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Rhoderick's herds worthy of shrine

April 30, 2007|by JANET HEIM

Washington County dairy farmer Art Rhoderick has album upon album of photos of his cows - and for good reason.

The success of Rhoderick's Art Acres dairy herd and its impact on dairy herds throughout the world are significant.

And they, along with his service to the dairy industry, are the main reasons Rhoderick was inducted recently into the Maryland Dairy Shrine.

"Arthur Rhoderick's breeding philosophy has made a tremendous impact in Holstein dairy breed genetics throughout the world," said local veterinarian Dr. Matt Iager, who is treasurer and board member of the Maryland Dairy Shrine.

"Many of his bulls have received recognition at a national level," Iager said.

The honor, bestowed on only 55 people since the state Dairy Shrine began in 1963, is akin to being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., or the Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, according to Jeff Semler, agricultural educator for the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension in Washington County.

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"This is a career kind of achievement. Like the Omar Sharif award for a body of work," Semler said.

Rhoderick, 75, whose 160-acre farm is east of Hagerstown, is humble about the attention.

"It's a great honor and all," he said.

Iager said Rhoderick is the fifth farmer from Washington County to be inducted into the Maryland Dairy Shrine. The others are Simon Downey, 1966; Fred Downey, 1970; Seth Schnebly, 1990; and Ralph Shank Sr., 1992.

Rhoderick, the seventh of nine children of Charles and Erma Rhoderick, was born and raised in Frederick County, Md. His father was a farm laborer, and Rhoderick believes his grandfather was a farmer, too.

Young Rhoderick married Nancy Lee Stull of Walkersville, Md., in 1956 and struck out on his own that year, when he got a job working for farmer Russell Wachter in New Midway, Md. In 1959, Art and Nancy moved to Hedgeapple Farm in Buckeystown, Md., and the following year, became partners with Roy Jorgenson, milking 46 cows.

From those came a cow named Beauty, one of the first cows in Maryland to produce more than 30,000 pounds of milk - roughly 3,750 gallons - in one year.

That was "quite an accomplishment" and the foundation for the Art Acres herd, according to Cindy Warner, who has worked with Rhoderick through Sire Power/Select Sires, a farmer-owned cooperative that sells bull semen.

But a cow named Kay really began the dynasty that was to set Rhoderick apart as a breeder.

Kay, a Holstein who was to produce as much as 34,000 pounds of milk in one year alone, came along in 1973 - five years after the Rhodericks bought the Washington County farm that became Art Acres.

Kay, officially known as Art Acres Elevation Kay, became "one of the most outstanding dams (mothers) of the breed," Warner told the hundreds of people gathered Feb. 17 near Frederick for the induction of Rhoderick and four other farmers into the state Dairy Shrine.

With Kay, Warner said, Rhoderick began an intensive embryo transfer program, selling embryos and making Kay one of the first of the Holstein breed with 50 registered offspring.

"Kay's genetic impact was not just a matter of chance, but more a matter of Art's dedication and commitment to the Holstein breed, attention to market trends, a lot of hard work and fundamental management practices," Warner said.

Besides embryos, Rhoderick has sold live animals to farmers in Europe and North, South and Central America.

"Well, we've had a little luck along the way," Rhoderick said. "We bred good bulls and took care of the cows along the way."

One bull has even earned a place on the fireplace mantel of the log cabin on White Hall Road that Art and Nancy Rhoderick built on the farm in 2003.

"This is Oscar. He's one of the best bulls there ever was," said Rhoderick.

He said most of the main bull studs in the United States have ties to Oscar or other Rhoderick bulls.

"His journey has been long and difficult," Semler said of Rhoderick. "He started with little and built a great herd. His genetics are spread across the globe. Art Acres genetics are in pedigrees in Japan, Germany, the U.K., Canada, the U.S. He's made an impact.

"In addition, he's been a leader locally, statewide and nationally. He's done a lot of service-oriented things as well."

Since Rhoderick's retirement in 2002, sons Dale and Paul have been running the family farm, which has about 200 Holstein cows. Besides the 160 acres the family owns, Dale and Paul work about 200 other acres of neighboring land.

The Rhodericks also have three daughters - Robin Sue Davies, Teri Kay Matters and Tracie Ann Poteet - plus 12 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

Rhoderick has been involved in many organizations over the years, serving as president of the Washington County Dairy Herd Improvement Association, the Washington County Holstein Association, the Maryland Holstein Board of Directors and the Southern Region of Sire Power Inc. He is president of the board of directors of Select Sire Power. In addition, he was chairman of the board at Hagerstown Church of the Brethren.

"Life has been good," he said.

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