The American Jersey Cattle Association and National All-Jersey Inc. recognized Cari and Larry Wolfe, Reynoldsburg, Ohio, with the 2023 Award for Meritorious Service on June 24 in LaCrosse, Wisconsin.
The Meritorious Service Award is given annually to those who, according to the Board of Directors of the national Jersey organizations, have contributed to the advancement of the Jersey breed and their owner’s livelihood. These contributions may be through research, education, development, marketing, or other significant activities related to the dairy industry.
Cari Wolfe has had a long relationship with the national Jersey organizations, 40 years to be exact. Cari worked hard with the important role of a genetics tactician.
She improved cattle genetics and in turn also improved productivity and profitability. Cari was also a teacher and collaborator. She helped industry partners update tools and educated breeders on how to apply them to reach and set new goals. Some of these big-name partners include the Animal Genomics and Improvement Laboratory, the National Association of Animal Breeders, the Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding, and a range of dairy research universities.
Though she held various positions and wore many hats, Cari’s most impactful role was as genetics tactician. She worked with purpose, and a mission to develop science-based tools to improve genetics and, through them, the productivity and profitability of the Jersey cow.
As genetic improvement coordinator, and then director of research and genetic program development, Cari guided Jersey leaders as they adopted policies and set goals. She helped staff and industry partners develop and update genetic tools and educated Jersey breeders on how to apply them. Cari was the face of Jersey for collaborative work with high-level allied industry partners like USDA’s Animal Improvement Programs Laboratory (AIPL) and its Bovine Functional Genomics Laboratory, which merged in 2014 to become the Animal Genomics and Improvement Laboratory; the National Association of Animal Breeders; the Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding; DHI; and a host of dairy research universities.
In her research advisory role, Cari directed Jersey-specific research through competitive grants awarded by the board. Often the work positioned the Jersey breed to advance. Arguably, the most impactful was the 2005 grant awarded to Curtis P. Van Tassell and Tad S. Sonstegard of USDA’s Agriculture Research Service to characterize genetic markers in dairy cattle based on SNP information. The project laid the groundwork that enabled official Genomic Predicted Transmitting Abilities for just two breeds initially—Jersey and Holstein—in January 2009.
Her love of the breed shines through in other areas of her life in addition to her profession. She came from a line of Jersey fans and has served on multiple committees within the industry and always made sure the Jersey breed was considered.
“If there has ever been a person who loved the Jersey cow more than Cari Wolfe, I don’t know where to find them,” wrote Dr. H Duane Norman, a research geneticist for USDA’s Agricultural Research Service and collaborator with Cari.
Larry also played an important role in the Jersey industry for many years. Larry was a programmer and is to thank for the data-based tools that have improved the national Jersey organizations.
Dr. John C. Wilk, Raleigh N.C., professor emeritus at North Carolina State University and recipient of the 1988 AJCC Distinguished Service Award highlights the stage at which technology is in at the start of Larry’s career. Personal computers were still new. He ran with the potential of this technology and bettered the work of breeders with it. Due to Larry and his team’s hard work, breeders can now register their animals alone and online, and access documents such as Green Book. The association was also the first of its kind to offer programs such as a computerized mating program, free performance progeny reports, and a real-time sire sorting tool because of Larry and his team.
Larry came from a large family and always had an involvement with cattle. He grew up with Brown Swiss, participated in 4-H and FFA, and later managed several large dairy farms. He then went on to be a bull herdsman and conducted training schools for Illini Sire Service. Through all his work, he learned the importance of data. Everything started coming together in the early 80s while he was working for Bush River Jerseys and studying computer programming. This is also around the time when he met his future wife, Cari Weinberg.
After graduating, he hit the ground running and took on an internship at the Dairy Records Processing Center where he was exposed to information systems specifically designed to help farmers. He took on big projects that came with challenges. One of these challenges was to keep up with the world around him. Technology was quickly changing, and so were the needs of the Jerseys and breeders.
Only nine years into his profession, and Larry because one of the creators of a tool breeders use today, infoJersey.com. Breeders are now able to do business wherever and whenever they want. Like Cari, Larry also partnered with some big names including DRPCs, Animal Improvement Programs Laboratory, the Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding, and the National Association of Animal Breeders. Communication with these partners was an important part of his job. He also communicated with smaller names.
He worked with these appraisers, area representatives, and helped generations of programmers understand what needs to be done to improve the programs that are only around because of him.
One of his last advancements came at the close of his career. He created an upgrade that included servers, firewall, network switches, backups and accounting and database software. After the upgrade was put into effect, he passed his responsibilities onto Philip Cleary in March 2022.