The Wisconsin Livestock Breeders Association — one of the oldest livestock groups in the state — recently held its 103rd annual meeting and honored four adults who have given of their time and energy to programs benefiting youth livestock activities.
Kermit and Jana Rhiner were chosen as this year's Beef Honorees; Doug and Roy Wilson and families are the 2014 Sheep Honorees and the Tom Rake family are the 2014 Swine Honorees.
Roger Vlietstra, from American Wood Fiber, was chosen as the Friend of the WLBA for his generous donations to the group's shows and will be honored in person at a later date, said the group's president Andy Mindemann.
During the annual meeting, held at the Arlington Agricultural Research Farm, B.J. Jones recognized the Rhiners for the time and dedication they have given to the organization and to youth wanting to show beef cattle.
The family farm isn't far from Arlington and they milked cows until 2000 but Kermit was also avidly interested in livestock judging as a youth himself. At age nine, he was showing Chester White hogs and in 1995 he established a beef herd with Polled Herefords, Charolais, Shorthorns and crossbred cattle.
The herd has grown in quality and quantity with the use of embryo transfer and artificial insemination, Jones said.
The family is known for its volunteer work. Kermit is known as someone who will help youth check in their animals, serve as a ring man and clean up afterwards, Jones said. He is active at the Lodi Agricultural Fair, the Columbia County Fair and the Wisconsin State Fair.
He is very involved in the Junior National Hereford show and was chosen as that association's volunteer of the year in 2006. "Kermit loves to help young people getting started," Jones said.
Nancy Zernicke introduced Sheep Honoree Doug and Roy Wilson and their families. The men own over 100 ewes in the Shawano area and have worked for 18 years to improve the genetic index of the registered Hampshire flock.
Each year they hold a production sale at the farm and make as many as 70 show-quality wethers, ewes and lambs available. They were not able to come to the WLBA meeting to receive their honor since it was held at the same time as their club lamb sale, she explained.
Over nearly two decades, the men have introduced many non-farm kids to showing sheep and along the way have opened doors and even agricultural careers to those kids.
Terri Dallas accepted the award on behalf of the Wilsons and their Corner View farm.
"They have turned at least 27 non-farm kids into sheep kids," Dallas said. "They volunteer their time and energy to teach kids how to show. My kids were part of those 27 and it has made a huge difference in all three of my kids."
Jed Dallas, her son, said he's been involved with the Wilson's Corner View farm for 13-14 years and learned a lot about sheep and "all the words to Johnny Cash's songs."
David Graff introduced WLBA Swine Honorees, the Rake family from Waunakee who have built a hog business after starting with Chester Whites in 1969.
"They have added more breeds and have probably had nearly every hog breed in their herd over the years," he added.
The Rakes have won the National Barrow Show and been inducted into the Chester White Hall of Farm. Their boars have been national champions.
The Rakes have raised four children on their farm. In accepting the award, Tom Rake said he's all about "history, heritage, tradition and dedication.
"Diane is the best partner I could have every imagines. She's out there working with the animals every day."
Rake has been a judge for 35 years and says that when he steps into a show ring it has always been his policy to "be a teacher not a politician."
He reminded the WLBA group that they are all mentors to youth and encouraged them to try to say something to make someone else's day better.
"We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give," he added.