Dr. John McNeill, head of the department of animal science at Texas A&M University, died at his home Sunday, Oct. 24. He was 58.

"We are mourning the passing of a gentleman whose passion and commitment for serving Texas has made an impact on the animal industry for over three decades," said Dr. Edward A. Hiler, Texas A&M's vice chancellor and dean of agriculture and life sciences. "John was an avid champion and leader in animal science statewide and nationally. He was instrumental in developing strong university and departmental relations with the Texas beef cattle industry, and his contributions will continue to have a far-reaching impact in the future."

McNeill led Texas Cooperative Extension's Ranch to Rail and Value-Added Calf programs. The Ranch to Rail program is the biggest feedlot performance and carcass evaluation test for cattle in the United States. The Value-Added Calf program – a vaccination and management system – emerged from Ranch to Rail.

He earned bachelor's and master's degrees in animal science from Texas A&M in 1968 and 1970, respectively, and a doctorate in animal nutrition from the University of Kentucky in 1974.

Prior to joining Extension, he served as assistant professor and associate professor of animal science at West Texas A&M University in Canyon.

For 14 years, McNeill was the Extension beef cattle specialist at the Texas A&M University System Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Amarillo, where he pioneered the use of computers as decision aids in beef cattle production and management.

In 1990, he joined the animal science department at Texas A&M as associate department head. McNeill was named department head in July 2002.

The 50th annual Beef Cattle Short Course at Texas A&M University was dedicated to McNeill in 2004. He also was named 2004 Beef Booster of the Year by the Texas Brahman Breeders Association. In 1997, he was named the Progressive Farmer's Man of the Year in Southwest Agriculture. In 1994, he was given the Friend of the Year Award by the American Brahman Breeders Association and Texas A&M Vice Chancellor's Award in Excellence. He was given Extension's Superior Service Award in 1993 and Texas A&M Former Students Association Faculty Distinguished Service Award in Extension in 1992.

McNeill is survived by his wife, Judy, of College Station, three children, Mary Jon Huffhines of Kansas City, Mo., Kay McNeill of Modesto, Calif., and Scott McNeill of Pleasanton, and four grandchildren.

A memorial service will be at 11 a.m. Oct. 27 at the Memorial Funeral Chapel, 2901 Texas Avenue S., College Station.

Memorial donations can be sent to the John W. McNeill Scholarship Fund; Texas A&M University Department of Animal Science; 2471 TAMU, College Station, Texas 77843-2471. Checks should be made payable to the Texas A&M Foundation.