Old Mill E Snickerdoodle (1998-2017), the great champion Brown Swiss Cow, passed away quietly on October 3 in her retirement field in Manatee County, FL.
Snickerdoodle, who was just shy of her 19th birthday, may be gone, but she won’t be forgotten. Her genetic legacy lives on in many cows and bulls, along with considerable benefits and improvements to the pedigrees of Brown Swiss cattle worldwide.
Owner Allen Bessler posted on Facebook: “We laid the legend to rest today. We said goodbye to one of the most special cows we ever had a chance to work with. Thanks to God for giving us the opportunity to work with her. She leaves quite a legacy behind from all of her offspring worldwide in 11 different countries from embryos she produced. She walked the tanbark with style. It’s like when she got there it was game on buddy Bring It On… See you in heaven SNICK.”
It was a lucky day when someone gifted a Brown Swiss heifer calf to the Bassler family as a 4-H project. When Cookie was old enough, Allen decided to breed her along with his other cows to a very nice bull in Pennsylvania named Emory even though he had not previously sired any female offspring when bred to any of Allen’s stock. Those matings resulted in two heifers — one of them out of Cookie, born on October 14, 1998, was named Snickerdoodle by Allen’s wife Tammy and their three children.
Allen’s interest in Brown Swiss Cattle began during his own 4-H years, and he’s been making cheese for about 30 years. Brown Swiss is a North American breed, descended from the Alpine (Switzerland) Braunvieh: they are renowned around the world for milk production and for their milk’s excellent quality in cheese-making. Brown Swiss traits include sturdy health, gentle temperament, outstanding milk production, and longevity. Snickerdoodle produced 261,670 pounds of milk, earning sixth place on the Swiss Cow’s living lifetime production list.
“When I started breeding Brown Swiss cattle, I wanted to improve them, make them the best they could be,” Allen said. “I wanted bulls that corrected their udders without sacrificing stature, feet, and legs. It took generations to do that.”
His greatest success story is Snickerdoodle, winner of a record six World Dairy Expo Brown Swiss Grand Championships and the only cow of all breeds to win every milking class she entered. She also earned one Supreme Championship in 2003 and two reserves Supreme Championships in 2008 and 2009.
Recognized far and wide as one of the greatest cows in the dairy industry, Snickerdoodle has more than 150 daughters giving milk in 15 countries around the world, including many Excellent daughters, 21 of them right here in the U.S. One daughter living in the UK, Old Mill Starbuck Spottie-ET EX-94 2E, is enjoying a most successful show career. Plus, Snickerdoodle’s sons are stamping their progeny with her championship characteristics. It’s been win-win all the way.
“Snick started out as my son AJ’s 4-H project. He got to grow up with a cow that was amazing,” Allen said. “He took care of her and showed her and they won a lot. Then we realized that she was among the best of the best. We were concerned that if they won all the time in the 4-H show ring, AJ wouldn’t understand what it was like to work for it. So he showed her in Junior classes, but we got a professional handler for the Open classes.”
When Snickerdoodle was two, she embarked on what would be a stellar career by winning her very first World Dairy Expo breed championship. That accolade earned the young cow her very own stall and pasture back on Oak Spring Farm in Upperville where Allen milked 12 cows and made cheese. In 2003, competing against the other breed champions, Snickerdoodle won Supreme Championship, the equivalent of a super-charged Best In Show, at the World Dairy Expo, a prestigious annual event in Madison, Wisconsin.
Snickerdoodle won Brown Swiss Grand Championships at the World Dairy Expo in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2008, and 2009. However, because cows put so much of their vitality into milk production, they don’t always look pretty as they get older. Snickerdoodle proved to be the exception.
“It was pretty remarkable when Snickerdoodle came back again — she won the dry cow class in 2013 at the World Dairy Expo,” Allen said. “You have friends and enemies at show time, it’s very competitive. Dry cows have their place at the show but can’t be grand champion. People knew her and recognized her and gave her respect. She was 15 years old, looking as good as she ever looked. She didn’t have the udder full of milk, but no dry cow has that. She came out at 15 to a national show and it was really neat in that situation when they started clapping for Snickerdoodle.”
That standing ovation became even more significant and moving during the World Dairy Expo when Snickerdoodle’s son, Old Mill WDE Supreme-ET, was honored as the Premier Sire of the International Brown Swiss Show.
After her “official” owner AJ went off on his own but didn’t have a place to keep his cow, Snickerdoodle stayed with Allen and Tammy at Oak Spring Farm until it was sold in 2015. Then the legendary cow moved to Florida where Allen makes cheese for the Dakin Dairy Farm.
Snickerdoodle will be remembered for her genetics, gentle giant temperament, and priceless contributions to the improvement of the Brown Swiss breed. She financed college for Allen and Tammy’s two daughters and their son’s tech school training in diesel engines. She brought great joy and recognition into the Bassler’s lives.
Snickerdoodle was much more than a great milk-producing champion cow. She will be missed, but not forgotten. Legends never really die.