Trumbull County has a rich agricultural history. One of the ways this is illustrated is through the leadership that local dairy farmers gave to starting the first organization to provide artificial insemination in dairy cattle in the state of Ohio.
Looking through some papers that my mother had saved, I came across a radio script dated Jan. 19, 1942. It was a radio interview over WICA Ashtabula between county agent Dan McGrew and Vienna dairy farmer Duane Butler. Duane was secretary of the newly formed Trumbull-Ashtabula Breeder's Association. How my mother got this script, I will never know, but it has a lot of history of an association that started right here and is highly successful today.
McGrew and Butler were discussing the first year of operation of the Trumbull-Ashtabula Breeder's Association. Before they could offer sire service to dairy farmers, they had to remodel facilities at a barn on the Trumbull County Experiment Station, now part of the fairgrounds. Good bulls had to be purchased and laboratory equipment obtained and set up.
This was all financed by local dairy farmers buying shares of stock in the association. They were willing to support this new venture, not only with their time but also with their money. They were far-sighted enough to realize the potential for improving their herds through use of good sires using artificial insemination, or AI. Names of the early directors of the association included Butler; Lamar Young, Mineral Ridge; Claude Goist, Girard; Lynn Hall, Andover; E.D. Humphrey, Williamsfield; Howard Smith, Pierpont; and Dr. H.O. Frederick, Ashtabula.
Butler's widow, Evelyn, still lives on their farm in Vienna. She recalls many nights that she and their children would milk the cows while Duane was away giving his time for this organization.
According to Butler in the interview, there were 1,400 cows bred through the association the first year. As often happens, there were those who didn't like any new technology, and that is true today. Back then, some dairy farmers were saying this wasn't natural, cows wouldn't conceive, and calves would be abnormal.
Early calves that were born proved otherwise. They were normal, healthy animals. Cows bred through AI conceived about the same as with natural service. Sex of the new calves was about evenly divided between male and female.
During the first year of operation, the association added 120 new members, according to Butler. They had 260 members at the end of the first year with more than 1,600 cows signed up to be bred. They needed seven bulls to take care of that number. Only three breeds were available - Holstein, Jersey and Guernsey.
When Dick Kellogg came in as manager of the association, it grew rapidly under his leadership. Most northeastern Ohio counties joined the association, and more herd sires were added to the bull stud.
The far-sighted board of directors soon realized that greater expansion was necessary. They joined with a smaller group over in western Ohio to form the Central Ohio Breeding Association, which is a prominent organization nationally and internationally, in dairy cattle breeding. They are located in Plain City.
As McGrew and Butler discussed, the average cow in Trumbull County in 1942 produced 5,000 pounds of milk a year. Through the use of AI and improved feeding, that rapidly increased to 10,000 to 12,000 pounds and now up to 22,000 and 23,000 pounds a year from each cow.
Keeping a bull on the farm can be dangerous. Through AI, that is no longer necessary except in some larger herds where young sires may be kept for problem cows.
Duane and Evelyn Butler were also widely known for their recreational leadership. They taught square and folk dancing to many groups in the county years ago. Their son Gordon and grandson Andy are still dairy farmers on their Johnson Township farm.
Yes, we had and still have a group of far-sighted dairy farmers in this area that provide leadership in the entire state of Ohio. They are dedicated to provide a safe, abundant milk supply for us.
Parker is an independent writer for the Tribune.