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2014  Master Breeder Awards

Leon W. Button - Historical Master Breeder

L-R: Marlene Button; Russ Giesy, representing the Historical Society; Phyllis, Leon, and Deborah Button.

Vine Valley Farm is located in the beautiful Finger Lakes, about a mile from Canandaigua Lake. The farm was purchased in 1885. Besides the pretty countryside and nice farmstead, there is a herd of Brown Swiss with a unique legacy.

That legacy began when Leon W. ("Dub") Button was born in 1933. In 1951, he married Phyllis Seely. Over the years, they had six children; William, Deborah, Edward, Marlene, Allan and Leon Norman.  In January of 1952 he started working the farm on shares with his father and purchased it in 1958. The original farm, built in 1933, had 18 stanchions. Barn additions in 1958 and 1963 increased the milking herd size to 60 cows.

In 1948, Leon purchased two Brown Swiss heifers, Coxing Clove Imperial Heidi and Coxing Clove Imperial Donna for a 4-H project. These two cows became the foundation for two of the breed’s great female lines, the Pauline’s (from Heidi) and the Lisa’s (from Donna).  An early impactful herd sire was Norvic Lilason Chip.

Famous animals of the Pauline line (from Heidi):

  • Vine Valley Design's Pauline, “4E”, Superior Brood Cow (SBC), 6 times a champion at NYSF.
  • Vine Valley Loa Pauline, “3E”, Nominated All-American 3 yr old.
  • Vine Valley Chip's Paul “E”, Qualified Sire
  • Vine Valley Desty Peter “E”, Superior Sire

Famous animals of the Lisa line (from Donna):

  • Vine Valley General’s Lisa, “3E”, SBC, over 200,000 lbs.
  • Vine Valley A. Sun Lois, “4E”, SBC, 6 daughters, all classified “E” produced over a million lbs.
  • Vine Valley Chip’s Louise, “E”, SBC, over 200,000 lbs.
  • Vine Valley Paul LuEtte “2E”, was the All-Time High Selling Bred Heifer (Indiana 500 National Sale in 1979) at $14,000 until 1987.
  • Vine Valley Paul LuAnn “4E” was named National Total Performance Winner at 12y. She was nominated All-American 5 times, over 200,000, 4th generation SBC, member All-American Produce.
  • Vine Valley Paul Pansy, “5E”, SBC, over 200,000. 4th gen. SBC.
  • Vine Valley Paul Patsy, “5E”, over 176,000, member All-American Produce.
  • Vine Valley Loa Lucas, “E”, Superior Sire

Rewards for Leon’s breeding genius have been numerous.

He bred 137 animals that were classified excellent. He bred 8 cows that had lifetime production exceeding 200,000 lbs. He bred 9 cows that achieved “Superior Brood Cow” recognition. He bred several bulls that went to studs, 2 of which were named “Superior Sires” and 1 was named “Qualified Sire.” At the NY State Fair, he was Premier Breeder and Premier Exhibitor 15 times. Breeder of All-American Produce of Dam, Breeder of National Total Performance Cow.

In May of 1978, due to health issues, Leon sold the milking herd at auction, retaining the young stock. His children purchased a few cows and with those and the young stock, the herd was soon rebuilt.  Vine Valley Farms continues, now 129 years into the Button legacy.  Leon N. Button, owner, is the fifth generation.

Leon would have considered being chosen as Master Breeder, historical category, the highest of honors. He would occasionally buy a cow, but mostly he liked to study pedigrees and bred the best cow he could. He accomplished that goal exceedingly well.

By Russ Giesy

Larry Kruse - Active Master Breeder

L-R: Julie & Larry Kruse with Roger Neitzel, presenter, representing the Historical Society.

This year’s Active Master Breeder Award honoree has spent his entire lifetime on the same farm. As with many of us, his introduction to Brown Swiss came as a 4-H calf purchased for him by his father.  The year was 1954. The boy was Larry Kruse of Earlville (Petersburg), Iowa.

Following school, Larry worked for a short time off the farm.  In 1963 he started farming with his father, Raymond. In 1970 he and Julie, whom he married in 1963, purchased the farm from his father.

With the nucleus of these registered Swiss and participation in the IE program, Larry and Julie built and developed a herd that would gain international fame. The 80 acre farm was home to 45-50 milk cows and around 50 heifers along with 7 children.  Larry bred for udders, dairy strength, feet and legs and high components . . . and he did an excellent job of it!

In 1974 Larry made his debut at World Dairy Expo in Madison.  Kruses Big D Pamela was third junior yearling heifer and became his first All American Nominee. In 1977 he was back at the Central National Show with the Reserve Junior Champion. By the way, she was the daughter of the aforementioned Big D Pamela.

In 1980, the Centennial year of the Brown Swiss Association in the US, one national show was held. There was never a group with bigger, bigger smiles than when Larry, Julie and kids gathered in the center of the ring with Kruses Beautician Vixie, the winning 3 year old and Grand Champion. She came back to repeat in 1981 and was Reserve Grand Champion in 1982. In 1990 Kruses GK Jade Fantasy Vix was named Junior Champion at Madison. Vix’s dam? Vixie!! Not to be out done by “mom”, Vix was Grand Champion at the Central National in 1993 and 1995.

Beginning with their first nomination in 1974 to present day, Mr. and Mrs. Larry Kruse and Family have bred 92 individual All American Nominees along with many group honorees. 19 individuals were named All American. Vixie heads the list with 5 nominations and 2 All American titles.

They have bred 110 “Excellent” cows to date. In 1997 Kruses GK Jade Fantasy Vix became the second “Ex94” cow of the breed and first bred and owned, a feat of which Larry is quite proud. Three more Kruse bred cows have also scored 94 points and also a partner cow.  Three homebred cows are “Superior Brood Cows”.

The herd has been on official test for over 35 years. An ET program has been in place since 1981, helping to expand the genetics of this small herd.

For 15 years he was co-chair of the Iowa State Sale. In 1983 Larry was elected Iowa state president and served through 1986. In 1996 he co-chaired the Iowa National Convention Committee. From 2000 through 2006, Larry served as National Director.

Larry was instrumental in founding Progressive Sires, a breeder operated Brown Swiss sire proving group. He still serves as a coordinator.

A bull barn was built at the home farm in 2005 and has housed quite a few Progressive Sires.

Larry received the Whitie Thomson Award at World Dairy Expo in 2011.

In 2013 Larry and Julie “retired”, selling the herd to their son, Rick.

By Roger Neitzel and Connie Gritton