LOUISVILLE, Ohio — Considered to be among the top awards a dairyman can receive, the National Dairy Shrine’s Distinguished Dairy Cattle Breeder award is every modern breeder’s dream.
This year, the nationally acclaimed honor will be bestowed upon Paradise Valley Farms of Louisville, where Bill Ramsey and his family milk 400 head of Holsteins and sell some of the best registered cattle in the country.
To be named “the breeder of the United States, it’s the only award,” said Ramsey, who will receive the honor Sept. 30 during the World Dairy Expo in Wisconsin. “This is a national award, so it’s really important.”
Ramsey and his family farm about 1,600 acres and have close to 1,000 head of dairy cattle in all. They have impressive state and national genetics records dating back at least three decades — a feat made possible with good family support and an industry of happy customers.
“We’ve just been so fortunate,” he said. “I had a good start from dad and mom, and they were hard-working people that were great to work with, and they allowed me the opportunity to come in here and do my thing.”
Bill’s father, Paul Ramsey, turned 82 the end of August, and his mother, Catherine, will be the same age in October. The couple just celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary and still help provide insight on the farm, alongside a host of other family members.
Bill and his wife, Debra, have four adult children who help with a wide range of daily operations. Their daughter, Brenda, is the main veterinarian; their daughter, Jill, milks cows; and their twin sons, Michael and Brian, care for the crops and fresh cows and heifers.
The spouses of Bill’s children also help on the farm — everything from fixing equipment to helping with bookkeeping.
The many family members involved with the farm has been a blessing, Ramsey said, one that keeps growing with each generation. He looks forward to grandkids helping, as well.
Claim to fame
While the Ramseys produce milk, and a lot of it, what they’re known for most is their registered cows and bulls. Ramsey has some cows as old as age 14, and some have surpassed the lifetime production marker of 385,000 pounds, which puts the cow in the top 20 for its breed.
One such cow just turned 14, he said, and just met the prestigious marker. Although she’s near the end of her lifespan, she’s also a living record maker who still likes the company of other cows and being licked.
“Every month she lives now, she’s going to move up the list,” he said.
Each year, the family sends about eight to 10 of its best bulls to a major breeding supplier, such as COBA/Select Sires. Other bulls are sold as service bulls to farmers throughout Ohio, and across the country.
A wall inside the farm office displays pictures of some of their best bulls from the past several decades. They’re tangible evidence of what the dairy and breeding industry will remember for years.
Bernard Heisner, general manager of COBA/Select Sires, recalled his first visit to the farm in 1976, six years after Bill took over.
“In visiting with Bill, it was obvious that he had a long-term plan and philosophy regarding his breeding program,” Heisner said. “Their Paradise-R Registered Holstein herd was housed in free stalls and Bill expected the cows to perform at a high level under those conditions, breed back and have a long and productive life.”
The Paradise herd has been on test for more than 60 years and has a rolling herd average of nearly 30,000 pounds of milk, over 1,000 pounds of fat and 875 pounds of protein.
Since 1970, the farm has bred 60 “Excellents” and more than 400 “Very Good” cows with the Paradise-R prefix.
“When speaking with Bill Ramsey, one quickly becomes aware that ‘here is a man with a sense of history and a vision for the future,'” said Richard Smith, manager of dairy sire selection for ABS Global. “He is a long-range thinker and a long-term player. His strategies are built on patience and his herd is built on longevity.”
Quality first. Ramsey said his farm philosophy is built around providing a quality, safe product, and doing so efficiently, so that all his family can benefit.
“No. 1, you’ve got to be able to ship a quality product down the road and you’ve got to be efficient,” he said. “Strive for quality and strive for efficiency.”
He said the biggest thing he got from helping his parents was producing cows that make excellent milkers, and practicing a good work ethic.
“If you don’t work, you really don’t need to be a farmer,” he said.
His own farm features multiple updates, including some box stall barns and newer, sided freestall barns. There’s four farms altogether, with all the milk cows kept at one location.
The award is a rarity and he is believed to be the only Holstein producer from Ohio to ever be selected. It means a lot to him and the farm, but in a sense, it’s also “just a little pat on the back,” he said, for good service to the dairy industry.
Other Dairy Shrine honorees include Calvin Covington of N.C., who will receive the Guest of Honor award. Progressive Dairy Producer Awards will be given to Luke and Derek Johnson, of Unadilla, N.Y., and Andy and Lynnette Buttles of Lancaster, Wis. Tim Northrop of York, N.Y. has been selected to receive the graduate producer award.