'Mr. Holstein' Honored at the Centennial State Convention

3/9/2013 7:00 AM
By Carol Ann Gregg Western Pennsylvania Correspondent

CRANBERRY TOWNSHIP, Pa. — Revered writer of dairy cattle pedigrees, Horace Backus, 84, was honored March 1 at the 100th Pennsylvania Holstein Convention. Backus was named the first Pennsylvania Holstein Association Distinguished Supporter.

This beloved nonfarmer bleeds black and white. He has the respect and admiration of dairy cattle breeders across the country. At the state Holstein convention at the Pittsburgh Marriott North, Cranberry Township, Backus accepted his award with an appreciative, “Thank you.”

Later in the program, Backus talked about his memories, the history of Pennsylvania Holsteins and the impact they have had on the cattle breeding and dairy industry.

Backus said he wanted to dispel the rumors that he attended the first meeting of the 100-year-old organization.

He said that as he was traveling to the meeting down Interstate 79, he could recall cattle sales he had attended as he passed the exits for nearly every town along the way.

“We did a sale there, and there,” he said. “The first sale I did in Pennsylvania was in Butler County. I remember that it was a cold, snowy day and thinking this poor farmer isn’t going to do well today,’ ” he said. “But about an hour before the sale time, the cars and trucks came up the long driveway, and it turned out to be a fine sale.”

Recalling some of the association’s history, Backus talked about former executive secretary Art Nesbit leading the case for the continuation of a strong state association when the national association wanted to change the relationship between the two organizations.

One of the reasons Holsteins have done well in Pennsylvania, he said, is because in the early days of artificial insemination there were five regional studs with signatures of outstanding bull. These bloodlines are still seen in the pedigrees of cattle today.

Backus began compiling cattle pedigrees in 1943 at the age of 15 and has done thousands of them as well as hundreds of sale catalogs. He shares his expertise with dairy producers, and sale and show organizers across the country. His fascination with pedigrees led to his family’s business, Backus Pedigrees Co., Mexico, N.Y.

Ken Raney, executive director of the Pennsylvania association, described Backus’ accomplishment in his presentation.

“He has been a sales manager, pedigree expert, author, breeder and industry leader along with being a husband and father. He has accepted each part of his life’s role with an unwavering commitment to excellence and an interest to help others succeed in their endeavors,” Raney said.

“Horace has worked sales of all sizes and types in Pennsylvania for more than 50 years; including herd dispersals, reduction sales, county and regional consignment sales, our major state sales and three national convention sales,” he said. “He is known for giving his all for every sale, whether it is a $500 heifer calf or a $150,000 or more animal, every animal gets his full attention and effort. “

Backus estimates he has read pedigrees at close to 3,000 sales and helped prepare at least 5,000 catalogs. He has also written books about the Holstein industry, including the cows and people that have driven the industry for nearly 130 years.

“He has no doubt researched more pedigrees, attended more sales and looked at more cows in sales rings than most anyone living today,” Raney said. “His love of the Holstein cow and the respect for the people who have bred her has led him to be one of the most admired people in the industry.”

As members sat around their banquet tables, they shared some of their encounters with Backus, and after the dinner many of the Holstein breeders stopped to congratulate him and to swap memories.


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