The World Dairy Expo recognised global dairy leaders in March this year. Here we talked with the 2022 recipients of the Recognition Awards for Dairy Producer of the Year, Industry Person of the Year, and International Person of the Year.
John Ruedinger is a leader in the dairy industry not only on his own farm but also in organisations supporting his community and the global dairy industry. Ruedinger has served in leadership roles that placed him in the room during the creation of Cooperative Resources International and URUS, a holding company with cooperative and private ownership. URUS has strong roots in the global agriculture industry.
On the farm, Ruedinger, his wife, Karen, and daughter and son-in-law, Jamie and David Zappa, operate Ruedinger Farms Inc. together. The team’s 1,500-cow dairy has an average production of 90 pounds (41 kg) of milk and 6.75 pounds (3 kg) of solids per cow per day.
Upon receiving this award he stated, “I am honoured, humbled, proud,” adding that he is proud to have accomplished being a successful dairyman and agriculture leader in the world of agriculture.
“We are transitioning to the next generation with our daughter Jamie, and David – always looking to the future to become the best at what we do while maintaining a sustainable dairy business for future generations.”
And what about support in the global dairy sector?
“Being on the board of directors of Genex cooperative has allowed me the opportunity to work with dairy and beef producers in the US as well as many countries around the world. Through my leadership on the board of directors, I travelled extensively working with international genetics board of directors in France, Germany and the Netherlands. I have travelled to the Czech Republic and Brazil to talk about my dairy business and the challenges we face, hoping to help and expand my knowledge of the industry to local dairy farmers and cooperatives.
“I feel very fortunate in 2018 to have been in a leadership position within CRI-Genex during the time of the merger of CRI-Genex and Koepon holdings to form URUS. This was an industry first, joining a US-based genetics cooperative with a private corporate business.
“I have always been involved outside our dairy business with industry groups as well as cooperatives. When you combine the family dairy business to the family of industry groups and cooperatives, you create a bond among groups of people that forever change your perspective of the agriculture world. Working to create a sustainable future for those around the world is exciting for me.”
Shelly Mayer is dairy farmer, direct-sale beef producer and agri-tourism host. Mayer also works as the executive director of Professional Dairy Producers. Through this organisation, she has been on the leading edge of animal welfare, defining the founding parts of what is now the FARM program, maintaining customers’ confidence in the dairy industry and providing dairy producers with resources to proactively manage challenges.
Mayer’s commitment to the dairy industry was on full display in 2018 when she helped lead the team responsible for the creation of the US$ 7.8 million Dairy Innovation Hub, a research institution in Wisconsin focused on cutting-edge dairy research.
“It’s an overwhelming honour to receive this recognition. For nearly 30 years, I’ve had the privilege of working with and for fellow dairy farmers in my role at the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin. I’m also incredibly grateful to my husband, Dwight, who has gone above and beyond to support my passion for Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin and the organisation’s industry work while also managing our dairy. The recognition of this award really belongs to my family and the leadership and staff teams at Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin.”
When asked about challenges and opportunities in the sector she added: “If you’re a dairy farmer or work within the dairy sector, you have one important job: provide wholesome, nutritious food for families around the world.
“As dairy farmers, we need to lead … or accept the cost of being led. For generations, others have spoken on our behalf to set agendas, develop laws and define our futures. We need to take responsibility and set the direction of our own businesses and industry by challenging the status quo, defining issues that are critical to our future and helping fund and direct ongoing research through our universities via models like the University of Wisconsin Madison’s Dairy Innovation Hub. We also need to expand collaborations between dairy and other organisations.
“Above all, we must encourage one another, lift up the next generation of young farmers while also consistently recruiting young professionals into dairy-related careers. We must stand proudly together championing our one brand: Dairy.”
Comfort has been helping dairy producers around the globe improve animal care with his naturally based products since 1998. His testimonial-driven marketing spotlights individual success stories centred around Udder Comfort from World Dairy Expo Supreme Champion exhibitors to commercial dairy producers in 21 countries.
In the 1980s, Comfort played an integral role in establishing cross-border relationships between Canada and the US through his company Transfer Genetics, which became TransCanada Select Sires and was sold to Select Sires in 2000. Comfort remains active as a dairy cattle breeder through Comfort Holsteins and has bred a number 1 sire in Germany and Japan. He and his wife Bev are also sheep breeders with Comfort Tunis.
“I was surprised and honoured to be given such an award. I have had a great team of people working with me the last 20 years, all dedicated to help dairy producers solve udder problems. There is no substitute for dairy producers to have quality udders to work with on a daily basis. Udder Comfort has been that natural solution reducing antibiotic use in 21 countries.”
About this product, the company states that Udder Comfort includes a natural blend of essential oils that softens and soothes quarters and udders after milking, pre-calving and after calving.
Mark commented further: “Genetic improvement is a long-time passion, resulting in the breeding of the former number 1 sire in Germany Freemax. He in turn sired Foreman, last year’s number one sire. In Italy the Ladina family imported embryos from a red Goldwyn that developed the Intermediate European Champion 2019 ME.Dal Long P Dany P VG-88-IT.
“In the 1980s I was responsible for winning a court case which allowed semen to be freely imported to Canada. The early results developed sires that are in the pedigrees of all top 10 GTPI sires in 2022, and every Premiere sire at Expo for the past 14 years.”