2013 Master Breeder Awards
This was the fourth year that the Brown Swiss Historical Society (organized in 2006) presented its annual Master Breeder awards during the national convention.
2013 Historical Master Breeders
Bill and Velva Notter
Seated: Velva Notter, Historical Master Breeder. Standing, L-R: Rich Hill and
Russ Giesy, Society committee; Jennifer and Marlin Kumm; Roger Neitzel, Society committee.
It would be hard to find any couple in any era of Brown Swiss history that has given more of themselves to the breed for over 60 years. Locally and nationally they served the breed well. Velva was at the convention to accept the award. Bill passed away in 2011. While neither of them were raised on a family farm, they both got involved in the industry while still in school. Bill started work at Lee's Hill Farm, New Vernon, New Jersey, when he was 13 years old (1941), working during vacations and on weekends until he graduated (1950) from New Jersey College of Agriculture in New Brunswick, NJ. It was at college that he met Velva Meyer who had taken the 4-H route to a dairy career. Her Degree in Dairy & Animal Husbandry (1948) was the first awarded to a woman in that venue at the College.
Following college, Bill was herdsman at High Meadow Farm in Wallingford, Connecticut. To widen the scope of experience, Bill then accepted the job of manager at the newly set up Hillwinds-Ladderlook Farm in Greenfield, Massachusetts, helping its owner establish a top-notch herd. The Notters depended heavily on these genetics when starting their herd.
The dream of their own herd was realized when the opportunity came in 1959 to rent a farm near Gladstone, NJ, starting with 23 Swiss and their son's 4-H calf.
In 1965, the herd was moved to Cobleskill, NY, when the Notters purchased a farm. Here for the next 11½ years, the herd grew and developed. With the Eastern Breeders Sale in Cobleskill each year, the Notters became unofficial hosts for activities and visitors as well as working committee members.
Production was paramount. In 1975 they pictured their “Five Cow Million Pound Herd” - 5 living cows with a total production of 1,076,778 pounds of milk and 45,203 pounds of fat within a herd of 55 cows.
Bill served as President of the New York Association and then as National Director from 1973 to 1978. Velva chaired the Cow Recognition Committee in 1975 that designed programs still in effect today. Bill later served as National President from 1980 to 1983. He was most proud that during his term the National Youth Program was established.
In 1978, the Notters gave up the fight with the urban development around Cobleskill moving the entire herd west to the high plains of Holyoke, Colorado. Environment changed many breeding decisions, but with generations of strong cows as a nucleus, the herd size increased to 350 head. The farm was incorporated to include Bill III and wife Pat, and daughter Jennifer. Velva served on the State DHI board and became Secretary -Treasurer of the Rocky Mountain Brown Swiss Association in 1980. She has served as an integral member of the Historical Society since its inception.
AI bulls bred by Notters include Ventures ESP Babaray (W) and Ventures Sunny Bruce (W).
When Bill developed some health issues in 1997, Venture-West held a reduction sale. The rest were merchandised privately or in sales until 2001. In 2000 they pictured their last “5-Cow Million Pound Herd” with totals of 1,076,960 pounds of milk, 41,382 pounds of fat and 36,411 pounds of protein.
One of the main traits of serious purebred breeders is their true love of working with their animals – making every generation just a little bit better than the last. No one loved their cows more or did it better than Bill and Velva Notter.