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Cousins team up to judge International Holstein Show

Kathleen O’Keefe for Progressive Dairyman Published on 28 September 2018
After his role as associate judge assisting Adam Liddle at the 2017 show, Carl Phoenix (right) now takes the reins in 2018 as the official judge of the International Holstein Show.

Carl Phoenix of Sunderland, Ontario, will be donning the tuxedo and taking his spot in the centre of the ring on Oct. 5 and 6 as the official judge of the International Holstein Show at World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisconsin. At his side will be his cousin, Joel Phoenix of Cannington, Ontario, the associate judge of this year’s show.

Joel Phoenix will serve as the associate judge for this year’s International Holstein Show.

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The Phoenix clan grew up together in the rolling farm country northeast of Toronto in Ontario County.

Growing up, both Carl and Joel’s families were involved with the Phoenix Bros partnership, which bred Holsteins under the Dappledale prefix.

Carl’s father, Earl, and Joel’s father, Jim, are brothers, and the family always enjoyed showing Holsteins at every level, from county and 4-H shows all the way to the biggest event in Canada at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair every fall.

“All of us cousins were really tight as kids,” remembers Carl. “We competed and showed against each other but also always helped each other out. Joel is four years younger than me, and he was always like a little brother in the group.”

Some of the younger members of the Phoenix family separated out from the partnership nine years ago.

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Carl, his wife, Kera; along with their three kids – Clara, Carson and Weston – now own and operate Phoenixholm Holsteins, a 40-cow herd with 240 acres about 5 miles away from the home farm.

While establishing his own dairy, Carl has also built his judging résumé. He has officiated at shows across Canada and the U.S., and has had international assignments in Ireland and Brazil.

Perhaps his highest profile job was at World Dairy Expo last year when he was the associate judge for the International Holstein Show and assisted Adam Liddle in placing 458 head of Holsteins.

Carl remarked it was his most memorable judging job, but his favourite assignment to date was placing the classes at the 2016 Wisconsin Championship Show.

Carl Phoenix placing a class at the 2016 Wisconsin Championship Show

“The quality of that show was amazing for a state-level show. There were several cows that had been nominated All-American or All-Canadian the year before, and I just kept looking around the classes and thinking, ‘This is fun!’”

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In spite of those experiences, Carl admits he was a bit surprised to be tapped as the main man for the International Holstein Show this year.

“I was shocked to even be on the list of people nominated. Then to get the actual call that I got the job just blew me away. It was never my ambition or dream to think I would be the guy doing the show at [the] expo. Frankly, I’m at home farming, not out on the show circuit – it didn’t even occur to me to have that dream.”

After getting the phone call, the next task for an expo judge is to select an associate to help with the show. Carl immediately thought of his cousin, Joel.

“He’s so well-respected and well-liked in that part of the business. I’ve worked with him before, and we get along well. I know he’ll be a huge help, and I know he’ll have my back.”

Joel Phoenix has traveled the world as a dairy cattle fitter and showman, and has worked with some of the breed’s most successful show strings. He and his wife, Jessica, farm in Cannington, Ontario, operating Phoenix Equestrian & Holsteins.

Joel Phoenix has traveled the world fitting, showing and judging Holstein show cattle.

A professional equestrian athlete, Jessica is a world-class three-day eventer and a member of the Canadian Olympic team.

They own about 50 head of Holsteins alone and in partnership with other breeders, using the Dappleview prefix.

Their 100-acre farm crops mostly hay, and they merchandise Holsteins, beef cattle, horses and hay. “It’s always busy here, and there’s always something for sale,” Joel laughs.

He has also judged at shows around North America and internationally as well. “I enjoy it and am always interested in judging more, but it can be a challenge with our family schedule,” he comments.

Jessica travels extensively to eventing competitions and, with two young children – son, Jacob, and daughter, Jordan – at home, they juggle who is on the road for any given week.

Joel has some experience on the coloured shavings and in the associate’s role, as he assisted Gerald Coughlin with the 2011 International Holstein Show, where they placed 436 head of cattle.

“It’s always such an honour to have any judging position at World Dairy Expo. The quality of the cattle and the passion of the exhibitors is second to none,” he remarked.

Carl agrees with that assessment. “I have so much respect for the show at [the] expo and the people who compete there. It’s the world’s biggest stage in our breed – it’s a big deal.”

Because of that respect, Carl admits he is slightly nervous about stepping out into the Coliseum, but he’s not overwhelmed. “I’m a bit anxious but, after helping Adam last year, I’m looking forward to it. Last year was just awesome – it wasn’t stressful, and we had a lot of fun.”

He is drawing on advice from his 2017 experience to guide Joel. “Adam told me ‘Go out there and prepare like you are judging the show’ – and that advice really helped.

I was ready to pull and place the bottom half of the big classes, and I felt like Adam and I worked well together keeping the show moving. I’m giving the same advice to Joel this year – we’ve already talked about it,” Carl says.

Both Carl and Joel feel fortunate to be selected to officiate at the world’s best Holstein show. “There are so many breeders at home working who are great, great cow people who never have this opportunity,” Carl notes.

“We just want to go out there and do the best possible job for people who are bringing these tremendous animals into the ring at Madison.”  end mark

PHOTO 1: After his role as associate judge assisting Adam Liddle at the 2017 show, Carl Phoenix (right) now takes the reins in 2018 as the official judge of the International Holstein Show. Courtesy photo. 

PHOTO 2: Joel Phoenix will serve as the associate judge for this year’s International Holstein Show. He will assist his cousin Carl in placing animals in what is the gold standard for Holstein shows around the world. Courtesy photo.

PHOTO 3: Official judge of the 2018 International Holstein Show, Carl Phoenix has evaluated dairy cattle at shows across North America. He is seen here placing a class at the 2016 Wisconsin Championship Show, which he notes has been one of his favourite judging assignments to date. Photo courtesy of Wisconsin Holstein Association.

PHOTO 4: Joel Phoenix (left) has traveled the world fitting, showing and judging Holstein show cattle. He will take centre stage next to his cousin, Carl Phoenix, as the pair officiate over the 2018 International Holstein Show. Photo courtesy of Minnesota Holstein Association.

Kathleen O’Keefe is a freelance writer based out of Hammond, Wisconsin.

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