Tess, MacNeil and Lipsey honored with BIF Pioneer Awards

Jun 17, 2011
by WLJ

The Beef Improvement Federation (BIF) honored Michael “Mike” Tess, Michael MacNeil and Jerry Lipsey with the Pioneer Awards during the organization’s 43rd annual meeting and research symposium in Bozeman, MT, June 1-4. The award recognizes individuals who have made lasting contributions to the improvement of beef cattle, honoring those who have had a major role in acceptance of performance reporting and documentation as the primary means to make genetic change in beef cattle.

Michael Tess

Tess grew up on a poultry ranch in California. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in animal science at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, CA, he and his wife, Kathy, moved to Montana to start a beef cattle ranch. His stint as a cattle rancher stoked an interest in animal genetics. The curiosity brought him to Montana State University (MSU), where he earned a master’s degree, which he followed with a doctorate in animal breeding under Gordon Dickerson from the University of Nebraska.

Upon completion of graduate school in 1981, Tess accepted a professorship at North Carolina State University. In 1988, he came back to MSU as a professor of animal breeding. While at MSU, he taught several classes, performed research and served as department head at various times. He retired as emeritus professor in 2009.

After retiring, Tess started a private consultancy business dubbed Packhorse Services LLC. He consults for the Bair Ranch Foundation as well as the American Simmental Association and serves as executive director of the Ultrasound Guidelines Council. Tess continues to teach MSU’s calving class on a voluntary basis. While taking on all of these responsibilities since retiring from MSU, he has continued, and even stepped up, volunteer efforts at his local church and other charitable organizations.

His long and productive career has benefited students, fellow beef cattle scientists, beef producers, BIF and the entire beef industry. Even more importantly, Tess has benefited humanity with his tireless contribution of time and financial generosity to those less fortunate. Those who know him know a highly thoughtful, hardworking and devoted family man who lives his life in adherence to the highest ethical standards. Tess has been, and continues to be, one of those remarkable individuals who makes our industry better for all involved.

He and Kathy have four children (Amy, Jacob, Melanie and Joseph) and a 15th grandchild on the way.

Michael MacNeil

MacNeil grew up in Ithaca, NY, where his father coached the Cornell basketball team. He received bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from Cornell, Montana State and South Dakota State universities, respectively.

In 1982, MacNeil began his career as a scientist and statistician at the USDA U.S. Meat Animal Research Center in Clay Center, NE. In 1989, he accepted a position at the USDA Fort Keogh Livestock and Range Research Laboratory at Miles City, MT, where he continues to work as a research geneticist.

MacNeil has developed a highly respected research program at Fort Keogh. Leveraging his lifelong focus on integrating genetics and economics, he coordinates the Fort Keogh research efforts seeking to develop strategies and technologies for reducing beef cattle production costs.

Of necessity, this research program is longterm and multidisciplinary involving genetics, physiology, nutrition and microbial metagenomics. His personal research focuses on modeling production systems, estimation of genetic parameters, mapping quantitative trait loci, and developing breeding objectives and selection indexes.

MacNeil has a well-established track record of zeroing in on an industry need and delivering a solution. During the last decade, his selection index work has seen considerable uptake in the seedstock industry and holds the potential to be a transformative technology. He has also assisted breed associations in the development of new expected progeny differences and the integration of DNA information into their genetic evaluation systems.

His career has been highly prolific—his contribution to the understanding of beef cattle breeding, remarkable. MacNeil has published more than 285 scientific and technical reports, resulting in many literature citations to his work, numerous speaking invitations, and several awards.

He and his wife of 31 years, Betty, have two children, Megan and Brendan.

Ralph Jarold “Jerry” Lipsey

Lipsey was raised on a small cattle and grain farm in Charlotte, MI. He obtained his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Michigan State University and a doctorate in meat science from Kansas State University.

He started his career in 1978 as the director of junior activities for the American Angus Association. In 1982, he began what would be a 15-year tenure as a University of Missouri (MU) meat science professor. Then, in 1996, he accepted the position of executive vice president at the American Simmental Association (ASA), a position he currently holds.

Fairly described as the industry’s energizer bunny, Lipsey’s legendary energy level and infectious enthusiasm influence all those who come in contact with him. An award-winning teacher and advisor while at MU, his educational efforts stretch well beyond the classroom to all facets of the industry. A small army could be fielded with the “students” he has positively influenced. Many beef industry leaders credit Lipsey’s teaching and mentorship as key to their success.

As executive vice president, Lipsey has provided visionary and effective leadership to ASA at a critical time in the organization’s life. Immediately upon his hiring, he leveraged his meat science background to implement what would become the longest ongoing and largest structured sire test in the industry—ASA’s Carcass Merit Program.

As one of the industry’s most skillful communicators, he has worked tirelessly to open lines of communication between researchers, educators, seedstock and commercial producers, feeders and packers. His leadership is credited with positioning ASA at the top tier of seedstock organizations.

Lipsey has had a significant effect on the beef industry as a highly respected animal scientist and college professor, diligent and skilled breed association executive, innovator and loyal friend.

A devoted family man, Lipsey and his wife of 43 years, Peggy, have two children, Jason and Amanda, and one grandchild, Max. — WLJ