The South Dakota beef industry has earned a reputation for delivering top leaders to guide important advancements in beef genetics on an international stage at the Beef Improvement Federation (BIF).

Three South Dakotans were recognized at the BIF annual convention held in Biloxi, Miss., June 9-12, 2015:

  • Retiring BIF executive director: Joe Cassady, head of the Department of Animal Science at South Dakota State University received the BIF Continuing Service Award.
  • Steve Munger, Eagle Pass Ranch, Highmore, S.D., was recognized as the BIF immediate past president.
  • Craig Bieber, Bieber Red Angus Ranch, Leola, S.D., was named the new BIF president.   

Cassady has led the BIF as executive director for the past six years. He was honored with the Continuing Service Award at the convention for his contributions to the beef industry and BIF. Cassady has volunteered his time in guiding the long-term vision of the organization.

"I'm honored to have had the opportunity to serve the beef cattle industry through the role of executive director of the Beef Improvement Federation," said Cassady. "I greatly value all that I've gained through my interactions with the leading producers, scientists and stakeholders from throughout the beef industry."

Jane Parish, an Extension and research professor at Mississippi State University, will follow Cassady as the new BIF executive director.

"Joe absolutely did a great job as executive director," said Parish. "You've got to be very future oriented. When we're talking about improvement in the beef industry, we're thinking about where we want to be in the future. With the many people on the board, you have to bring all those minds together and look ahead. Joe was very good at that."

Bieber pointed out that producers will benefit from Cassady's executive leadership.

"Joe has done an outstanding job as director. Really, he's been the staying power of leadership," said Bieber. "He has been pivotal in recent discussions about how we make genomics work better for the producer."

Munger delivered the retiring president's address at the convention, during which he spoke of the impacts BIF has had on his operation over the 10 years he has been attending the event. When he attended his first BIF convention in 2006, he was introduced to residual feed intake technology. He incorporated the concept into the Eagle Pass Ranch beef cattle operation and has improved feed-to-gain ratio by 27 percent.

"I told the BIF group when I was giving my retiring president's address, that that improvement sounds good; but when you monetize saving 2 tons of feed a day just because of our decision to select for residual feed intake, that savings is worth around $100,000 a year, or over $2 million of net present value over the time we've been doing it," said Munger. "That's what happens when you go to a BIF conference and actually apply it to your own operation. The cutting edge research that happens at land grand universities is very valuable."

Parish appreciates that Munger was able to speak from experience during his tenure on the BIF board.

"Steve is very forward thinking and is willing to put his money where his mouth is," said Parish. "He has incorporated many practices on his own operation and when he throws out ideas, they are things he has already tried or is willing to try. He honestly wants the organization and its members to be moving ahead."

One of Munger's main goals during his presidential term was to establish a way to identify and privatize the source of funding for research at land grant universities for beef cattle.

"One thing that Steve has accomplished is establishing a task force to focus on animal breeding research," said Bieber. "He's been a staunch advocate that we need to be considering how we can better fund animal research."

As Bieber steps up to the plate for his term as BIF president, he would like to encourage producers to consider coming to the convention, even if they don't understand all of the topics.

"Some of it gets so technical that producers feel overwhelmed by the level of discussion," said Bieber. "Number one, don't be intimated by the level of discussion, pick up the little bits that you can. And continue to go because I think you'll learn more as you go through the years."

Bieber also has incorporated practices that he learned about at BIF. He now uses ultrasound and genomically enhanced data to make selection decisions on the Bieber Red Angus Ranch operation, near Leola.

"I think that the genomically enhanced data has really given us a leg up on our selection practices," said Bieber. "It has made us more relevant as a seed stock producer and it's made our data more reliable for our commercial customers."

From Cassady's perspective as an educator at SDSU, having two South Dakota beef producers achieve leadership positions in such a prestigious organization as BIF, is a testament to the caliber of what the state's beef industry, and SDSU, has to offer.

"It has been a great pleasure to work with Steve Munger and Craig Bieber on the Beef Improvement Federation executive committee," said Cassady. "Steve and Craig are outstanding examples of the strong leaders we have within the South Dakota beef industry."

As Parish looks ahead to beginning her first year as executive director along with Bieber's first year as president, she is optimistic about the future.

"I am impressed with Craig because he's a very outcome-oriented leader. He wants to make sure we're not just talking about things to do, but we're actually doing them," said Parish.

BIF's mission is to create greater awareness, acceptance and usage of performance concepts in beef production. The organization's three-leaf clover logo represents industry, Extension and research, and Parish says that combination comes together to improve the beef industry as a whole.

"It's an exciting time to be in the beef industry in general, there's a really great outlook for the industry. BIF serves a great purpose because ultimately we're trying to do a better job at producing food and that's a noble calling," she said. "We've got the brightest minds in the country and even other nations involved in BIF. In practice, they're competitors. But when we come together as a board, we have common goals to help the industry out."

More information about the Beef Improvement Federation is available online at their website.