2023 Bruce Cottington Award

Photo of Bran Rugg

Minnesota Milk recognizes Bradley Rugg for service to 4-H, dairy community

Photo of Bran Rugg

Although 4-H was an important part of Bradley Rugg’s life from an early age, it wasn’t until a couple of years after college graduation that his specific love for the dairy community came into clear focus: major events, young people and animals.

Decades later, having left an indelible mark on all three, Rugg has been recognized by the Minnesota Milk Producers Association for his leadership and community involvement.

The association will formally recognize Rugg with the Bruce Cottington Friend of Dairy award during its annual meeting next March. The group surprised him with the announcement this past August in the livestock show ring at the Minnesota State Fair.

“It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say Brad has touched the lives of all future dairy leaders in Minnesota,” Minnesota Milk Executive Director Lucas Sjostrom said of Rugg, who lives in Owatonna. “Whether they were directly involved in 4-H or affiliated organizations, he raised the bar for what good dairy youth programs should be.”

Rugg’s involvement in dairy programs over the years is extensive.

As a youngster in 4-H, his favorite project was dairy and leadership, and that extended to his experiences at the University of Minnesota, where he participated on the dairy, meats and general livestock judging teams. He served as 4-H summer assistant in Steele County between his junior and senior years in college.

He landed an Olmstead County 4-H position after graduation, and two years later was hired as field services director for the then-Midland United Dairy Industry Association, where he also served as superintendent of the dairy show at the Iowa State Fair.

“Through those Olmstead County fairs and Iowa State fairs, I figured out that what I really loved was major events coordination, kids and animals,” Rugg said.

That focus carried him from Midland to World Dairy Expo, where he was general manager, and while there, among other things, introduced the iconic colored shavings to the Coliseum floor, a feature that exists to this day.

Rugg served in Steele County 4-H program before being promoted to the state office, where he coordinated animal science projects and then served as superintendent of programming until he retired six years ago. As one might guess, he did part-time and fill-in work for a few more years.

What does Rugg see as his biggest impact?

  • Maintaining young people’s involvement, especially through an animal leasing program started in the 1990s.
  • Preserving judging programs. He said Minnesota is one of only a few states that still has a county-based program.
  • Working as much education into the show ring experience as possible, including a species-wide interview process.
  • Helping to start a dairy endowment in the Minnesota 4-H Foundation.

Receiving the Minnesota Milk recognition is special, Rugg said.

“It’s humbling to think that the industry you grew up in appreciates your work and recognizes you in this way.”

Minnesota Milk awarded its first-ever Friend of Dairy award in 2006 to Bruce Cottington, a lifelong dairy enthusiast who spent countless hours promoting agriculture, FFA, 4-H and the state’s dairy Industry. The award took on his name in subsequent years. The award is given out in select years to recognize individuals who foster the ideals and goals of Minnesota Milk through their personal efforts. These leaders display leadership and community involvement throughout the state’s dairy industry.