Nebraska Extension beef cattle reproduction specialist Rick Funston has been honored for his beef and heifer management work.

Funston won the 2014 Regional Excellence in Extension award for the North Central Region from Cooperative Extension and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Funston, also a professor in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Department of Animal Science, is based at the West Central Research and Extension Center in North Platte.

Funston's research and extension work have helped provide ranchers new market options and reduced feed costs. He has been a leader in the concept of fetal programming, a concept in the livestock industry based on the notion that the nutrient status of gestating cows has various long-term implications on their offspring.

UNL studies by Funston and colleagues reported on cows that were either supplemented or not supplemented during the last third of gestation. He found that heifer calves born to a herd fed 28 percent protein distillers-based supplement had a heavier adjusted 205-day weight, pre-breeding weight, weight at pregnancy diagnosis and higher pregnancy rate.

Funston also reported an increase in calf weaning weights from supplemented cows. Heifer progeny from supplemented cows reached puberty earlier and tended to have a higher pregnancy rate compared to heifer progeny from non-supplemented cows. Results from these studies suggest the idea that cow nutrition during late gestation does affect the overall performance of heifer progeny.

Funston joins five other Nebraska Extension professionals in winning this prestigious award (two more than any other state). "We are extremely proud of the excellence and value that people like Rick Funston bring to our Extension clientele," said Chuck Hibberd, dean and director of Nebraska Extension.

Extension and the USDA's NIFA present annual Excellence in Extension Awards to honor visionary leadership and diversity in educational programming. Robert Kallenbach from the University of Missouri received the National Excellence in Extension Award and Cesar Asuaje from the University of Florida received the National Extension Diversity Award.

Regional Excellence in Extension recipients are presented in five regions, including the North Central Region that includes Nebraska.