Va. livestock industry honors four leaders at VT ceremony

AFP Correspondent

BLACKSBURG, Va. (Oct. 4, 2016) — Four men who have made major differences to Virginia’s livestock industry were inducted into the Virginia Livestock Hall of Fame Sept. 24 in a ceremony in the Virginia Tech Alphin-Stuart Livestock Arena.
The honorees represented the four major animal groups that make up the livestock segment of farming in the Old Dominion.
They are Dwight E. Houff of Mt. Sidney, Va, nominated by the Virginia Cattlemen’s Association; Robert W. Manly, Waverly, Va., nominated by the Virginia Pork Council’ Richard G. Saacke, nominated by the Virginia State Dairymen’s Association; and the late Max James Tappero of Lynchburg named a Pioneer, nominated by the Virginia Horse Council.
The state’s livestock producers associations established the state’s livestock hall of fame in 2009 to honor and recognize outstanding Virginians who have made a significant contributions to the industry and people in the Commonwealth.
“Each of you along with previous honorees have done great things for the industry,” Dr. Alan Grant, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said in welcoming the honorees, their families and their friends.
“You inspire the students,” he told the honorees.
Tappero who died in 2003 was given the Pioneers Award for his leadership in Virginia’s horse world.
Susan L. “Suzie” Meacham of the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine, one of the people he influenced, talked of his contributions to the horse industry and the people in it.
“I want a happy horse,” is a phrase she remembers Tappero saying many times as he worked with horses and riders.
“Max Tappero influenced Virginia’s horse industry as a horseman and ambassador who established and enhanced the horse as a major contributor to Virginia agriculture,” the council reported. “He galvanized the horse industry by proactively bringing stakeholders together to ensure a solid foundation for Virginia’s equine industry.”
Houff was praised by Jeff Slavin of Maple Springs Farm at Weyers Cave for his work in and out of the industry.
“Your recognition is not limited to livestock,” Slavin said. “You have a long history of making the community better.”
Slavin mentioned Houff’s leadership in and outside the industry, saying he is good at forward thinking, problem solving and has the ability to earn the trust of others.
Houff is chief executive officer of Houff Transfer, Inc. at Mt. Sidney as well as a cattle producer.
“Dwight Houff is a visionary leader, a practical cattleman and a civic-minded citizen,” the cattlemen’s association noted. “He excelled as a breeder of Angus, Hereford and Gelbvieh Cattle and served in many leadership roles in Virginia’s beef industry. He was recognized as Virginia Cattleman of the Year in 1993 and was named the Virginia Seedstock Producer in 2002. His leadership in church, business and community affairs is equally noteworthy.”
Robert W. “Bo” Manly was credited by another leader in the pork industry with helping develop pork industry in Virginia and beyond.
“Manly orchestrated the development of the vertically integrated pork strategy in the state of Virginia,” the Pork Council wrote. “It was his vision that led to the development of swine production operations, feed milling operations and successful expansion of packing operations in Smithfield, Va.
The employees, local businesses, farmers and the communities in which Smithfield Foods operate in Virginia and elsewhere are grateful for his contributions to the pork industry,” the pork council said.
Keith Allen, director of production at the Waverly, Va., division of Murphy-Brown LLC, the live production subsidiary of Smithfield, explained how the industry was made up of small, scattered hog farms when Manly arrived at Smithfield.
He said Manly turned the shortfall of hogs around building relationships for the plant in Smithfield. He said it now has a $23 million payroll and spends $49 million in contract supplies.
He said that it has an annual budget of $337 million, much of which is spent buying local grains. The international parent company is valued at $15 billion, the largest pork producer in the world.
Saacke was honored by his many contributions to the field of artificial insemination and in education.
“Saacke was an enthusiastic contributor to the Virginia, national and international livestock communities through his research, graduate and undergraduate teaching and extension efforts” the dairyman’s association said. “He continues to provide guidance to students, industry and livestock men and women.”
During the ceremony, Clif Marshall, retired vice president of quality control and research for Select Sires, traced Saacke’s work from the time he earned a BS degree in animal science from Rutgers University to his career at Virginia Tech.
Marshall noted that Saacke became part of the Dairy Breeding Research Cente created by Dr. John Almquist and the five Pennsylvania Artificial Insemination Cooperatives in the late 1940s.
“Their mission was to solve many of the questions being asked by the fledgling AI industry,” Marshall continued.
Just a couple of questions they tackled was how to trainlay-person inseminators so they didn’t have to pay veterinarians so much money to breed a cow and how to get more semen out of bulls to breed more cows to the good bulls.
One of the big projects for DBRC in which Saacke was involved, according to Marshall, was work on semen extenders. Some that he developed using cow’s milk are still in use, Marshall reported.
Saacke’s career included two years’ service in the Army and over a year as a Maryland dairy Extension specialist. He was then hired by Pen state as a member of the dairy faculty, a position that allowed him to continue his research at DBRC.
Dr. Jim Nichols, newly hired dean of agriculture at Virginia Polytechnic Institute here, in 1965 named Saacke to the team he was putting together at the school that is now Virginia Tech.
“Over the next four decades, Saacke assembled an unequaled laboratory, staff and line of graduate students to conduct research in male and female reproductive physiology of dairy and beef cattle,” Marshall said, noting he was one of those students.
The knowledge they discovered provided many of the basics of AI, Marshall reported.
“Principles gained from these basic studies were then transferred to applied situations in AI centers and dairy and beef farms around Virginia, the U.S. and internationally. This knowledge transfer was effectively conducted because of Saacke’s unique ability to communicate with lay personnel as well as he could with the most knowledgeable scientists and professors who may have had a long line of academic credits at the end of their names,” he stated.
The hanging of portraits of these four men in the arena will bring to 22 the number of people named to the Virginia Livestock Hall of Fame since its inception.