Dairy industry is vastly different from 1951 – The Star Beacon

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In 1951, the Ashtabula County Holstein-Friesian Club was the largest dairy organization of its kind in Ohio with more than 270 members. This information came from their directory published that year.

With this membership, along with the Jersey, Guernsey and Ayrshire dairy herds in Ashtabula County, we have a picture of the importance of the dairy industry as the main source of agriculture at that time. 

Fast forward to today, when we have only a fraction of the dairy herds that were here in 1951 — a reflection of the dramatic change that has taken place in the county.

While the dairy industry is still important, we have become more of a grain growing county. Look around and you will see fields of corn and soybeans where there were pastures and hay fields and cows out on meadows. Also, the dairy farms that remain are far different than they were in 1951.

The 1951 Ashtabula County Holstein-Friesian Club was an active organization those many years ago. Families of the leaders of the club are no longer in the dairy business. President of the club was M. J. Humphrey from Williamsfield. 

John Clymer of Andover was vice president; Kirtland Dillion of Austinburg was secretary; and Dr. H.O. Frederick of Ashtabula was treasurer. Along with the officers, the Board of Directors included H. W. Heidecker of Rock Creek; Eugene Musgave of Denmark; and J. E. Miller of Geneva.

These names, along with many others, are remembered by family members and others still farming in the county. They were important to the promotion of purebred registered Holsteins in the area.

One of the main goals of the Holstein Club was the promotion of purebred Holstein cattle. Efforts of the club, along with the use of purebred bulls and artificial insemination, helped growth of purebred Holsteins.

Other programs of the club included assistance to new breeders. Awards were given to 4-H and Future Farmers of America members at the fair and are still sponsored by the club today. Help was given to 4-H and FFA members in finding Holstein calves for their projects.

A capacity crowd would turn out for the annual Holstein Club Banquet during the winter. This was a way of bringing together a large group of the members for both business and social activities. 

One of the main projects in 1951 was promoting the sale of the standard Holstein farm sign. This was a successful effort with dozens of the signs displayed throughout the county.

Much more interesting information is in this 1951 directory that was loaned to me by John Kampf. He borrowed it from a member of the Struna family from Williamsfirld. Names of all the club members at that time are listed — interesting reading to many of us.

Dairy herds today may have purebred Holsteins in them but registrations are not kept up to date. Herds are bred more for milk and protein content in the milk and less for purebred blood lines.

With the change to bulk tanks and pipeline milking systems, more free stall barns now house the cows. Health regulations have greatly increased bringing about changes in sanitation, cooling and processing milk and dairy products.

Milk production from each cow has more than doubled to nearly tripled — an indication of the use of new technology and hard work on the part of dairy farmers.

While still an important part of Ashtabula County agriculture, the dairy industry is far different than in 1951.

Parker is an agricultural independent writer for the Ashtabula County Farm Bureau.

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