Recent information about the merger of two large artificial insemination cooperatives is of special interest in Trumbull and Ashtabula counties. These two cooperatives, Select Sires from Plain City and Accelerated Genetics out of Baraboo, Wisc., will now become one of the largest organizations providing artificial insemination services worldwide. What is interesting is that their beginning started right in Trumbull and Ashtabula counties. Back in the early 1940s, a group of far-sighted dairy farmers in these two counties, with leadership from then-county Extension Agent Dan McGrew, organized the first artificial breeding cooperative in Ohio. It was called the Trumbull-Ashtabula Artificial Breeding Association. This organization formed the roots of what has become a worldwide cooperative providing services to most countries that offer artificial insemination services. It is a tribute to local dairy farmers that looked to the future and wanted to use new technology.
Local dairy farmers not only put their time and effort into forming the Trumbull-Ashtabula Breeding Association, but they supported the cooperative with their money. A location was needed to house the dairy bulls they purchased or which were donated. Equipment to handle them and collect and process semen was needed. Space was available at the Trumbull County Experiment Farm in Bazetta that was still operating, and the cooperative was in business. Started for dairy farmers in Trumbull and Ashtabula counties, the organization soon included Geauga and Lake counties.
In 1943, Dick Kellogg, who grew up in Rome in Ashtabula County, took over as manager of the organization. Under his leadership, it grew to include most all of northeastern and parts of southeastern Ohio. During this time, the Western Ohio Breeding Association was formed to provide services in that part of the state. Interest developed between the Western Ohio and Northeast Ohio groups and, in the late 1940s a decision was made to merge. They formed what is the Central Ohio Breeding Association (COBA), located west of Columbus. Except for a group of counties in north central Ohio that had formed the Northern Ohio Breeders Association, COBA soon included the entire state. Eventually four AI cooperatives went together to form Select Sires, located in Plain City, with services for dairy and beef cattle nationally. Now with the recent merger, it is a worldwide organization.
If those local dairy farmers could look back, they would be amazed at what they started. It is a real tribute to them, and to Dick Kellogg, who also provided leadership to form COBA and Select Sires. Members of his family still farm the family farm in Rome Township. Assistance from County Agents, Ross Milner and Dan McGrew, were also key in getting the original cooperative formed and in operation.
Artificial insemination in dairy cattle, when it first started, had its critics like most new agricultural technology. They said cows would not get bred, it was too expensive, calves would be deformed and more. Research had said these things were not true, and experience proved them right. Much credit for the improvement in dairy cattle comes from using the improved breeding made available from artificial insemination. Over the years, many improvements have been made in AI. Using frozen semen, for example, opened many doors to expand its use.
Innovative dairy farmers are still in business in this area when we see some of the best dairy herds in Ohio right in our own backyard.
Submitted by John Parker who is retired from the Ohio State University and is an independent agricultural writer.