Angus producers recognized during 2012 BIF annual meeting |

Angus producers recognized during 2012 BIF annual meeting

The American Angus Association (AAA) applauds four of its producers for receiving national honors from the Beef Improvement Federation (BIF) during the organization’s 44th annual meeting and research symposium in Houston, TX, April 18-21.

Leo McDonnell, Angus rancher from Columbus, MT, and member of the Association Board of Directors, received the Pioneer Award for his lasting contributions to the improvement of beef cattle. McDonnell has played a significant role in performance reporting acceptance and documentation as the primary means to make genetic changes in cattle.

The Continuing Service Award, given to those who have made a significant contribution to the industry, was awarded to Brian McCulloh of Viroqua, WI; Dr. Tom Field of Denver, CO; and Dr. Larry Olson of Barnwell, SC.

The recipients were presented the BIF awards during a luncheon on April 20.

The following information is provided by BIF.

Born and raised in Billings, MT, McDonnell is a fourth-generation rancher, who was raised around both feedlot and cow-calf operations. He and his wife, Sam, have four children (Steve, Darcey, Kelsey and Buffy) and 10 grandchildren.

McDonnell attended Texas Tech University and the University of Wyoming, studying animal nutrition for a feedlot background and animal science. He returned home in 1976 to help his father run the Midland Bull Test and managed a commercial feedlot, Patton and Davidson Feedlot.

Leo and Sam purchased their first ranch in 1987 near Reedpoint, MT, and later moved their ranch to Rhame, ND, where they graze about 350 registered cows. They also have a herd of registered cows in western Montana and maintain a fall-calving herd at Columbus, MT, for a total of about 600 cows.

The couple purchased Midland Bull Test following the death of McDonnell’s father in 1993. Known as “The Granddaddy of Performance,” the test is recognized as a pioneer in the development and promotion of performance. Midland has grown to testing more than 2,000 bulls per year. It has often led the field in introducing breeders and ranchers to additional trait selection. It was one of the early seedstock programs to measure scrotal size, recognizing its importance to early fertility in female offspring, as well as its importance to bull fertility.

Midland was one of the pioneers in ultrasound, measuring for ribeye area (REA), intramuscular fat (IMF) and back fat (BF) in 1969 and 1970. It has now become the largest private facility to measure individual feed intake to assist in identifying more efficient cattle. Emphasis has been on efficiency as it relates to the cow herd and replacement females.

In 2008, Leo and Sam turned the management and operation of Midland Bull Test over to their son Steve Williams and his wife, Lindsay. They now concentrate their efforts on the cowherd, ranching, grandchildren and developing a national database for efficiency-tested cattle.

Leo has been involved in several industry groups, being a past chair of the Montana Cattle Feeders; a delegate in the mid-1990s for Montana, sitting on the NCBA International Trade Committee and the Research and Education Committee; a co-founder of R-CALF USA in 1998-1999; and currently a director of the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association. Leo has also been active in the Montana Stockgrowers Association; the Montana Cattlemen’s Association; and the Beartooth Stockgrowers Association.

He has testified on behalf of U.S. cattle producers at numerous Congressional hearings. He is credited with taking the lead in getting country-of-origin labeling (COOL) passed and has spent considerable time in Washington, DC, advancing issues important to U.S. ranchers.

Leo has received numerous awards, including the 1999 Black Hills Stock Show Agri-Businessman of the Year and the 2000 Ag Advocate of the Year presented at the Billings Chamber of Commerce ag appreciation dinner.

Leo said, “Life works best when you give back, and I believe this is true on a business and industry level.”

Dr. Field currently serves as the director of the Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Prior to this, he served as the executive director of producer education for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), headquartered in Denver, CO.

He joined NCBA after spending 18 years as a faculty member leading the Beef Cattle Management Systems in the Department of Animal Sciences at Colorado State University (CSU), where he had earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. During his tenure at CSU, he authored more than 100 articles on beef cattle production and beef industry practices. He served on the NCBA committee to develop the plan for the future needs of the U.S. beef industry, and he has been actively involved in a number of educational programs, quality assurance programs and industry audits.

In addition, he has been the consultant service provider for a dozen national and international breed organizations and businesses, and he is in high demand as a speaker at regional, national and international cattle industry conferences.

Dr. Field has been a workhorse on the BIF board of directors, serving in an NCBA-appointed position since 2009. He provided leadership as the BIF Long Range Planning Committee chairman and gave vision to the BIF board and planning committee members regarding education, research, communication, and guidelines and standardization for BIF.

His accomplishments and awards are numerous and include the 2004 Distinguished Faculty Award from CSU, the Colorado Farm Bureau and American Society of Animal Science. Dr. Field is also a partner in a cow-calf business with his family in western Colorado. He and his wife, Laura, have three sons in college – Justin, Sean and Trae.

Several other Angus cattlemen were nominated for the seedstock producer of the year and the commercial producer of the year awards. Congratulations to Bianchi Ranches, Gilroy, CA; Everett and Julie Shepard, Stuart, IA; McCurry Bros. Angus, Sedgwick, KS; Springfield Angus, Louisburg, NC; Tanner Farms, Ellisville, MS; Williams Angus Farm, Newton, AL; Glenmary Farm, Rapidan, VA; and Harold Bies of H and T Bies Cattle Co., Rapid City, SD.

For more information about this year’s symposium, including additional award winners and coverage of the meeting and tours, visit For more information about the BIF organization, visit

– American Angus Association

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