(Scroll down for photos from the awards banquet.)
CRANBERRY TWP. Pa. — Horace Backus came to the 2013 Pa. Holstein Association convention to give the banquet keynote, but it was his lifetime of passion for the Holstein breed that was honored and will be remembered long after his words fade.
Backus, who is a pioneer of the written pedigrees within the industry and author of at least eight pedigree/seedstock books about the Holstein breed, was honored March 1 with the association’s first-ever Distinguished Supporter Award.
Backus developed his family’s Backus Pedigree Company, Mexico, N.Y., which compiled sale catalogs (he wrote his first pedigree at age 15) and managed sales. He has read pedigrees at some of the most prestigious sales, but is never too busy to work a smaller farm sale. He estimates he’s read pedigrees at roughly 3,000 sales and helped prepare at least 5,000 catalogs.
Backus also served as a director on the national Holstein board, and has been honored with numerous awards, including the 2010 Industry Person of the Year from the World Dairy Expo.
In presenting the award, Ken Raney, executive secretary of the state Holstein association, said just by watching Backus, and “his ability to work with different types of individuals, many of us are better because we have paid attention and tried to emulate the way things out to be done.”
In his keynote, Backus reminisced about his 65+ years of working with Pa. Holstein breeders, and recalled his very first sale in the state, held in Butler County. The morning started with snow, then ice, and Backus was sure no one would turn out for the sale.
“But I had underestimated these Pennsylvania farmers,” he said. “They kept coming.”
Backus shared memories of working with Art Nesbitt, then secretary of the state association, and his successor Bill Nichol, who served 36 years with the association.
He recalled two scheduling mistakes for sales — one on Good Friday in 1954 and another on the first day of hunting season — both earned the sale manager an earful from unhappy cattlemen,
He zipped through the influence of several Holstein bulls, emphasizing that these giants of modern breeding, “every one of them owes an awful lot to the breeding in Pennsylvania.”
The Pennsylvania Holstein Association has had “purpose, belief and passion,” Backus said. “You’ve been awfully good to us, and we really appreciate it.”
The state Holstein association inducted R. Wayne Harpster, of Evergreen Farms, Huntingdon County; and Roy C. Simpson, Butler, Pa.
Simpson, who was surprised Friday by the announcement, started farming with his father, J.R., and brother, John, developing the herd into a well-respected type herd. The partnership’s dispersal sale in 1971 of 92 head was the highest averaging dispersal sale in Pennsylvania history, averaging $1,225 with a top seller of $6,000.
Roy Simpson went on to build his own herd, Simpsons Holsteins, and is credited with owning the first two cows in the state to have the 4E designation (classified “Excellent” in four different age brackets). He has bred 57 Excellent cows, and owned and developed many more. He has also bred seven Gold Medal Sires, and sold several to A.I. studs. Simpson now farms with his sons, and the herd includes MS Simpsons Metro Grace, an Ex-95.
A member and past director of the Butler County Holstein Club, Simpson has also donated time to the local 4-H dairy program, hosting dairy judging clinics on his farm and donating calves as fundraisers for the 4-H program.
Accepting the award, Simpson showed his sense of humor. “As long as I see a pretty cow, and I get a funny feeling in my stomach, we’re gonna be all right,” he said. “Beautiful cows still give me a wonderful feeling, just like a beautiful woman.”
The second enshrinee, Wayne Harpster, built his herd after serving in the U.S. Navy.
Starting with a mixed Guernsey-Holstein herd of just 17 head, he first expanded into a new facility with a double 12 parlor to house 250 cows. Then, in 1992, he and his sons, Abe, Aaron and Andrew, made history at Evergreen Farms with a new facility for 1,600 cows and a double 40 parlor. Today, the farm milks 2,800 cows and farms 5,500 acres with more than 80 employees.
A past director of the Huntingdon County Holstein Club, Harpster also served as director and then president of the Pa. Holstein Association. He also chaired the 1990 state convention and secured former President Jimmy Carter as the banquet speaker.
