Last week, I attended the National Holstein Convention in Virginia, and so did over 1,000 Holstein enthusiasts from across the United States. The four-day event was full of meetings, tours, junior competitions, a national sale, and fellowship. The final evening included a banquet to honor Holstein Association USA's Distinguished Young Holstein Breeder, the Distinguished Leadership Award winner, and the Elite Breeder Award honoree. The winners' names were kept secret until the announcement at the banquet. The winners knew of the recognition, but the audience did not.

We see competition for medals, trophies, and plaques in sports quite often. And, with the presentation of those awards, a high fist pump is generally followed by a self-promoting statement, a big "Wahoo!," and more pats on the back to celebrate their great achievement. But the awards bestowed last Saturday, June 25, were nothing of the sort. There was no grandstanding cheers or rehashing of past laurels. These honorees were truly honored for the recognition and humbled by the award. Each fought back tears as they thanked those who supported them and graciously accepted the award. The cheers came from the audience as they applauded and validated their contributions to our industry. It reminds all of us why we are in the business of breeding dairy cattle and working with the people who care so much about them. It is about the journey and those that travel with us.

Brad and Gail Groves

Distinguished Young Holstein Breeder Award: Brad Groves, Mo.
Brad thanked his family and Holstein friends who encouraged him to apply for the award. He hesitated to apply for the award, pondering if he was truly deserving. With some gentle nudging from his wife and friends, he completed the application, and this very deserving winner spoke so humbly when accepting the award. His Groves-View herd will be a tour stop during next year's convention in Springfield, Mo.
The Young Holstein Breeder recognizes the significant accomplishments of young Registered Holstein breeders.

Holstein President Chuck Worden, Judy and Charlie Iager, Holstein CEO John Meyer

Distinguished Leadership Award: Charlie Iager, Md.
Charlie has made valuable contributions to organizations in his home state and nationally. His enthusiasm for the people in the dairy industry is constantly renewed. I have known Charlie and his wife Judy for over two decades and they are always the first to say hello and greet you with a smile, whether at a show, convention, or at their farm. Their volunteer work on behalf of dairy organizations will ensure that our dairy history will be preserved, and generations to come will enjoy a vibrant future.
The Distinguished Leadership Award is given to an individual who has provided outstanding and unselfish leadership and made a notable contribution to the Holstein Association and/or the dairy industry.

Chuck Worden, Ida, Michele, Matt, Jake, Brooke, and Scott Ruby, John Meyer

Elite Breeder Award: Ray Ruby, Ore.
Ray Ruby of Fir-Ridge Holsteins of Oregon was honored posthumously. His wife, Ida, grown children Michele and Scott, and his three grandchildren were in attendance to accept the award. Knowing Ray personally, he would have been very honored to receive the award which was echoed by his wife and son in their words of acceptance. Scott shared a few humorous "Ray-isms" with the attendees and remarked that his dad would say that breeding cows was 99 percent luck, demonstrating that humble personality that made him a passionate and successful breeder of registered Holsteins. I looked forward to talking with Ray at the Oregon Holstein Show each year. These discussions were intense and to those watching across the barn may have confused our passion for the topic as hostility. It was certainly anything but hostile! He enjoyed engaging conversations, especially about our industry.
The Elite Breeder Award honors those who have bred outstanding animals and thereby made a notable contribution to the advancement of the Holstein breed.

Watching the video presentations of the winners, hearing their acceptance speeches, and knowing them personally, it reaffirms the reason we are in this business – for the cows and the people. I expect few industries outside of agriculture can claim such pride and enjoyment.

The youth award winners have been posted on our Facebook page.

Holstein USA's official press release on the winners can be found on our Industry Buzz page.