Cancer patient’s cow wins award at World Dairy Expo

Cow of the Year winners celebrating more than just an award
Cancer patient’s cow wins award at World Dairy Expo
Miss Lorilyn

It was a big day at the World Dairy Expo Friday as the annual selection for Cow of the Year was named.

Agriculture Secretary Ben Brancel and Alice in Dairyland Zoey Brooks were on hand to bestow the honor on Coulee Crest Nick Lorilyn, a 6-year-old Guernsey owned by the Peterson family of Cashton, Wisconsin.

While co-owner Kurt Peterson was at the halter for the ceremony at the Alliant Energy Center Friday morning, not everyone was there. 

Brother Scot Peterson, who owns Lorilyn with Kurt Peterson, was at UW Hospital getting radiation treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia. 

“It would have been nice to be out on the colored shavings and stuff and be in front of the crowd,” said Scot Peterson.

Scot Peterson is currently in remission after months of chemotherapy since his diagnosis in July.  He’s getting the radiation in preparation for a bone marrow transplant next week.  His stem cell donor for the transplant, who is also a perfect match, is his business partner and brother, Kurt Peterson.

“He was born one day before my birthday, so I remember mom and dad telling me out by the milk house that I was probably going to have a baby brother for a birthday present. Sure enough he’s been my little birthday present five years younger than me my whole life.  And for him to be willing to do the stem cells, obviously it’s an even bigger honor than the cow winning the award today,” said Scot Peterson.

For Kurt Peterson, it’s easier to talk about their cow than his brother’s prognosis.  Scot Peterson describes his brother simply as “a man of few words.”

“It’s special, I guess,” Kurt Peterson said when talking about being a stem cell donor.  “It’s nice to know you’re helping him.”

That’s fitting, the men’s parents say, for two brothers who have always balanced each other out.

“Kurt takes care of the genetics and nutrition of the herd, and Scot takes the lead on crops and planning and harvesting,” said Don Peterson, their father.  “You have to have both to produce cows like this.”

And as it turns out, you have to have both to beat cancer, too.

“The matching we did to see if he would be a good donor doesn’t mean he’s an identical twin,” said Dr. Walter Longo, director of the Bone Marrow Transplant Program at the UW Carbone Cancer Center. 

“It means that he’s compatible in a way that will allow a new immune system to grow, and that immune system is leukemia-free and it will react against leukemia to keep him free so he can go back to work,” said Longo.

Working on the farm, back with Lorilyn and his family, is exactly where Scot Peterson wants to be.

“That’s the deal. You look forward to next year, and today is just one day closer to recovery,” said Scot Peterson.

Scot will get his stem cell transplant next Wednesday after Kurt donates his stem cells on Tuesday.  He’ll be tested then in 90 days to see whether the transplant worked.