Gilliard Dairy Month Chairman

Rising FHS 9th-grader represents Knox County

In a 4-H competition, rising Farragut High School freshman Laura Gilliard shows one of her Nubian dairy goats. Gilliard has been chosen as Knox County 2018 Dairy Month Chairman.
Farragut High School rising ninth-grader Laura Gilliard has been chosen as this year’s Dairy Month Chairman for Knox County as the nation celebrates National Dairy Month.

“Tennessee celebrates June Dairy Month by hosting events in the community and through 4-H,” said Casey Abernathy, farmer relations communications manager with The Dairy Alliance. “Each year, a 4-H student is chosen to represent (his/her) county as June Dairy Month Chairman.

“Students help lead the initiative to inform their community about dairy products,” she added.

Gilliard was honored at the Tennessee June Dairy Month kick-off event at Battle Mountain Farm in College Grove Wednesday, May 30. The event included recognition from Celeste Blackburn, American Dairy Association of Tennessee president.

“I am very excited and thankful for having this opportunity,” said Gilliard, daughter of Bryant and Heather Gilliard of Farragut. “Being chosen to be a chairman, for me, is a way that I can help others and educate the public.

“A friend of the family is involved with both dairy and beef cattle, so I am very aware of what is happening to all the dairy farms across Tennessee,” she added.

Gilliard, who has been a 4-H member since the fourth grade, raises Nubian dairy goats, as well as beef cattle.

“My mom was in 4-H briefly when she was younger and was in the sheep project,” Gilliard said. “She and my grandfather, Pappy, encouraged me to try it.

“I was hooked, and I became a very active member,” she said.

Gilliard participates in most of the project groups, which include line and design, forestry and wildlife, livestock, veterinary science, public speaking, leadership, citizenship, judging teams, and horse and pony.

“I started out with the Chick-Chain project, raising 14 chicks from 1 day old in March and then selling them after our competition in July,” she said. “I went on to continue to show poultry, cats, beef cattle, dairy goats and dog agility. In my busy years of being in 4-H, I have learned so much, met amazing people and made multiple tight friendships. I have grown in my leadership and citizenship skills, along with improving my communicating techniques.

“The best part of being in 4-H for me is all the wonderful memories that I have made and friends that I have met thanks to 4-H,” she added.

Gilliard’s grandfather inspired her to raise cattle to show.

“Pappy had raised beef cattle since before I was born, and I wanted to show (them),” she said. “He halter-broke a steer for me, and I was going to the weekly beef meetings that were lead by some friends in Loudon County.

“Soon, I wished to become more involved in the livestock project,” Gilliard added. “Pappy asked me if I wanted to do goats or sheep. I chose goats because my aunt raises them, and I thought that it would be best to already know someone with experience with that species.

“When raising goats, there is never a dull moment. They are funny and energetic, and sometimes I just want to sit down and watch them.”

The Gilliards do not sell goat milk.

“When we do milk our does (female goats), it is almost always fed to the bottle babies who otherwise drink a goat milk formula,” Gilliard said.

However, she said she has wanted to learn how to make goat milk soap.

“A friend of the family knows how to make it,” Gilliard added. “Making cheese would be fun to make, but that is another item that I have not yet learned how to make.

“The best thing about raising goats is that my whole family is involved,” she added. “Both me and my sister show them during the summer, and we have a great time.

“I have learned a lot through studying for goat skill-a-thon, a test taken at shows to test the exhibitor’s knowledge.

“Being around goats and other animals has deepened my love for them, and my desire to have a career doing something with them is stronger,” Gilliard said.