Alison Sunstrum (left), GrowSafe Systems Ltd. CEO, Airdrie, Alberta, receives the Beef Improvement Federation Continuing Service Award from Craig Bieber, Leola, S.D., retiring BIF president. Sunstrum received the honor during an awards luncheon June 15 at the organization’s 48th annual convention in Manhattan, Kansas.
Alison Sunstrum (left), GrowSafe Systems Ltd. CEO, Airdrie, Alberta, receives the Beef Improvement Federation Continuing Service Award from Craig Bieber, Leola, S.D., retiring BIF president. Sunstrum received the honor during an awards luncheon June 15 at the organization’s 48th annual convention in Manhattan, Kansas.

This week, scientists, cattle breeders and others interested in genetic progress in beef production have gathered in Manhattan, Kan. for the Beef Improvement Federation’s (BIF) annual meeting and symposium. During the meeting, BIF recognized several individuals for ongoing service to the industry and beef-cattle breeding.

This year’s BIF Commercial Producer of the Year award goes to Plum Thicket Farms, Gordon, Nebraska. This is a family operation with a passion for raising excellent beef cattle and improving the range and soil that are their livelihood. Located in the Nebraska panhandle, Plum Thicket calves 325 Sim-Angus cows and operates a small backgrounding lot. Rex and Nancy Peterson head the cattle operation, while their son Patrick runs the family’s farming operation. Patrick’s wife, Krista, is a large-animal veterinarian with a mobile practice in the area.

BIF presented three Continuing Service Awards this year, recognizing individuals who have made major contributions to the organization, such as by serving on the board of directors, speaking at BIF conventions, working on BIF guidelines and other behind-the-scenes activities. This year’s honorees are:

·         Steve Kachman, University of Nebraska-Lincoln statistics professor. Dr. Kachman received his doctorate in statistics at Montana State University and completed post-doctorate work at Cornell University in animal breeding and genetics. He since has spent his career at the University of Nebraska. Kachman has authored or co-authored more than 50 peer-reviewed journal articles, including a manuscript in the "Proceedings of the National Academy of Science," as well as numerous abstracts and proceedings papers. Kachman is credited with first proposing the correlated trait approach for including genomic information into national cattle evaluation and developing the blending method of augmenting molecular breeding values (MBVs) and expected progeny differences (EPDs), a method used today by the majority of beef breed associations. "I believe it certain that there would not exist genomic-enhanced EPD in the U.S. beef industry without Steve Kachman," says UNL geneticist Matt Spangler.

·         John Pollak, Director of the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, Clay Center, Nebraska. Dr. Pollak started his career in 1975 as an assistant professor in the animal science department at the University of California, Davis. He then spent 29 years as a professor at Cornell University, and currently is an emeritus professor at Cornell University and an adjunct professor at University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Pollak served as the first director of the National Beef Cattle Evaluation Consortium and led the Scientific Organizing Committee of the World Congress on Genetics as Applied to Livestock Production in planning the 2014 international meeting. He also spent two terms as a member of that organization’s international committee and one term as president.

·         Alison Sunstrum, CEO of GrowSafe Systems Ltd., Airdrie, Alberta. Sunstrum first invested in GrowSafe. In 1999, and since then, she and founder Camiel Huisma have grown GrowSafe into a global company. GrowSafe technology is improving efficiency and farm profitability, reducing the environmental effect of livestock production and providing novel insight into animal health and well-being. Sunstrum says she takes pride in the 60 or more graduate students who have defended their theses using GrowSafe data and the successful research collaborations the company has fostered.

·         Alison Van Eenennaam, genomics and biotechnology researcher and Cooperative Extension specialist at University of California, Davis. Van Eenennaam received her bachelor's degree from the University of Melbourne in Australia, and both a master's degree and a doctorate from UC Davis. The mission of her Extension program is "to provide research and education on the use of animal genomics and biotechnology in livestock production systems." She focuses on the development of science-based educational materials, including the controversial biotechnologies of genetic engineering (GE) and cloning. Van Eenennaam was the lead author on the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) 2014 report "The Potential Impacts of Mandatory Labeling for Genetically Engineered Food in the United States." She also was the recipient of the 2010 National Award for Excellence in Extension from the American Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities and the 2014 Borlaug CAST Communication Award.

Also, the group presented Bob Hough the BIF 2016 Ambassador Award. This award recognizes a member of the media for his or her efforts in spreading the news of BIF and its principles to a larger audience. Hough’s began as an Extension specialist in Arizona and Maine. He joined the Red Angus Association of America (RAAA) as commercial marketing coordinator in 1994 and led the organization as executive secretary/CEO from 1997 to 2007. He moved Denver in 2009 and served as the North American Limousin Foundation executive vice president. He has since retired and has written more than 300 scientific, technical and popular press articles. He wrote the book "The History of Red Angus" and co-authored the book "Breeds of Cattle."

For more information about this year's symposium, including additional award winners and coverage of meeting and tours, visit BIFconference.com. For more information about BIF, visit Beef Improvement Federation