John Crouch, chief executive officer of American Angus Association and a pioneer in the performance movement, has announced his intention to retire from the American Angus Association later in the year. He made his intention known Feb. 20, 2008, during a regularly scheduled board of directors meeting in St. Joseph, Mo.

The board reluctantly accepted Crouch’s decision, Association President and Chairman of the Board Paul Hill said, noting Crouch is the first executive in 45 years to retire from the post.

“John Crouch has dedicated 34 years of his life to the American Angus Association,” Hill said. “He’s the only chief executive to start within the organization as a regional manager, progress to director of performance programs, and then on to become executive vice president and CEO of the Association.   The entire beef industry is indebted to John Crouch for advancing leading-edge genetic evaluations.”

It was the performance push that first attracted the Tennessee native to join the association's staff, Crouch said.  Early involvement in the purebred industry relied on the show ring for evaluation, and winning in the show ring for a marketing strategy. But experience gained in managing a Chuckey, Tenn., commercial herd, where income from cows was expected to make the farm payment, he says, helped him see the writing on the wall: Profit is a matter of pounds and the inputs it takes to generate them.

Meanwhile, American Angus was launching into the performance movement. Angus Herd Improvement Records were introduced in 1958. The association issued its first performance pedigree in 1966 and calculated its first estimated breeding values for growth in 1972. Crouch accepted the position as regional manager for the Southeast in March 1974, the same year the association published its first Angus Sire Evaluation Report.

“It was one of the happiest days of my life,” Crouch said of the day he was named regional manager for Florida, Georgia, and North and South Carolina. Getting in a car to go visit with cattlemen and share what was going on in the Angus business, offer management tips and talk cows “was as close to heaven as you could get,” he said.

As a regional manager, Crouch encouraged participation in AHIR, but said the movement did not gain widespread acceptance until the introduction of the performance registration certificate in 1981.  

Introduction of the PRC coincided with Crouch’s move to St. Joseph. It was in that year that Richard L. “Dick” Spader, who had been serving as director of performance programs, was promoted to executive vice president.  e subsequently asked Crouch to take the helm as director of performance programs.

After seeing the difference that performance records could make among some of the progressive herds in his territory, Crouch said, he jumped at the opportunity and began to work to develop the world’s largest database of beef cattle performance records.

From inclusion of birth weights in AHIR to electronic submission of data to fostering the research and adoption of ultrasound to develop ultrasound-derived predictions of progeny carcass merit, Crouch has been at the forefront of breed improvement programs in the beef industry.

“Without a doubt, John has to be considered one of the pioneers in developing performance programs for the beef seedstock industry as we know them today,” said Bill Bowman, Association vice president of information and data programs and Crouch’s successor as director of performance programs.

“Innovations such as National Cattle Evaluation (NCE), utilizing field data, and the development of the methodology to use ultrasound measures on yearling bulls and heifers to improve carcass merit are just a few highlights of his career," Bowman said. “The leadership he has provided to the Angus breed and to the entire beef industry will have an immeasurable impact."

Crouch served 16 years as a committee member for the organization. He was honored both with the organization’s Pioneer Award and Continuing Service Award.

Just as the future started to look bright, the Angus industry was turned upside down with Spader’s unexpected death in October 2001. Crouch was immediately appointed the interim executive vice president and guided the Angus community through one of its most heart-wrenching periods. He was officially appointed to the position at the February 2002 board neeting.

Crouch has continued to support innovative performance programs. The introduction of dollar value indexes, calving ease EPDs, a temperament research evaluation, heifer pregnancy EPDs and research into feed efficiency and marker-assisted selection, demonstrate the priority still given to breed improvement.

As the association’s executive, his untiring and unyielding dedication have for the last six years been commandeered to bolster other departments and entities of the Association as well.

Crouch says the role he played as executive vice president and CEO was to make sure good leaders were in every leadership position, to help them do their jobs, and to help them work together.

Source: American Angus Association