The beef community has many volunteer leaders who dedicate countless hours to sharing how beef is raised and how they care for their cattle. Wes Kerr, fourth generation dairyman, is the chairman of the Arizona Beef Council. He and the other directors carefully plan the Council’s promotion and education efforts, striving to connect Arizona families to the men and women who raise both beef and dairy cattle. Meet Wes!
My great-grandfather John Kerr Sr. was born in Michigan in 1900 and was the first Kerr to be born in America. He was interested in agriculture from a young age. In 1927 he decided to buy a small herd of Jersey cattle and became the first in our family to be a dairy farmer.
After becoming tired of the harsh Michigan winters he decided to sell the Jerseys and move to Arizona in 1940. He started working for a dairy farmer in Tempe, and when the farmer told him he was planning to sell his cows my great-grandfather bought the herd. This is how my family became Arizona dairy farmers.
I only have one memory of my great-grandfather, however I find it very interesting that the life decisions that he made are largely responsible for what I do today. My family’s passion for caring for animals and raising crops lives on today, four generations later. Those are the main drivers that get me out of bed in the morning. For our family dairy farming is more than just a business, it is a way of life.
For me it is so interesting to see how much dairy farming has changed over the years. Looking at old photographs, one can see how different things looked when compared to today. The cattle in those days looked fleshier and less defined. Instead of metal shades with fans and misters, the cows were shaded by palm fronds thatched together. They were fed hay and during milking a little grain was given. A dairy cattle nutritionist was unimagined in those days. All of the cows were bred to a herd bull using natural service.
Taking stock of all of these apparent differences one can ask, “Has anything stayed the same?” The answer to that question is definitely yes! Our family, like so many farm and ranch families, has continued to use the best technology and know-how available at the time. Each generation worked hard to improve over the previous one.
Today dairy cattle are far more productive, healthier and produce higher quality milk than ever before in history. People often speak of “the good old days”, but when I look at the data it becomes apparent to me that perhaps the “the good old days” are today. I sometimes wonder what my great-grandfather would say if he could see the practices we use today. I suspect that he would find them incredible.
I believe that our job as modern agriculturalists is to share our unique stories with consumers. We food producers are not faceless greedy people who cut corners trying to make a quick buck. We food producers are made up of families who work hard every day through the good times and the difficult times, to bring quality products to feed families.