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2016 Active Master Breeder Award
Charles Voelker

Back Row: Chad, Suzanne, Charlie, Nancy, Katie; Front Row: Dayne and Grant 

The 2016 Active Master Breeder has spent his entire life with the Brown Swiss breed. His involvement and contributions have been well-rounded from show winners, high index cows, top PPR bulls, active in the state association, on the National Board and serving two terms as National President.

This year’s honoree is Charles Voelker, Voelker’s Brown Swiss, Perryville, Missouri.

Charlie and his family are the fifth generation to farm land that was homesteaded by the Voelker family in the 1860’s. Following World War II, Charlie’s parents, Chalmer and Evelyn, developed the farm into a traditional dairy farm. Their first Swiss were purchased in 1948 and during the 1960’s, it became a 100% Brown Swiss herd.

On January 1, 1983, at the ripe old age of 22, Charlie and his wife, Nancy bought the 42 cow herd from his parents. The herd size grew, increasing in both production and type and numbering around 150 in the milking herd at the moment. The current Rolling Herd Average on 132 cows is 20,659 pounds.

Today’s work force includes Charlie, his son, Chad, and two full-time employees. They own 260 acres and rent an additional 100 for a total of 360 acres. Feed is home grown wheat for balage, corn for silage, and alfalfa for hay.

In 1991, Charlie showed at the Missouri State Fair for the first time. In 1993, he had Grand Champion with Voelkers J King Ida. He took her to Madison for his first year there as an exhibitor. In 1995, he was named Premier Breeder for the first time at the state fair. Voelkers have shown there every year since 1991. There have been numerous Champions and many Premier Breeder and Premier Exhibitor banners to take home to Perryville.

In 1999, he also showed at the Southeast National and had his first All American Nomination with Voelkers Pete Jessie, a senior two year old. In 2000, he returned to Madison with a heifer and since 2002 has shown at the national show at WDE every year.

In 2003, Voelker Denmark Fergie was fourth Jr. 3 Year Old at Madison, Reserve Intermediate Champion at Louisville and was Nominated All American. 2004 was a banner year for Voelker Denmark Fergie. She was Grand Champion at the Central National Junior Show for daughter, Katie, Grand at the Southeast National and Honorable Mention All American 4 Year Old. Voelkers were Premier Exhibitor and Premier Breeder at the Southeast National in 2004 and 2005. Voelkers Camelot Peony, maternal sister of Fergie, and Fergie were Honorable Mention All American Produce of Dam in 2003 and 2004.  Also in 2004, along with Voelkers Collection Amber, they were Honorable Mention All American Best Three Females.  Voelkers Denmark Fergie was “E92/93MS”. Her high record was 3-10 365d 29,240m 936f 989 protein. Peony was “2E93/93MS” with a high record of 29,550m 1061f 947p at 5-9. In 2009 Peony was the 1st Component Merit Cow at the Southeast National.

In 2001, Voelkers Prophet Milly “2E92/94MS” was Grand at the Missouri State Fair and Reserve in 2002. Her name is not nationally recognizable and you wonder why she was mentioned. Her son was Voelkers Collection Miguel. Recognize that name? No? Well, he was the sire of Voelkers Migel Candid.

Voelkers Migel Candid was the first 5 year old at the Central National in 2009 and All American that year. She was Grand Champion at the Missouri State Fair in 2008 and 2009 and Reserve Intermediate Champion at the Southwest National in 2007. Candid was scored “4E94/95MS” with a high record of 5-3 335d 33,090m 5.1% 1673f 3.6% 1189 protein. She was also high on the breed’s PPR lists. Pretty good for a cow from a homebred sire and dam!  But this is the Master Breeder Award, so most important are her offspring. Voelkers Wndt Chilli Pepper, her son, by Top Acres C Wonderment ET, has been one of the post popular sires in recent years.  He helped put Charlie and his herd on the map for top of the sire lists and high on genomic lists.

Candid’s daughter and full sister to Chilli Pepper, Voelkers Wndt Carabella, is “E90” with a high record of 32,300 milk 1368 fat and 1106 protein. In 2011, Carabella was 4th on the PPR Lists while Candid was tied for 8th. Carabella is the dam of Voelkers TD Carter and Voelkers Galaxy Cosmo. Another popular sire, Carter was top of the PPR Type List at +1.3 in May 2016. Carabella’s daughter, Voelkers Brook Cara, sold as the #1 PPR Heifer in the 2013 National Sale and was #17 on the May 2016 PPR List.

