National Dairy Shrine Industry Pioneers

Chuck Zimmerman

Thanks to Mike Opperman, Charleston|Orwig, for sharing this special moment for his family since his Dad, George, was just honored by the National Dairy Shrine. Pictured are: Back row: Mike, Dave (bro), Don (bro), Micah (nephew – Mary’s kid), Bob (cousin) Front row: Kelly (Mike’s wife), Cynthia (Dave’s wife), Mike’s Mom, Jack and Maggie (Mike’s kids) Mary (sister)

The dairy industry is rich with history and brimming with leaders who shaped it, some in the limelight and others behind the scenes. Recognizing those individuals and their lasting contributions is a special privilege for the National Dairy Shrine (NDS). This honor is multiplied five-fold in 2012, matching the number of Industry Pioneers being inducted this year into the National Dairy Shrine Museum and Dairy Hall of Fame in Fort Atkinson, Wis. Nominated by NDS members and selected by an anonymous committee, portraits of each inductee will join those of previous winners on permanent display in the museum.

This year’s honorees are James Baird, longtime art director at Hoard’s Dairyman and creator of the original “Foster Mothers of the Human Race” painting of the five major dairy cattle breeds; Francis Eustis, a lifelong Jersey breeder, sculptor and creator of official “True Type” models for four dairy breed organizations; George Opperman, a longtime dairy farmer, Brown Swiss breeder and executive secretary of the Brown Swiss Association; Charles Plumb, a late-1800s champion of dairy cattle housing and humane animal care, and a visionary professor of animal husbandry at Purdue University and The Ohio State University; and Donald Seipt, a renowned breeder of elite Holstein cattle and former president of the National Holstein and Purebred Dairy Cattle Associations.

Read more about George after the break:

“He has dairying in his blood” can be said of many milk producers, and for George Opperman of Beloit, Wis., the color is brown – as in Brown Swiss.

Now 90, Opperman’s lifelong passion for the regal animals goes back a long time. Born on a dairy, his first Swiss was an FFA project. She wound up so outclassing the other cows in the herd that his father replaced them with Swiss. It left an indelible impression.

After becoming the first person in his family to graduate from college, Opperman served for three years as editor of the Brown Swiss Bulletin. In 1950 he moved to Iowa to start his own dairy, Ohaven Farms, which he operated for 31 years and developed into one of the nation’s premier registered Swiss herds.

He served as president of the Brown Swiss Cattle Breeders Association from 1968 to 1970, and it was under his leadership that it became the first breed organization to adopt an Identity Enrollment program which brought previously documented Brown Swiss into the herd book. The association lured him away from the farm again in 1981 and convinced him to become its executive secretary, a position he held for six years. He later served for six years as CEO of the U.S. Livestock Genetics Council, an agency of the Foreign Agricultural Service.

If a person’s character can be measured by their family, then Opperman is a giant. He and his wife, May, adopted four sons and one daughter, including a set of triplets – and then had a son 10 years later.

2012 World Dairy Expo Photo Album

World Dairy Diary coverage of the World Dairy Expo is sponsored by New Holland
Ag Group, World Dairy Expo