He supported local and state breed sales, and served as a delegate to the national Holstein convention. The farm also served as a pilot herd for the Holstein USA RFID tag identification program.
A separate passion is conservation and water quality, bolstered by his love of fishing. A Master Farmer, Harpster developed several charity fishing events on Spruce Creek that runs through his farm, encouraging youth fishing and overall natural resources conservation.
Harpster is currently in Argentina, so his daughter, Heidi Beck, accepted the award March 1.
Perhaps more than being remembered as a breeder of seven Holstein Gold Medal Dams, the late Mark S. Yoder, of Mifflin County, will be remembered as giving a hand to young farmers just getting started.
And it was several of those beginning farmers who nominated Yoder for the Pa. Holstein Association’s Pioneer Memorial Award, presented at last Friday’s banquet.
Yoder, who never married, developed a registered herd under the Y-Brookside prefix, and his breeding influenced many other herds. Some say he was the breeder who put Cal-Clark Board Chairman on the map, having several of his early Excellent daughters in his herd, including Y-Brookside Chairman 107, which was one of the top-selling lots in the 1982 Sire Power sale. Boyd Brothers, of Seneca, Kan., bought her for $15,000 and was so pleased with the cow, they purchased 30 more cows from Yoder’s herd at $3,000 each.
In addition to building his herd, he also mentored young dairy families, who worked for him at Y-Brookside. He gave each an opportunity to buy cows from his herd when they were ready to start farming on their own. He also eventually sold some of his farms to these individuals, including Darvin Yoder, who traveled from Mifflin County to accept the award, along with Mike and Jill Ammon.
During the convention, the state Holstein association recognized winners of the Progressive Genetics Herd Awards.
Dairymen honored for receiving the award for 20 or more years included:
Roger and David Latuch, Rockwood, 22 years; Keith Beiler, Paradise, and D. Michael Hoover, Tyrone, 21 years; and Brian Ruch, Andreas; Kirby and Sheryl Horst, Newmanstown; and Penn-England LLC, Williamsburg, 20 years.
Thirty-two Holstein breeders were honored with the Progressive Breeder Registry Award, including Penn Dell Farms, Spring Mills, which received the award for the 41st time.
Carrdale Holsteins, Somerset, received the award for the 22nd year; Schuler Farms, Fleetwood, 19th year; Dale E. Hostetter, Annville, 18 years; and Myron and Lori Bonzo, Rochester, and James and Dennis London, Punxsutawney, 17 years.
A sale was held in conjunction with the annual meeting March 2, hosted at the Lesney Family Farm, Butler.
Topping the sale was Oakleigh Colt P Hailey, consigned by Glenn and Karen Brake, Mercersburg, Pa. Sired by Sandy-Valley Colt P-Red -TW, she sold for $32,000 to Yannick Louis, France.
Ammon Farms Sudan Maddy-ET, consigned by Mike and Jill Ammon, Lewistown, Pa., was the second high-selling lot, bringing $10,500 from Penn England LLC, Williamsburg. She was sired by VA-Early-Dawn Sudan CRI-ET.
A first choice female, consigned by the Pa. Holstein Association, brought a bid of $7,700 from Stuart Hollenshead, Mercersburg. The embryo was out of Markwell Goldwyn Donela-ET Ex-93, sired by Gillette Windbrook-ETS.
Two other lots brought bids of $6,100. A first choice female embryo consigned by Mark Welk, Kirkwood, sold to Joel Younker, Fleetwood, and Golden-Rose Epic Rapture-ET, consigned by Rustin Herr, Oxford, sold to Blain and Wendell Showalter, Leetonia, Ohio.
The sale, chaired by Wade Sturgeon, totaled $273,200 (live cattle and choices) on 70 lots, with a sale average of $3,903. Twenty-eight embryos sold for an average of $342. Auctioneer Matt Lawrence cried the sale, with Horace Backus reading pedigrees.
By Susan Crowell