Back in 1940, when four county agents and various breeders began efforts to create what was then called East Central Breeders Association Cooperative, not much was known about artificial insemination (A.I).
Over the years, though, East Central became a leader in the industry. A few more than 5,800 cows were bred in the first year of East Central's existence. Last year, in 2015, East Central/Select Sires recorded 348,000 A.I. services in their southern-Wisconsin territory. Today, they're celebrating 75 years as a successful cooperative.
The four county agents at the first meeting were A.D. Carew, Green Lake County; George Massey, Fond du Lac County; Earl Stallard, Dodge County; and Earl Skalitsky, Washington County. Comments from Stallard, left behind in a notebook he maintained, note various details from the meeting.
'In our preliminary meetings, there was some opposition from some of the registered herd owners in the area. They thought it would hurt the sale of young bulls from their herds, that it would increase the danger of spreading disease, that it might not be conducive to developing uniformly good type in the offspring, and some other uncertainties,' Stallard wrote.
'It did not take long for everyone to realize these concerns were not founded on science, and the decisions made by this group were in the best interest of dairy producers in the counties they served,' said Al Deming, current East Central general manager.
The very first East Central board members were Erwin Fehling, Dodge County; Martin Knickel and George Landaal, Fond du Lac County; Arthur Lichtenwalner and Louis Opgenorth, Washington County, and V.S. Kutchin. Carl Deaken and Victor Mayer are also mentioned as possible board members in early notes. Landaal was the first president and Kutchin was the first secretary.
Changing with the times
In the early days of A.I., inseminators had to be veterinarians, but soon after, lay technicians were authorized.
'The first ones for East Central were George MeGilvra, Syd Warner, and Cyril Westerman, all of whom served for many years,' wrote Stallard in his notebook.
Home base for East Central was a rented barn outside of Waupun, WI.
'The day of the first semen collection was quite an event. It took place in the barnyard of the bull stud with the use of a dummy cow. The news had gotten around downtown, and the barnyard fence was lined with quite a few doubting spectators. After the successful collection, some went away still doubting,' said Stallard.
Ten years later, in 1951, East Central built a new bull barn and office building in a different rural-Waupun location.
Thirty years after East Central incorporated, Stallard pointed out some improvements in cow-production numbers from the first days of A.I. at East Central.
'Thirty years ago, when East Central started, all cows on D.H.I.A. test in the state averaged 8,416 pounds of milk and 324 pounds of fat. Today (1971), the production has been increased by 4,867 pounds of milk and 182 pounds of fat. ... A recent (early 70s) comparison of all A.I. daughters showed an increase of more than 42 pounds of fat.'
'Today, average production in Wisconsin is near 22,000 pounds per cow,' Deming said. 'There are several herds over 30,000 pounds, and production continues to climb each year due to advancements in genetics, nutrition, management, and cow comfort.'
Change in leadership
In 1976, the general manager of East Central announced his resignation, causing leaders within the cooperative to explore options for the cooperative's future.
At the time, they needed new leadership and more avenues for finding additional bull power. A lot of the membership kept discussing 7H58 ELEVATION, the breed-leading bull available from Select Sires. President of the East Central board at the time, Clarence Boyke, Fond du Lac, made it clear ELEVATION was the biggest driver in East Central's desire to join the Select Sires family.
An invitation from Select Sires President Dick Chichester to East Central's leadership to come to Ohio in early 1977 led to what eventually became East Central's membership in Select Sires as a member cooperative.
May 1, 1977, was the historic day East Central joined the Select Sires family. East Central's bulls left for Ohio while the Waupun facilities were converted to homes for young bulls in waiting. In 1984 East Central Breeders Association Cooperative voted to change their name to East Central/Select Sires.
During the late 80s, all remaining bulls at East Central were moved to Ohio. In 1991, East Central's 50th year, the board of directors named Alan R. Deming as the new general manager, and shortly after that, a warehouse was created at the Waupun facilities to hold an inventory of various cow-management products.
In 2000, when Select Sires and Sire Power joined forces to form the largest A.I. organization in the United States, East Central was able to hire five new Sire Power employees and grow annual unit sales by 50,000.
'Today East Central/Select Sires covers the southern 28 counties in Wisconsin with headquarters on the same property we built facilities in 1951. Since we have the smallest geographic area compared to the other eight members of Select Sires, we can operate our cooperative in a way unique to other Select Sires federation members,' Deming said. 'The high-density cow population in our southern-Wisconsin area allows us to pursue innovations quickly and prove ground for new technologies and techniques that can benefit the rest of the Select Sires federation.'
Deming said the technique of tail chalking, along with the entire full-service program of heat detection, semen, and service, has been a strong contributor to the growth at East Central/Select Sires.
'In 1999, we started the program with less than 40 technicians and relief staff. Growing from zero services in 1999 to 290,765 services in 2015 has resulted in the expansion of our technician staff, adding more than 20 A.I. technicians and four relief technicians,' he said.
Another technology prospering in East Central's area is cow-monitoring systems for detecting estrus, temperature, activity, rumination, eating time, resting time, and cow location.
'Again, a high-density customer area coupled with employees that really understand the technology and software, has allowed us to become a leader in the number of systems placed and serviced,' Deming said.
After almost 75 years of business, total unit sales in 2015 at East Central was 537,369 units, and their A.I.-technician group had 347,802 services. Operating revenue was documented at $14,800,168. Construction is underway to add warehouse and office space to their existing facilities in Waupun.
'As in the past, the future of the A.I. industry will see plenty of change and growth,' Deming said. 'New methods may change some practices we use now. There will be more genetic improvement with even more accurate genomic predictions. There will be an increased use of gender-selected semen on top-end genetic animals causing more rapid genetic progress.'
The one thing that will remain constant is the need for professional people willing to work hard, and with a strong desire to do what is in the best interest of the dairy and beef producers in southern Wisconsin.