In 1998, Charlie purchased Wind Mill Ensign Alena ET from Ronald Ray and Dennis Daubert. She is classified “2E93/94MS”. She was the dam of the aforementioned Voelkers Collection Amber and Voelkers Monaco Alexis. Amber was “2E92” and Nominated All American 4 Year Old in 2004. She had a lifetime of 175,050m 6973f and 5847p. Amber has an “Ex” daughter, Voelkers Jet Pilot Amikelinn. Another daughter, Voelkers Parde Addison, is “2E92” with 39,620 pounds milk in 365 days. She was Reserve Grand Champion at the Missouri State Fair in 2013. Amber also has a son in A.I. Amber was owned and shown by Charlie’s daughter, Suzanne.

A couple of recent noteworthy cows were Voelkers Durango Sasha “VG89/ExMS”, Grand at the 2015 Missouri State Fair as a two year old and sold to Main and Vail after Expo. Voelkers Lovery Moe is “E93” with 5-2 365d 29,849m 4.4% 1350f 3.4% 1047p. She was Honorable Mention All American Component Merit Cow in 2014 and 1st in her class at the 2015 Southeast National.

To date Voelkers have 13 proven sires on the PPR list. They were honored when their Brown Swiss were used in the Hoard’s Dairyman Contest in 2003.

Charlie served two terms as president of the Missouri Brown Swiss Association and co-chaired the 1994 National Convention hosted by Missouri. From 1994-2000, he represented District VI as a National Director. From 2004-2008, Charlie served the National Association as its president. He also served many years on the National Type Committee.  Charles and Nancy were inducted into the Missouri Dairy Hall of Honors in 2006 as Distinguished Dairy Cattle Breeders.

The entire Voelker family was involved in the work growing up and all the kids showed their Swiss, bringing home many blue ribbons, championships and Bell Ringer winners, state and national. Charlie and Nancy have five children:  Katie, Chad, Suzanne, Dayne and Grant.

Chad has rejoined the operation, and Voelker Dairy underwent a major expansion and construction upgrade the summer of 2016. Ten years ago, a 160-cow compost barn was built. In the 2016 upgrade, a 40-cow compost barn was added to hold fresh cows, special need cows, etc. The old double-four parlor was replaced by a new double-10 parallel parlor. RFID tracking is being installed to identify each cow as they enter the parlor and will aid in monitoring cow health and performance. Sort gates were added to make it easier to move cows and work with the individual cows as needed. The plan is to increase the milking herd to 190-200 head.

2016 Historical Master Breeder
Pete Vanderham

In 1936, Joe and Corneilia Vanderham and their young son emigrated from Holland to southern California, settling near Long Beach, just south of Los Angeles. In 1939 the family expanded when another son was born - the 2016 Historical Master Breeder - Pete Vanderham.

Upon his arrival in the U.S., Joe Vanderham got a job as a milker at a local dairy. In 1941 he started his own herd at a rented dairy and in 1946 built his own dairy in Norwalk, California. The first Brown Swiss were grades purchased by Joe in 1944 and 1945. Family members were part of the labor force, and at age 14, Pete was responsible for feeding, all by hand, alfalfa hay to the herd of approximately 300 cows. By age 18, Pete had become a milker and was milking half the herd, twice a day.

Pete’s showing career began at 13 when he showed Holsteins in 4-H and FFA at the local city fairs.  Fate played an important role in Pete’s work with Brown Swiss when Pete’s father first told him in 1956 that cattle dealer Louie Spane had bought Pete a bull to show - a registered Brown Swiss. That bull was Pete’s first registered Swiss - Butte Meadows Pharaoh. Unfortunately neither Pete’s dad nor Louie realized there were no bull classes in 4-H.

The following year, 1957, Pete learned of a new dairy show in Los Angeles. Although he made entries for both the Junior and Open Shows for his 4-H Holsteins and Brown Swiss bull, show management told him he had to pick one or the other as he could not show in both the Junior and Open Shows. The decision the 18 year old made at that moment was “fate” when he chose to show one animal in the Open Show. And so in June of 1957 Pete took “Pharaoh” to the first ever Great Western Dairy Show in Los Angeles. His one Brown Swiss bull drew the attention of other breeders. A fellow exhibitor recognized the bull and came to check out the new kid. It was then Pete met Orville Kurtz from Fair Oaks, California, who was there with his herd of Brown Swiss.  At the show, Pete helped Orville show in the group classes and before he left bought a cow from Orville - Rancho Rustic Lavanity - Pete’s first registered Brown Swiss female.

