The Pennsylvania Dairymen’s Association, Center for Dairy Excellence and the Professional Dairy Managers of Pennsylvania joined together to recognize three individuals at the 2023 Pennsylvania Dairy Summit through an industry-wide awards program that showcases leadership, stewardship, and excellence in Pennsylvania’s dairy industry.
Pennsylvania Distinguished Dairy Producer Award: Walt Moore of Walmoore Holsteins in West Grove, Pa.
Walt Moore is a fourth-generation dairy farmer who has owned and operated his dairy business for 30 years. Walmoore Holsteins was established in 1909, and with Walt’s progressive vision and leadership, he has grown the operation from 20 cows and 128 acres to 1,050 cows along with 1,800+ acres. Walt has also expanded and modernized his operation with new facilities and has built a team of employees that shares his passion, vision and positive attitude. He is always looking for ways to improve his dairy farm whether it is new animal husbandry techniques, genetics or better conservation efforts. In 2020, Walmoore Holsteins was awarded the Dairying for Tomorrow award for environmental stewardship by American Dairy Association Northeast.
Outside of his busy schedule on the farm, Walt is heavily involved in the dairy industry and his local community—always looking for ways to share and listen to new ideas. He helped found the Pennsylvania Dairy Managers of Pennsylvania (PDMP) and served two terms on the board as well as a year as president. Currently, Walt is in his fourth year on the Dairy Excellence Foundation Board of Directors where he now serves as president. He also serves on the Chester County Conservation District Board of Directors as the dairy-focused director and serves as the president of the American Dairy Coalition (ADC), a grassroots federal dairy-focused policy group led by dairy farmers. To help Land O’Lakes management decide on direction with new products and services, Walt serves on a Land O’Lakes “focus group” and is a member of the Horizon Farm Credit Customer Advisory Committee.
In addition to his active involvement across the industry, Walt frequently leads breakout sessions at the Pennsylvania Dairy Summit and presents on dairy-related webinars with Penn State Extension. He is a pioneer for dairy education, helping to launch the On-Farm Internship Program, serving as a host farm for Discover Dairy’s ‘Adopt a Cow’ Program, and serving on the steering committee for the Dairy Herd Manager Apprenticeship Program. Walt and his team have partnered with the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center Veterinary Hospital over the last few years to host students, interns and consultants. It has been a symbiotic relationship of teaching, researching and learning in both directions.
What makes your job so fulfilling? “I feel that many people and organizations have helped me over the years to successfully lead our dairy farm business. I feel the need to give back to the dairy farm community and organizations in whatever capacity I have to offer. If I can help guide an organization in a direction of growth, or give advice or share an experience to another fellow dairy farmer, that is very fulfilling.”
What is your philosophy for success? “My philosophy to managing our dairy farm business is to honor our four generations of legacy and position the business so that subsequent generations can continue to profitably farm into the future. I strive to be a great steward of our land, water and natural resources. We believe in treating our employees and farm team with respect, and we expect them to treat our livestock and farm resources with the same level of care and respect that we do.”
What motivates you each day? “I am very metric and goal-oriented. We can measure so many things in dairy farming and crop farming, and I’m driven to improve those metrics. I’m also driven to be a great neighbor in our community. My passion for dairy farming is just ingrained in me. I told my parents when I was six years old that I was going to Penn State to study agriculture and come home to take over the farm! I never wavered.”
Pennsylvania Dairy Innovator Award: Dr. Tara Felix, Beef Cattle Specialist, Penn State Extension
Dr. Tara Felix has been with The Pennsylvania State University and Penn State Extension for seven years as the Beef Cattle Specialist, providing innovative research and contributions to the dairy and beef industry in Pennsylvania. Dr. Felix’s work is centered on providing the most favorable genetics and nutrition for the F1 beef x Holstein crossbreds. With dairy cattle representing a considerable supply of calves for the feeding/production market, Dr. Felix works to help dairy producers consider how to make these calves marketable to the beef industry.
Through Dairy x Beef research and a Dairy Beef Initiative, Dr. Felix has led four feedlot demonstrations at the PA Department of Agriculture Livestock Evaluation Center. During those projects, she has successfully supported several Extension programs, including: one statewide program she developed that evaluated the 2016 dairy beef demonstration; three popular press and four Extension articles; 15 Extension meetings; three invited presentations; four years of Ag Progress Days tours; and one PhD student/thesis. The recognition of these Dairy Beef programs has garnered $117,000 to directly support her Extension programs and over $450,000 to support her research. These funds include the successful development of a USDA Critical Agricultural Research and Extension grant, awarded at $299,566, to research ways to enhance the value of beef sired progeny from dairy cattle. Through this wide range of projects, Dr. Felix has educated, collaborated with, and fostered relationships among beef and dairy producers.
