By Cheri Oechsle for the April 2016 HolsteinWorld Exclusive
Hitting the road right out of high school, Aaron Eaton spent 10 years traveling the country and world working with, learning about and developing a passion for cows that create lasting memories and impact. That background is what ignited the fire in Aaron and continues to be the driving force behind his passion for the industry and good cows today.
“I had some great mentors throughout those years; Mark Campbell, the late Bob Morrell, Raymond Anthony and Ernie Kueffner to name a few,” said Aaron. “Taking me to shows and getting to be part of their team is where I learned to take care of good cows.” In 2007 Eaton moved to New York to work for the CoVale herd for the next few years. In 2009 he met his future wife, Caitlin Rohe, and over the next several years they traveled the shows together until she graduated from Cornell and they married. In 2013 they began renovating Caitlin’s parent’s farm in Marietta, New York, and moved the cattle they had accumulated over the years, including some valuable bred heifers due that year, home. “We decided it was time,” said Aaron. “We also knew that to accomplish our goals and grow our business, we would need to supplement our income aside from just a milk check, so we decided to board some cows for others for extra cash flow.” Some of the key people involved with Eaton Holsteins over the years are Dave Dyment, Pat Conroy, Jamie Black, Chris and Jennifer Hill, Barclay Phoenix, the Borbas, Brad Murphy, Michael Heath, Allyndale and Dusty Schirm. All lifelong friends, they entrusted animals to Aaron’s care and he hasn’t disappointed them. “I think the most important thing is trust and knowing we are taking care of their investment like she is our own seven days a week. Knowing they can walk in the barn at any time and see their cow looking her best and always coming ahead is key,” he said.
The current herd consists of 80 head, 20 of which are boarded animals. The current milking herd of 30 has a 305-day RHA of 26,676M 3.9%F and 3.2%P with a SCC of 77,000 and BAA of 114.3. Aaron stated that they don’t milk a large amount and they can care for the animals to the best of their ability. “I don’t know that there is any secret. For us it’s doing the best job we can do each day and being consistent. We can work with each individual animal, due to our size, one-on-one and do our best to serve each one’s needs. The best part of working with really good cows is that they mostly do it themselves. As long as you have good feed and great hay, a good dairy cow will take care of herself.”
“The most rewarding part,” according to Aaron, “is when you see them turn a good profit or win a big show. That’s always our goal; making each individual the best they can be.” And that’s pretty evident with the number of All-American winners they have exhibited and worked with over the years. One that Aaron refers to as a “lifer” is TC Sanchez Kristina EX-96, owned with Roll’N View. “She is the one closest to my heart, and we are hoping 2017 will be her best year yet!” said Aaron. A perennial nomination cow, this year’s first-place Aged Cow at the Northeast Fall National and second at World Dairy Expo, has embryos and offspring being marketed around the world. Another herd favorite is Jacobs Sid Beauty-ET EX-92, last year’s All-American Jr. Three-Year-Old Cow owned with Brad Murphy. “She put us on the map, so to speak,” Aaron said. “She is fresh and looks incredible.” She is from a sought-after cow family, backed by the 2E-96 CAN Goldwyn Britany with over 40,000M. Beauty has had great success in her own right getting it done in the show ring as Intermediate Champion at both the Northeast Fall National and World Dairy Expo in 2016.
This year’s All-American Senior Three -Year-Old, Winterbay Dude Guiness EX-92, is owned in partnership with David Crack Jr. and is creating excitement, as is OCD Bradnick Candy EX-92/95MS, an outstanding four-year-old that was an All-American Senior Two-Year-Old nominee owned with Cates, Lundy, Janssen and Weseman. Both of these cows are in their prime, according to Aaron, creating international appeal, and both have lots of exceptional offspring that will do some “serious damage” in the show ring in the coming years.
These three animals, along with their daughters, will be headliners in the upcoming sale that Aaron and his partners are hosting. Along with boarding animals to help with monthly cash flow, Aaron and partner Pat Conroy (Cowboy) have hosted annual tag sales over the past several years. This year’s sale, though, is raising the bar. Entitled “The Equinox Sale – an Astronomical Event,” Aaron states that this has been the goal over the past several years. “Cowboy and I have been building up to this. We have done the tag sales, the marketing, building show records and merchandising to build up to having a sale of this caliber. We want to have a sale that will impact the breed and impact the show ring. Our goal is to sell all of our best and the best we can offer and then turn around and rebuild again. We want to always be a great source for great cattle. We want people to be able to invest in their own future with them. We will have something for everyone. We want people to come and buy the best animal that fits their price range at this sale.”
Eaton has utilized a vast array of social media and traditional marketing to market both his cattle, his partner’s cattle and the sales. His most recent venture is videos that one of his younger team members taught him to use. Always open to new ideas, he is swift to make it work to his benefit. “Social media is powerful and does allow me to do some things differently.” He also uses traditional marketing tools as well.
Aaron is supported by his wife Caitlin in his ventures. “She knows what’s going on day to day, but also teaches school and focuses on the girls.” Aaron and Caitlin have two little girls; Avery, who is two, and Evelyn, a few months old. Along with his wife, his in-laws help out as well. “It has been the support and opportunity from Steve and Trisha allowing us to rent and use the farm that has gained us so much success. It’s nice having my father-in-law here to watch over things when we are away.” Also important to his operation and success are Pat Lundy and Anthony Liddle, both on the road and at the farm Aaron stated. “These two guys are a huge part of what we’ve done in the past two years. They are good friends as well,” said Aaron.
Aaron also has a soft spot for the young people that are starting out as he did. “It’s good when they want to be a part of this industry and want to learn. It’s great to work with them, teach them and take them with us.” Those that follow the passion tend to work themselves into the team like Matt Oechsle, who has filled in as needed with Pat and Anthony. “He’s a member of the group now,” said Aaron.
Aaron also attributes his success to Cowboy and the others he partners with and boards animals for. “Cowboy is out there on the road finding great cows that we can partner and work with,” said Aaron. “So are Jamie Black and Dusty Schirm, who have helped locate animals that we have added to the herd and some that have sold and gone on to do well for others.” Another that he credits is Dave Dyment, who brought Aaron Walnutlawn Mccutchen Summer EX-92 (max score). She is nominated both All-American and All-Canadian and has drawn lots of international appeal. “Working with these guys and great cows is a huge honor and opportunity that I don’t take lightly,” said Aaron.
From fitting as a youngster on the show circuit, great mentors, great cows and an exciting industry, Aaron has come full circle to owning, working with and now presenting a great group of cows, along with being a mentor himself. The team at Eaton Holsteins, their partners and friends are sure to continue creating excitement, anticipation and impact within this industry. They are ones to watch!