National Dairy Shrine (NDS) is pleased to announce the winners of the Guest of Honor, Distinguished Dairy Cattle Breeder, Pioneer, Progressive Dairy Manager and Graduate Dairy Production awards for this year. These awards were designed to honor past, present and future dairy industry leaders that have contributed to strengthening and energizing the dairy industry.
National Dairy Shrine Bernard Heisner is the Guest of Honor, the highest award from the National Dairy Shrine. This award goes to an individual that has had a dramatic impact on the dairy industry and its future. Bernard “Bernie” Heisner, the General Manager of COBA/Select Sires has had a preeminent role in dairy industry not only for his company but for many allied industry organizations. During his over 20 year association with COBA, the company has grown to over 24 million dollars in sales and 130+ full time employees. COBA offices have also been utilized by the American Guernsey Association, Ayrshire Breeders Association, DHI Cooperative, Inc., Purebred Publishing and National Dairy Shrine as headquarters over the years. Bernie has served the industry in many roles and shared his communication and writing skills with numerous dairy groups. Mr. Heisner has previously received recognition from the Ohio State Fair, Ohio 4-H Leadership Award, Ohio PDCA, The Ohio State University Dairy Service Award, Red & White Dairy Cattle Association and the National Dairy Shrine 4-E Award. Bernie Heisner has truly shaped the future of the dairy industry with his great passion for dairy people and cows.
The NDS Distinguished Dairy Cattle Breeder is the Paul Chittenden Family from Schodack Landing, New York. The Chittenden Jersey herd carries the Dutch Hollow prefix and is known worldwide for producing high quality genetics and cattle with the popular polled gene. Paul Chittenden has served on the national AJCA board (4 Years as President) and numerous committees. The Dutch Hollow herd has been innovative in the marketing of its’ milk through various sources and has also created the Dutch Hollow Education Center for hands on learning experiences for pre-school and elementary school groups. Paul & Melanie’s children Brian, Alan and Nathan and their families are all heavily involved in the next generation of Dutch Hollow Farm and national and state Jersey activities.
Through an anonymous selection committee, Alton Block, David Gibson, Charles Knigge, Marlowe Nelson and Russell Wirt have been selected as National Dairy Shrine Pioneers. This year’s honorees are an exemplary display of what this award is about. Alton Block, Middleton, Wisconsin was a well respected A.I. industry leader who served as the General Manager of East Central Breeders Co-op and Tri-State Breeders Co-op. In his later years he was a successful business and management consultant. David Gibson, Brandon, Vermont served as the Executive Secretary of the Ayrshire Breeders Association for over 18 years. Many technical office upgrades, and breed improvement programs were started under his leadership. Mr. Gibson also served as Secretary for the World Ayrshire Breed Society. Charles “Pete” Knigge, Omro, Wisconsin is a dairy producer and innovator. His dairy made the historical and potentially risky decision to be the first herd in the United States to milk cows with robots. The Knigge dairy was one of the few dairies in the world to use at that time the untested technologies of robotic milking with freestall housing and TMR feeding. .Mr. Knigge has also served a leadership role in numerous state and local dairy & civic organizations. Marlowe Nelson, Viroqua, Wisconsin has been an innovator in breeding and the international dairy industry. After developing personal relationships with dairy farmers in Japan while stationed there in WW II, Marlowe developed in 1953 a dairy training program for Japanese students on Wisconsin dairy farms. This highly successful initiative led to other similar programs with German and Dutch trainees. For his outstanding contributions Marlowe was awarded the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette by the Emperor of Japan. Marlowe also spent many years in the A.I. industry in sire procurement for U.S. and International companies, buying some of the top sires in the world. Mr. Nelson then started his own breeding company International Protein Sires in 1990. Russell Wirt from Lewiston, Minnesota is the final 2014 Pioneer award winner. Mr. Wirt has a distinguished career as a breeder and dairy industry leader. Russell served as President of the American Guernsey Association for 5 years from 1979-1984. He helped form the Minnesota DHIA and the Minnesota American Dairy Association. Mr. Wirt was also president of the Minnesota Livestock Breeder’s Association. The family farm is now be operated by his children and the 500 cows average over 30,000 pounds of milk. Russell has been previously honored by the American Guernsey Association with its’ Distinguished Service Award and by World Dairy Expo with its’ Person of the Year award.