Serving Minnesota and Northern Iowa.

Will among those honored in Livestock Breeders' Hall of Fame

By Carol Stender
cstender@agrinews.com

Date Modified: 04/25/2013 7:02 PM

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UNDERWOOD, Minn. — Chuck Will says it's "quite a deal" to be inducted in the Minnesota Livestock Breeders Association's Hall of Fame.

He's known several of the MLBA's past honorees. Some knew his father, others he's met through his work with Holstein pedigrees and some are his friends.

The Underwood dairyman saw their pictures displayed at Haecker Hall on the University of Minnesota campus when he attended college.

Now, his own picture will be in the hall of honor with this year's other MLBA inductees, John Shelstad, of Kenyon, and Jerry Wulf, of Hancock.

"I've spent hours in that room, looking at those guys," he said of the pictures. "They are horsemen, cattlemen, dairy producers and sheep producers and people who've supported the industry. It's really quite humbling to be part of it."

Will is well known for his knowledge of Holstein pedigrees and his ability to pick quality dairy cows.

He got that "cow-sense" from his father, Merrill.

"He was a good example and a great teacher," Will said. "It would be a pretty long list to tell you what he did for me. He taught me what to look for in the cattle. He taught me how to care for the cows. He taught me the difference between a good cow and an also-ran. ... Through him, I got acquainted with the leaders of the dairy industry."

Their farm near Jordan had pigs, chickens and dairy. The 30 cow dairy was the mainstay of the operation.

Will enrolled at the University of Minnesota where he took part in the dairy cattle and general livestock judging teams.

"That gave me a chance to get acquainted with a lot of breeders and people who were industry leaders," he said.

Two of them were Bob Jordan, the general livestock judging team coach, and Garth Miller, the dairy judging team coach. They also are in the MLBA hall of fame.

When he graduated, Will was an Extension agent for just six months in Pennington before entering the Army. After his military service, Will became the Otter Tail County Extension agent.

With his wife, Sue, Will purchased a dairy farm near Underwood. They started a herd from scratch, he said.

A new barn was built in 1972, and he hired high schoolers to help with the chores while he worked for Extension.

Will focused on the bloodlines and physical attributes to develop a quality milking herd.

Will eventually left Extension and focused on his dairy. With his family, he showed cows at the Minnesota State Fair and the World Dairy Expo and had grand champions at both, he said.

Will was sought after by other producers for his knowledge of pedigrees and dairy character. He continued to work with his own cattle's pedigrees and helped other dairymen develop their own herd's bloodlines.

The Wills hosted 40 people through foreign exchange programs, Will said. One individual from Japan originally came for six months but stayed more than four years. He would've been on the farm longer, but his visa expired.

With his children grown and gone, Will quit his milking operation and continued to work across the country and internationally with other producers. On one of his trips, he visited the farming student from Japan who'd worked for so long on his farm.

Yasushi Tuchibana told Will he wanted to come to the United States and be a dairyman. Will didn't act initially, but during a second meeting, Tuchibana made an offer. He wanted to be a partner in Will's dairy.

He moved his family to the United States and helped Will restart the dairy about 10 years ago. Tuchibana handles feeding and milking, Will heads the breeding program and general farming operations. They started an organic dairy north of Underwood about five years ago. The organic cows are the recipients of embryos flushed from his registered Holsteins in the conventional dairy, he said.

Will has managed two national Red and White sales, served on the Minnesota Holstein Association board of directors and the national Red and White Association's national committee. He was part of a trade mission to England for the national Red and White Association and was named outstanding person of the year by the Minnesota Holstein Association.

At 70, he often travels across the country finding and selling cattle for producers. When home, he often does his "homework" to keep abreast of Holstein bloodlines.

He's seen a lot, Will said. He experienced the end of farming with horses and farming shifts from very diversified operations to those focused on one type of production. He's milked cows by hand and by machine. He's enjoyed his family's involvement in the farm and has captured their antics and conversations in his heart. He shares those moments through poems. Some are witty and humorous and others tell about life on the farm.

One poem, called "My Prayer," offers a good glimpse into Will's character.

"Oh God, give me a chance to dream my dreams and then live my dreams.

Give me a chance to think of ideas and then the power to improve upon them.

Give me a chance to make friends and then really know them.

Give me a chance to give love and then to receive love in return.

Give me a chance to serve the common man, for that is what I am."