J. William “J” Hodge, Norwich, Ohio, will receive one of seven Young Jersey Breeder Awards given by the American Jersey Cattle Association in ceremonies on June 22, 2017, during the association’s Annual Meetings in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
The Young Jersey Breeder Award is presented to individuals or couples who are at least 28 years old and under the age of 40 on January 1 of the year nominated, who merit recognition for their expertise in dairy farming, breeding Jersey cattle, participation in programs of the American Jersey Cattle Association and National All-Jersey Inc., and leadership in Jersey and other dairy and agriculture organizations.
Hodge owns and operates Windy Ridge Jerseys with his wife, Rachel, and their two children, Elaina and Braden. While not raised on a dairy farm, J gained valuable experience working on a neighboring dairy growing up. He later attended The Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute earning a degree in dairy cattle production and management. After graduation, Hodge worked as the herdsman for two different dairies and was the herd manager of a large commercial dairy in central Ohio.
J and Rachel eventually decided to start their own dairy herd, turning to her father, Lynn Elliott, to rent his farm. In 2007, the first 25 head of the new Jersey herd were acquired. The couple ultimately purchased the farm in 2012 and began making plans for renovations such as expanding to a double-6 herringbone parlor and an efficient, sand-bedded free stall barn.
Since then, the herd has increased to 110 milking cows, with a rolling herd average of 18,221 lbs. milk, 809 lbs. fat, and 667 lbs. protein. The herd has been enrolled on REAP since 2013 and uses linear type evaluation information, JerseyMate™, and genomic testing to increase production and improve functional type.
Hodge takes on all aspects of herd operations from cow care, breeding decisions, and finances to employee management and milking duties. His father-in-law still assists with the crop and equipment maintenance while Rachel, a veterinarian, cares for the young calves and decides on herd health protocols.
In the future, Hodge would like to increase the number of Excellent cows raised on the farm and decrease the cull cow rate even further. He also hopes that his farm will one day start an ET program to continue advancing the herd’s genetics.
Hodge is currently serving as the District 12 director of the Ohio Jersey Breeders Association.
The first Young Jersey Breeder Awards were presented in 1976. More than 280 producers have received this award, including the 2017 recipients: Bernie Bakker, Alvord, Iowa; Nathan Chittenden, Schodack Landing, N.Y.; J Hodge, Norwich, Ohio; Heather Hyman, Adams, N.Y.; Case Kasbergen, Tulare, Calif.; Clayton and Renée Kenny, Enon Valley, Penna., and Jessica and Cole Peters, Meadville, Penna.
The American Jersey Cattle Association, organized in 1868, compiles and maintains animal identification and performance data on Jersey cattle and provides services that support genetic improvement and greater profitability through increasing the value of and demand for Registered Jersey™ cattle and genetics, and Jersey milk and milk products. For more information on the association’s complete line of services for dairy business owners, visit the website at www.USJersey.com or connect at Facebook.com/USJersey.