In the next several years, Pete spent time at the shows with Orville Kurtz and another Brown Swiss breeder, Pete Gerger, Gridley, California. Both traveled the California show circuit and they’d talk long into the night about Brown Swiss cows and cow families of the breed. The two men had a strong influence in teaching Pete to breed the “right kind of cow” and Orville became a lifelong mentor to Pete.

Note . . . Years later, after Orville had sold his herd, he served as the Southwestern Brown Swiss fieldman from 1975 through the 80’s and passed on his love of Swiss and passion for the breed to many Brown Swiss breeders.    Mr. Gerger was originally a Guernsey breeder living in Washington. In 1939, he traveled to the National Show on Treasure Island where 2015’s Historical Breeder Orbec Sherry showed his Four Janes. Pete Gerger was so impressed by those Swiss that after moving to California as each of his four daughters joined 4-H, he bought them Brown Swiss for their projects and eventually converted to all Brown Swiss. (One has to wonder if Orbec realized the full impact of his 4 Janes in 1939.)

Pete Vanderham purchased Butte Meadows Juanita OCS as a 3 or 4 year old cow from Mr. Gerger. Born in 1958, she was bred by Orville out of a Rancho Rustic sire and dam. In 1964, Pete purchased Butte Meadows Jane as a heifer from Mr. Gerger. He paid a total of $410 for the two animals.

After being in the Swiss business a few years, Pete decided he needed a prefix. One day while standing in the barn, he looked to the west and saw the bridge over the San Gabriel River and looking to the east saw the bridge over the 605 freeway and so Bridge View was born.

In 1967, Pete at age 27 and his older brother, Corrie, formed a partnership and purchased their father’s herd of 290 cows. In 1975, the Norwalk property was sold and land was purchased near Mira Loma, where Pete currently lives. While the new facilities were being built, the herd spent about a year on a rented dairy near Chino and moved to the Mira Loma site in 1976.

The new acreage was split in half with each brother developing their own herd in mirror-like facilities. The partnership dissolved in 1978 and Pete Vanderham Dairy, Inc., was established. Pete’s 32 acres included corrals, a parlor, a calf facility and house. The herd eventually grew to around 1100 cows with about 10% registered Brown Swiss, the rest Holsteins, mostly grade. All feed was purchased.

In 1968, Pete visited Orville who had moved back to his home state of Wisconsin. After touring some herds there, Pete decided he had a two year old that could compete and win on the national level. She was Bridge View R. F. Joanne, a V B Royal Flush Pavanne from the aforementioned Butte Meadows Juanita OCS. Pete did not have the money to take Joanne himself, so she traveled to World Dairy Expo (still in its infancy) for the national show (only one in those days) with the Innisfail Milking Shorthorn herd. Orville Kurtz was on hand to show her for Pete. That evening after the show, Orville called Pete with a show report. After about an hour of talking about the show, Orville told Pete that Joanne had won the two year old class. 30 minutes after that Orville told Pete that Joanne was also named Grand Champion.

In September 1969, the LA County Fair hosted the Southwest Centennial Brown Swiss Show judged by Norman E. Magnussen. He made the two year old Bridge View Aristocrat Jolene Grand Champion and noted she had the best udder he’d seen since Jane of Vernon. Norm, another of our previous Historical honorees, urged Pete to take Jolene to the National Show - that year in Columbus, Ohio. After a couple days of thought, Pete called Columbus and they were willing to take a late entry.

He then went to a U-Haul lot where he’d seen a horse trailer. He rented it for two hours, took it to a local welding shop and asked the owner if he could gut the inside and then restore it to its original condition when Pete was done using it. The welder said he could. So Pete picked up the horse trailer the day before he was to leave for Columbus and took it to the welding shop. The next morning he left for Columbus with “Jolene” in the U-Haul hooked up to his 1967 two door Chevy with a vacuum pump and show equipment in the trunk. A piece of plywood went in the back seat to provide a bed for 3 year old son, Bill, for the long trip. (His older son, Jim, was in school and missed the epic trip.) Four days later they arrived in Columbus, the night before the show. Jolene went on to place first and win Grand Champion. Ed Drewitz, a Minnesota breeder and Western Fieldman at the time, told Pete he had accomplished a feat that had never been done before by showing two different 2 year olds in two consecutive national shows, single entries, both of whom were named Grand Champion at their National Shows.

