’s right-hand man.”

Ellie just graduated high school and plans to attend college in the fall with a goal to eventually major in animal science at Oklahoma State University. She hopes to return to the dairy industry and do her part to meet the needs of the industry.

“One thing that a lot of people don’t realize is that agriculture affects every aspect of their daily life. Agriculture provides so much, from research to medicine to clothes and more,” she says. “For some of us, it’s our entire life, and for others it’s little things throughout the day that they don’t necessarily realize.”