Dairy industry honors leaders

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This year’s World Dairy Expo Recognition Award winners have been named.

The awards are intended to recognize outstanding leadership in the dairy industry.

 Recipients will be honored during World Dairy Expo at a special “Dinner with the Stars,” held on Wednesday, Oct. 5 in the Exhibition Hall at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, Wis. 

DAIRYMAN OF THE YEAR: THE KOEPKES

Pictured from left to right are: Kim and John Koepke, with their sons Colton and August; James and Mary Ann Koepke; Alan and Mary Ellen Koepke; and Linda and David Koepke, with their son, Kody. With apologies to Garrison Keillor of Lake Wobegon fame, there’s above average and then there is ABOVE AVERAGE.

The Koepkes in southeast Wisconsin are well above average with it comes to production efficiency. Their current rolling herd average is 31,563 pounds. 

One of their former cows — “Granny” — holds the world record for lifetime production at 458,609 pounds. 

And, more than 100 of their animals, past and present, have exceeded 200,000 pounds over their lifetimes. The herd is known for its high-quality registered Holsteins.

These accomplishments come from having a good team that includes family members and employees, says John Koepke. It involves paying attention to details and not cutting corners.

Over the years, the Koepkes have focused on improving the economic output of their herd rather than simply adding animals.  John Koepke describes it as “growing the business upward, not outward.” In 1991, the Koepkes had 195 cows in the milking herd; today, they have 320 to 330. 

“Our land base is pretty limited,” John Koepke says, which is why they haven’t grown the herd more. Their farm in Oconomowoc, Wis., is bumping up against the western suburbs of Milwaukee.

They do have 1,000 acres of cropland, and those acres are important in feeding the herd.

Besides the crops, the Koepkes are diversified in various other ways. They manage two rental homes on the property and sell landscape stone. They also merchandise approximately 30 head of quality dairy replacements each year, and about 20 bulls per year. 

Diversification helped the Koepkes get through a tough year in 2009 in reasonably good shape — that and the fact they had half of their milk forward-sold at a favorable price through the first half of the year.  

They have also been leaders when it comes to environmental stewardship, recognizing that the soil they farm is a nonrenewable resource and they want to take good care of it. 

DAIRYWOMAN OF THE YEAR: DONNA MYERS

click image to zoom Donna Myers feels blessed to be involved in agriculture.

And, she tries to share those blessings with other people. Over the past 35 years, she has helped numerous young people with their 4-H dairy projects. The farm has leased out animals for some of those projects.

Some of the kids she has mentored don’t come from farm backgrounds, and this has been a way for Donna to instill in them a greater appreciation of agriculture and the work and dedication that goes with it.

She is also involved with the Cow Palace at the Maryland State Fair. There is an interactive area where children can play in a sandbox filled with soybeans or navigate their way through a maze constructed out of straw stacks. The Cow Palace also includes a birthing center where people can watch cows and pigs giving birth and a station where they can milk a Guernsey cow by hand.

It’s important to reach out to people and educate them about agriculture, she says, pointing out that in today’s society, each generation is further and further removed from the farm.

Her commitment to young people is also demonstrated by the fact she and her husband often host collegiate and 4-H cattle judging teams at their farm just prior to the All-America Dairy Show in Harrisburg, Pa., each fall.

Their farm certainly has plenty of good cows on display. Donna and her husband have been the recipients of numerous breeder registry and genetics awards. And, in 2002, they had the No. 1 TPI bull in the nation, named Windsor Manor Machoman.

The farm is located in New Windsor, Md.

Again, she notes, she has been very lucky and very blessed. The dairy industry is more than an occupation, she says, “It’s our lifestyle.”

“The people who are our best friends are involved in agriculture,” she says. “It’s been a real blessing that we have that kind of support.”

INDUSTRY PERSON OF THE YEAR: H. DUANE NORMAN

Duane Norman has been research leader at the Animal Improvement Programs Laboratory (AIPL) for over 22 years. He has developed methods that enhanced genetic improvement, thereby increasing the efficiency of milk production worldwide. Through his leadership, AIPL’s research has moved from simple evaluation of yield traits to complex evaluation of yield, fitness, and health traits, including conformation, longevity, mastitis resistance, fertility, calving ease, and stillbirth, each recently enhanced by genomics.

Specific contributions include the development of genetic evaluations for milk and fat, selection for protein using economic indices, international comparisons of dairy cattle genetics, genetic gains for reproductive traits, performance of cloned dairy cattle, characteristics and effects of dry period length and dairy cattle genomics, to name a few.

INTERNATIONAL PERSON OF THE YEAR: ANNE PERCHARD

Anne Perchard, of the United Kingdom, has been a pioneer in the promotion of the Jersey breed, having served as the only woman director on the Jersey Milk Marketing Board, Vice President of the Royal Jersey Agricultural and Horticultural Society, President of the World Jersey Cattle Bureau and Council Member. She has also served as an International dairy cattle judge.

Anne is described as a master at international diplomacy, getting people and associations to look beyond their differences and focus on working together. In her travels, she seeks out young and beginning farmers to offer them encouragement. 



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