Katie Pinkowski is only 18, but she has been a dairywoman for years now. When she was five years old, she watched her older sister show dairy cows at a local fair and told her dad that she wanted to show next year. So Pinkowski got the next calf that was born, a heifer she named Mae.
Pinkowski now owns a herd of about 60 cows, heifers and calves that she keeps at her parents' dairy in Argyle, New York.
"Whenever I talk to people, and I say that I have that many animals, they're like, 'Oh my gosh, are you kidding? Wow, that's a lot of animals,'" Pinkowski says.
Her main work on the farm is calf management, but she also milks on the hired man's day off, scrapes the barn, feeds the cows and does whatever needs to be done. Her parents' own a herd about the same size as Pinkowski's, so there is a lot of work to be done.
Besides working on the dairy, she is attending Adirondack Community College, where she majors in elementary education and plays basketball. Her schedule is very full, and Pinkowski admits that it is hard to do everything. Her mom has to fill in for her a little bit while she's in school.
"It was hard for me to get out there and see the animals and help out because I had so much work. But my schedule was where I had two or three hour breaks, so I was able to sit down and do my work at school before basketball practice," Pinkowski says.
Her favorite part of dairying is showing her cattle. She has Holsteins, Milking Shorthorns and Ayrshires, but her favorite breed is Milking Shorthorn.
"I just love the color. The first one I had was kind of like my pet. She still is. They're nice, they're caring, you know. They're easier to handle. My dad kind of got me hooked on them, and he bought me my first roan Shorthorn," Pinkowski says.
Two years ago, one of her Shorthorns won Reserve Junior All-American. She shows her cattle at local and national shows, and has even showed at the World Dairy Expo.
"I just love showing. I don't care about the placing much. I just care about having fun. I just want to have it as a hobby. It's good to be on top, it is. But once in a while you get bumped down," Pinkowski says.
Pinkowski says that one of the things that she is most proud of is moving on from high school to college and still keeping her cattle through the downswing in the economy. How did she and her family do it?
"Just being there for one another, helping one another out, you know. Just trying to cope with it, not really thinking about the hard times, just kind of thinking that we can do what we did before. Just kind of keeping everybody happy and motivated," Pinkowski says.