By Nancy Allen
Three Maria Stein siblings are using a federal youth loan program to garner important life lessons and get them involved in the family's dairy business.
The Broerings -- Brenda, 20, Sara, 16, and John, 13, -- each received $5,000 loans to buy heifers recently. This is the third loan each for Brenda and Sara through the USDA Farm Service Agency's Rural Youth Loan Program and the second for John.
Together, the three have received a total of $29,000 in loans from the program during the last several years.
Two other Mercer County youths, Ryan Stachler, St. Henry, and Adam Timmerman, Fort Recovery, also received loans this year.
The federal program offers operating loans to youths ages 10-20 to establish and operate income-producing projects. To be eligible, an applicant must be a citizen of the United States or a permanent resident, live in a town of less than 10,000 people, be unable to get a loan from other sources and conduct a modest income-producing project in a supervised program of work. The projects must be of modest size and be initiated, developed and carried out by youths participating in 4-H clubs, FFA or a similar organization, or with a vocational teacher or county extension agent. Sara and John Broering are members of the Cassella Buckeyes 4-H Club, and Brenda Broering is an adviser.
Among them the Broerings, who are the children of Tony and Linda Broering, now own 28 animals purchased with money from the youth loan program. Brenda owns 12, Sara, 10, and John, 6.
The program has made for some good-natured competition among the youths. They keep a tally on almost everything -- whose cows produce the most milk, which ones are the most prolific breeders and how many heifer calves verses bull calves are born. Heffers are more desirable because they can be turned into milk cows and added to the dairy operation.
"Oh yeah, without a doubt," said Brenda Broering when asked if there was any competitiveness among the siblings. "We are a very competitive family. We actually race to see who can put milkers on their cows the fastest."
Brenda Broering received her first loan when she was an eighth-grader.
"It made me a little nervous," she said of receiving her first $4,000 loan and purchasing cattle with it. "When I brought them to the fair, I just thought it was cool that I owned them. Everybody else's cows their parents owned."
She used her most recent loan to buy five yearling heifers, which she plans to breed in about three months.
Sara Broering used her loan to buy three pregnant heifers, which are supposed to calve in the next week or so. She said more of the calves born to her animals have been bulls.
"I'm most competitive about the milk," Sara Broering said. "The whole heifer thing is not working for me."
Sara Broering said she hopes to one day be a dairy farmer. She and older sister Angie's dream is to own a "bunch of cows and live out at our home place the rest of our lives," Sara Broering said. Angie Broering already works in the family dairy business.
John Broering proudly announced that two of the three heifers he bought with his recent loan had female calves and one had a bull. His cows also are generally good milk producers, he added.
"Well, usually my cows do pretty good with milking, but lately they've just been all right," John Broering said.
John Broering said he wants to become a large animal veterinarian when he grows up. The 13-year-old said the loan program has helped teach him what adult life may be like.
"It will help farming in the future because the kids already have a farm of their own started and they'll want to keep on farming," John Broering said of the loan program. "That's why it's a good thing."