FORT COLLINS - John Matsushima, a retired Colorado State University professor and a pioneer in beef-cattle nutrition, will be honored on Jan. 14 as 2013 Citizen of the West by the National Western Stock Show, joining a roster of Western luminaries who have notably contributed to Colorado and the region.
During his 30-year career as a professor and researcher in the Department of Animal Sciences, Matsushima became a world-renowned expert in beef-cattle feeding for greater efficiency, profitability and carcass quality. His innovations, beginning in the 1960s, helped modernize and expand U.S. beef production with scientific underpinnings, data-based decision making and global reach.
“Johnny represents the best of the world of academia. He has an inquiring mind that hungers for knowledge, and I just can’t say enough about his impact on students. He also represents the best of the world of agriculture. What he has accomplished with people and leaders over the decades is enormous,” said Pat Grant, chairman of long-range planning for the National Western and co-chair of the Citizen of the West Steering Committee. “Certainly in the world of beef, I do not know anyone who has had more influence than Johnny Matsushima.”
Matsushima will be recognized during a Western gala expected to draw about 800 people to the National Western Complex in Denver. The event will raise money for 74 scholarships given each year by the National Western Scholarship Trust to Colorado and Wyoming students who are pursuing college degrees in agricultural sciences, large-animal veterinary medicine, and medicine for practice in rural communities.
Citizen of the West honorees, selected by a committee of community leaders, embody the spirit and determination of the Western pioneer and are committed to perpetuating the West’s agricultural heritage and ideals. The Citizen of the West honor roll is a regional Who’s Who of political, business, educational, philanthropic, and agricultural leaders.
Among Matsushima’s greatest achievements:
• Educating an estimated 10,000 animal science students;
• Pioneering the process of using steam and mechanical pressure to macerate corn kernels into corn flakes for beef-cattle rations, thus improving feed efficiency by about 10 percent, reducing the amount of grain needed in feedlot rations, and improving profit margins for cattle feeders; and
• Working closely with Japanese officials to open that country and other Asian markets to U.S. beef exports.
The late Kenny Monfort, a Colorado cattle baron and an early adopter of Matsushima’s technology, joked that he flaked more corn than Kellogg’s at his feedlots.
“I don’t think Colorado would be a top-five cattle feeding state if it weren’t for Johnny’s work,” said Daryl Tatum, a professor in CSU’s Department of Animal Sciences, who is among those carrying Matsushima’s torch in understanding links between nutrition and meat quality. “Johnny did as much as anybody in teaching and research to elevate the commercial cattle-feeding industry in Colorado and elsewhere. He was a game-changer.”
Matsushima, the son of Japanese immigrants, grew up on a vegetable farm near Platteville, Colo. He learned about cattle when raising market beef for 4-H and showing at the Weld County Fair. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in animal science at Colorado A&M, now CSU, then earned a doctoral degree at the University of Minnesota. He worked for a time at the University of Nebraska and returned to CSU in 1961 as a faculty expert in feedlot nutrition.
Matsushima partnered with Colorado cattle feeders to put discoveries into action, propelling beef to its status as a $3-billion agricultural sector in Colorado and the state’s top commodity. Colorado is ranked as the fifth state in the nation for cattle on feed.
He also helped establish cattle feeding worldwide, with focused efforts in Africa, Italy, Australia, Canada, China and Japan.
For this work, he has received many honors, including the Japanese Emperor Citation, or “Tenno Hosho,” presented in 2009 by Emperor Akihito at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. The award typically is given only to national dignitaries and corporate leaders.
Now an active 92-year-old, Matsushima credited his late wife, Dorothy, their children, Bob and Nancy, and other family members, friends and colleagues for forgiving his absences and supporting his tireless work and travels.
Yet his perseverance was also essential to success. Matsushima recently visited the 100,000-head Kuner Feedlot, established by Monfort of Colorado Inc. and now owned by JBS Five Rivers Cattle Feeding. It was a frequent stop during the height of his career.
As Matsushima surveyed Angus crossbred cattle at the feedlot, he explained his ongoing quest to gain and share information. “Knowledge,” he said, “never goes out of season.”