Rowden retires after 41 years at ABS Global
While most high schoolers were getting ready for the prom, Larry Rowden was learning how to breed cows. Ever since, he’s been studying the ins and outs of artificial insemination technologies, estrous cycles, and bovine genetics. This July, after 41 years at ABS Global (formerly the American Breeders Service), Rowden is retiring as District Sales Manager. Bobby Strecker in Holyoke, Colorado, will be taking over for Rowden.
Larry Rowden started working for ABS in 1979, but his interest in beef cattle research began much earlier.
“I kind of grew up with beef cattle research,” says Rowden, who spent his childhood at the various universities and research centers where his dad worked.
Then, in high school, Rowden ventured into the breeding world for himself.
“I learned how to breed cows right after my junior year in high school and found that I actually had some skill in doing that.”
Rowden went to college thinking that he’d end up doing some sort of ranch management but found that his interest in animal reproductive science only grew.
“I never thought that I would have a career in the AI industry,” says Rowden, “but an opportunity came along my senior year of college at Colorado state. I actually got to work for Dr. Jim Wiltbank at Texas A&M University…he was one of the leaders in researching how to get cows pregnant.”
While he was at Texas A&M, Rowden worked with ABS on Synchro-Mate-B research. Tom Price, ABS’s Beef Marketing Manager, was so impressed with Rowden’s work that he urged him to apply for a job. Rowden began his career at ABS in December of 1979, and he’s been there ever since.
During his time at ABS, Rowden kept busy with sales, recruiting, training, and supporting his sales and AI reps. In addition, he developed relationships with producers all the way from Montana to Iowa, and according to Strecker, Rowden was never afraid to get his hands dirty helping with a breeding project.
“His knowledge on the reproduction side is second to none,” says Strecker. “He’s really been around and has seen it progress from the beginning stages of synchronization. Really, the synchronization side of things, he’s very good at; and problem-solving with producers and figuring out the best outcome to make them successful.”
Rowden was instrumental in creating solutions for one of the biggest problems in the ag world in the 1980s – a rapidly declining labor force. Rowden was front and center helping ranchers problem-solve the shortage by helping make AI and synchronization technologies more accessible for producers.
“In the 70s, there was an awful lot of labor on ranches and in agriculture, and the farm crunch of the early 80s began to put some pressure on that and it just continued to,” says Rowden. “So the fact that there’s not as much labor available on farms and ranches as there was back then necessitated us to find other ways to get cows bred AI.”
According to Rowden, when help is hard to find, you’ve got figure out an easier, more efficient breeding program. By synchronizing your heifers and using AI, you take a lot of unnecessary work out of the process at both ends – you’ll spend less time breeding and less time calving out.
“As synchronization evolved, the need to be able to handle large numbers of animals grew…I remember….in the mid-to-late- 1980s we had a group of a couple hundred heifers synchronized near North Platte. The need to be able to do those in a couple of day period just seemed like, oh boy, that was a big task. And today, we just do a lot of those,” says Rowden. “Learning and being able to offer those kinds of projects and services is largely what’s been able to help us grow our business over the years.”
Besides being able to support producers with their reproductive programs, Rowden said his favorite part of the job was the people – all the way from the folks at headquarters to the sales reps, not to mention the producers themselves.
Strecker, who has worked with Rowden for 5 years, agrees that Rowden is a great people-person:
““He’s very intelligent and good with people…he’s as good as it gets in the industry,” says Strecker. “Larry’s a great mentor, he’s very well respected in the livestock industry and cattle industry in our district, and really across the U.S. He’s really been a good educator for everybody through AI schools and reproductive technologies.”
Strecker is thankful for the time he’s had working with Larry:
“Larry has helped teach me how to develop personal relationships with producers. this is a large business, but he goes above and beyond just a partnership to create friendships with these producers. He’s also shown me the importance of being methodical while taking the time to think about and consider the producer’s questions and concerns,” Strecker stated in a press release.
So what’s next for Rowden? He may be retiring, but Rowden has no plans to forget about the beef cattle reproduction biz:
“I’ll stay somewhat connected to the industry,” Rowden said, but he’s got no worries about passing on his title to Strecker:
“Bobby has been a joy to work with in the past five years. He has skills that I do not hold and has utilized them very well. The district is in great hands with him,” Rowden said in a press release. “I’ve truly enjoyed getting the opportunity to work with him and he’s helped me as well as the people that he has worked with.”
Rowden considers that to be one of his greatest achievements – paving the way for others who can take the business even further:
“That might be my biggest accomplishment, is getting him [Strecker] hired and working with him as a sales team leader for the last almost 5 years. He’s more than capable, more than ready to take on the management of the business. I want to continue to support him however I can, but I want to get out of his way.”
Rowden might be ready to pass the baton, but according to Strecker, he’s leaving behind some big shoes to fill:
“The talents and steady work ethic and knowledge of the business that Larry brings to the table will be missed by ABS but by cattle producers around Nebraska even more so. Certainly, the historical perspective that he brings to the table is hard to find.”
As for the future of the business, Rowden says he sees great things ahead:
“I’ve always felt like the use of AI and reproductive technologies is underutilized in the beef cattle industry, and we’re in an era where we’ve got great technology – the ability to utilize sexed semen and choose the bulls that you’d like to have your replacements come from,” says Rowden, “and the opportunity to take the portion of the cow herd that you don’t want replacements to come from and put the most profitable terminal genetics on those. I think there’s a great opportunity to really zone in on profitable reproductive and genetic management practices and I think the opportunity just continues to be greater as we move forward.”
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The South Dakota Angus Association hosted a tour Sept. 20-21, 2021.