Pete took Jolene home via Wisconsin so Orville could see her. They spent that night in Rolla, Missouri with the horse trailer parked next to a house trailer. The next morning as he was milking Jolene, a man came over from the house trailer and said, “I thought I was dreaming when I heard a cow bawling during the night.” He was a retired dairy farmer.

Jolene was a Norvic Lilason’s Aristocrat daughter.Jolene’s dam: Butte Meadows Jane. Pete’s $410 investment had given him two National Show Grand Champions in the very next generation.

In 1970, the National Show returned to Columbus as did Jolene where she was again Grand Champion, this time as a three year old. Three consecutive years - three consecutive Grands at the National Show.

Joanne was All American in 1968 and Jolene was All American in 1969 and 1970. And thus began a long history of National Shows, Grand Champions, and All Americans. During the next decade as the multiple National Shows came into play, Pete and his family exhibited annually at the Western National. In 1971, he was Premier Exhibitor at the Western National and was Premier Breeder and Premier Exhibitor at the Western National in 1972, 77, 79, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85 and 86.

In 1972, Bridge View Jo Dee, a daughter of Jolene, was the Reserve Grand at the Western National and Reserve All American 2 Year Old. In 1977, Bridge View Modern Jewel was All American 2 Year Old. A daughter of Jo Dee, she was the third generation to receive All American honors as a 2 year old, another rare feat.

At the 1980 Centennial National, Pete traveled again to Madison. He was Premier Breeder of the show and had the winning Best Three Females. His son, Jim, had the Senior Champion of the Junior Show with Bridge View Dandy Sunlove.

At the 1981 Western National, a two year old was named Grand Champion. Following the show, Pete purchased the cow, Idyl Wild Improver Jinx., from a junior exhibitor. She was one of the few non-Bridge View bred cows that Pete showed at a National Show. In 1982, he took her to the Eastern National in Harrisburg and the Central National in Madison. She was named Grand at both shows. At the Western National she was Reserve Grand Champion to the aforementioned Bridge View Modern Jewel, Grand Champion of the show. Jinx was All American 3 Year Old that year.  The following spring, Jinx sold in the Springtime Show Window Sale and became the highest selling Brown Swiss at $60,000.  She was purchased by former Active Master Breeder honoree Darrell Worden of Wausau, Wisconsin.

Jewel repeated as Grand Champion at the 1983 Western National Show. Pete was Premier Breeder and Premier Exhibitor at the Western National in 1972, 77, 79, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85 and 86.  In 1986, Pete returned to Madison, won Premier Breeder and tied for Premier Exhibitor with Wayne Sliker, another Active Master Breeder honoree. In 87, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 97 and 98, Pete was Premier Breeder and Premier Exhibitor in Madison at the Central National. He was Premier Breeder in Madison in 1999, 2001, and tied, again with Wayne, for Premier Breeder in 2002.

Through the years, Pete accumulated over 200 All American Nominations, 58 All Americans and 44 Reserve All Americans. Frequently winning the Best Three Class, he had All American Best Three 15 times. He had nine cows named Grand Champion at a National Show, which include Bridge View Dandy Sunlove, (owned by son Jim), Bridge View Jades Mandy (owned by son Bill), Bridge View Jades Rosetta, Bridge View Stretchy Melissa, Bridge View Royale Di, Bridge View Jades Katrina, Bridge View Jubilees Dana, Bridge View Miss Patrice and Bridge View Miss Pam.

From such a strong breeding program evolved some high profile bulls. They include Bridge View Jubilation, Bridge View Combination, Bridge View Distinction, Bridge View Jubilant Sooner and Bridge View Jesta Jubilant. Most influential across the U.S. was Bridge View Elegant Jade, sire of numerous All American honorees and show winners and Premier Sire at multiple national shows. Jade was a White Cloud Jason’s Elegant son out of Bridge View Modern Jewel.

Pete had his first ET calves out of Bridge View Aristocrat Jolene in 1979. With two partners, he formed an ET business active on the west coast for several years.

The Bridge View herd was “not all type”; in 1985, Pete Vanderham Dairy topped the Group II division of the Ira Inman PTPR Award.

Pete attended his first National Convention in Colorado in 1970. A member of the California Brown Swiss Association, he served as its president for several years. Following Earl Meier’s death, Pete was appointed to complete Earl’s term as District IX National Director in 1984 and 1985. Pete was elected National Director in 1986 and served through 1989. In 1994, he was elected National President and served one term.

The Bridge View Brown Swiss herd was dispersed in 2009.