Dr. Felix has shared her notable research with large groups across the country in places such as Michigan and South Dakota. Her research has even produced conversations from other countries like Saudi Arabia. She is committed to continuous learning and professional development. In addition to her teaching, research, and Extension responsibilities, Dr. Felix serves on internal and external committees at Penn State. To stay current in research, she serves as an ad-hoc reviewer for several scientific publications. She has published 28 peer-reviewed articles nationally during her time at Penn State. In 2018, she received the North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture (NACTA) Teaching Award of Merit. In 2021, Penn State Extension awarded Dr. Felix with the Extension Director Award for Impact: Individual Programming because of the national and international reach for the Dairy Beef Initiative and the Beef X Dairy research.
What makes your job so fulfilling? “Although my appointment is as the Beef Cattle Extension Specialist, the reality is that all dairy cattle eventually become beef at the end of their life. It is my job to make sure our dairy producers in Pennsylvania have just as many opportunities to be successful as ‘beef managers’ as our producers of beef cattle in the state do.”
What is your philosophy for success? “I have woven my research and Extension activities together very closely. My research philosophy has always been that research should be conducted to determine optimal systems for beef production, including beef produced from dairies, to help producers be profitable. One beef producer worded my personal goal best in their evaluation of me at a program, stating that I provided ‘good practical teaching.’ This is the primary aim of my interconnected research and Extension programs.”
What motivates you each day? “I feel that it is my passion for agriculture that ultimately makes me a successful Extension Specialist. Consequently, I try to approach each new opportunity with the same enthusiasm that I first approached research and science. I distinctly recall an epiphany from my doctoral work where I thought, ‘Wow! Science rocks!’ It is my personal goal to bring those epiphanies to the dairy and beef producers of PA so they can say, ‘Wow! We rock! Our jobs are really important.’”
Pennsylvania Dairy Service Award: Darrin Mayer, Dairy Manager, Delaware Valley University
Darrin Mayer has served as the Dairy Manager at Delaware Valley University for the past 22 years. The dairy farm at Delaware Valley University is home to a milking herd of 50-60 mature cows and about 50 head of young stock. Darrin’s staff consists of student workers with varying skillsets and experiences. A large percentage of those students have never set foot on a dairy or been responsible for calves, heifers, milking animals, feed preparation or animal health. Darrin ensures the dairy is primarily a learning laboratory not only for the students who work there, but for the students attending classes there as well. With these teaching responsibilities, Darrin also makes sure the herd is healthy, production is optimal, and the somatic cell count remains one of the top in Bucks County. With the constant change in people and students milking the cows, being able to maintain these high standards while building a positive learning environment is a significant accomplishment.
Darrin not only trains college students in basic farm management through practical, hands-on application on the University’s dairy farm, but he also teaches several Dairy Science courses that cover dairy systems and management, dairy software, husbandry techniques, and Artificial Insemination techniques. Bringing fresh perspective and boots-on-the-ground experience, Darrin has helped redesign the University’s dairy curriculum to match today’s changing industry by including more business courses while maintaining the hands-on learning aspect. He is actively involved in the local dairy community by offering advice, sharing research for problems they may encounter, and educating and promoting the dairy industry through local events and at the PA Farm Show each year.
Darrin has also served as one of the dairy producers and University representatives on the Pennsylvania Secure Milk Supply Stakeholder Board to offer Emergency Management Contingency Planning Recommendations for the PA dairy industry. He has been involved with Mock Disease Outbreak training with his students along with FBI and Homeland Security basic training of several agents for bioterrorism on dairy farms. Darrin has helped perform research on alternative testing for A2A2 proteins in dairy cattle. He has also managed research projects with organic waste companies to feed cattle produce and bakery waste, eliminating it from landfills while being sustainable through production. Darrin constantly strives to serve his students and the industry at large for the continued success of the dairy industry. He is the epitome of “not everything is learned in a classroom,” and those students who are fortunate enough to work with Darrin take many life lessons with them after graduation.
What makes your job so fulfilling? “I love talking to people and students who I have helped in the past and seeing them succeed in the dairy industry or agriculture in general.”
What is your philosophy for success? “I work to provide the facility and resources necessary to assist in the academic education of students through hands on experience with modern dairy equipment and management practices – all while maintaining optimum production and herd health and producing a quality product in a profitable manner.”
What motivates you each day? “I really enjoy training, educating, and helping anyone involved with the dairy industry to be the best versions of themselves and make a positive impact in the agriculture industry as a whole. I strive to keep updated on the newest technology in the industry and implement it whenever possible.”