Lawrence County and its dairy industry were on the world map yesterday when 16 people disembarked a bus in North Beaver Township.
Farmers and representatives of the Guernsey industry stopped at the James Trotter farm in North Beaver Township to view its cows and dairy operation as part of the World Guernsey Conference.
The 21-day tour, which began in Houston and culminates in Lancaster, allows members of the Guernsey industry to size up cows that might be worth breeding through genetic studies and engineering, witness their feeding programs and learn other facts about the improvement of the breed. The tour group included 11 people from Australia, one from New Zealand, two from the United Kingdom and one from Oklahoma, who are making 20 stops on their route to various farms in Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Ohio and other attractions throughout the United States. Their tour also included a Guernsey sale near Columbus, where the Trotters bought three heifers.
The stop in Lancaster on June 9 will be when the members have their meeting, exchange ideas and discuss how to improve their dairy herds and the genetics of the bulls used to breed the cows. Then they will fly to New York to visit a few more farms.
"The main intent of the tour is to look at cattle so they can make breeding decisions," Trotter explained.
Trotacre farm has 75 Guernseys and about 100 head of Holstein cows, but Guerneys are their speciality. They have been involved for at least three decades in genetic breeding of top Guernsey cows.
"We've always had Guernseys," David Trotter, a part owner, explained. "That's what's in our blood."
The tour was conducted on site by David, son of James and Mary Lou Trotter, both 86, who are the Trotacre Farm's patriarch and matriarch. In addition to David, the Trotters have a son, Bob, and a daughter, Debbie Liggett.
Now four generations of Trotters live on and around the family farm and are involved in the operation.
James Trotter's father started raising Guernseys when he moved to North Beaver Township from Beaver County in 1942. He and Mary Lou went to the old Mount Jackson school together when they were young.
"I was never a farmer," Mary Lou said." I didn't know anything when I came here."
Digby Gribble of the United Kingdom said he has been waiting for three years for the United States tour. He has been on six of the world tours.
A retired dairy farmer, Gribble grew up with Guernseys. He kept his passion for the industry alive by taking a job in 2000 working in Britain for the Guernsey breed society and is the president of the English Guernsey Cattle Society.
He said that Guernsey farmers are looking at the feeding of Guernseys to determine whether the quantity one cow eats compared to another cow makes a difference in its milk production, or whether its milk quality is a result of its genetics. One of the tour stops was at the Ohio Heifer Center of S.T. Genetics near Columbus, Ohio.
"It's been a wonderful tour," Gribble commented.
He explained that the tour "is supposed to be all the world coming together to plan the Guernsey breed and the transfer of genetics between countries. However, right now it seems to be one-way traffic with America cornering that market."
"I'm looking at animals that are elite, that might be of interest to the United Kingdom," Gribble said.
He said he and a partner have developed a breeding page on Facebook that has reached more than 100,000 people in multiple countries.
The tour hosts are John and Patty McMurray of Eighty-Four, Washington County.
The tour included a lunch prepared at the farm by David Trotter's wife, Jill, and family and friends, and included bottles of milk from United Dairy in Martins Ferry, Ohio, where the Trotters ship their milk. David's sister, Debbie Trotter Liggett, works as an inspector there. The Beatty Market on Route 108 in North Beaver Township provided barbecued beef for the fare.
Ice cream topped with strawberries came from Cowlicks, the Trotters' ice cream business in Bessemer.
Attending to promote the dairy industry were Rebekah Leise, the Mercer County Dairy Princess, and Jamie Trotter, David and Jill Trotter's daughter, who is the 2018 national Guernsey princess.
Leise chose to become the dairy princess in honor of her mother, Elaine Leise, who was the Mercer County dairy princess in 1984. Elaine, who died six years ago, also had reigned as the Pennsylvania Guernsey queen.