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‘Workaholic’ Morris to step away from UD dairy after 30 years
By JONATHAN CRIBBS
NEWARK, Del. (April 4, 2017) — From his post as manager of the University of Delaware’s dairy, Richard Morris has been able to track and influence the dairy industry over three decades.
He’s helped with various studies, including one regarding corn varieties and their impact on milk production.
He helped design and update the agriculture college’s milking parlor about a decade ago, and he’s been an integral part of the university’s agricultural community.
Now, he said, he’s moving on.
Morris, who joined the university in 1986, is retiring at the end of the spring semester.
When he leaves, he’ll go from managing the dairy’s 110 milk cattle — all Holsteins — to a more relaxed, though somewhat less clear future.
“I enjoy the work, I enjoy the people that are associated with agriculture,” he said.
He came to the university in his mid-20s after it became clear there wasn’t enough work for him on his father-in-law’s farm in Glasgow, Del. He was born in Baltimore in 1959, raised on a Montgomery County, Md., beef farm and attended Virginia Tech.
When he arrived at the university, he said, the dairy wasn’t involved in research. That’s changed. He said he’s managing projects with three different companies currently. One seeks to boost fat and protein in milk and another concerns ketosis in cows.
“We’re trying to get a better feel for if we can prevent it after cows have their calf,” he said.
About a decade ago, he studied corn varieties in search of one that would lead to better milk production. It turned out to be BMR silage, which had lower levels of stalk lichen. That led to improved digestion in the cows, boosting milk production, he said. The study lasted about five years.
“With all the research we’re doing, it’s pretty exciting to see what things, which products work or don’t work, which can help the industry,” he said.
He credits Limin Kung Jr., chair of the college’s animal and food sciences department, with building the college’s research appetite. Kung arrived at the university a year after Morris.
“I think we wouldn’t really be where we are without Richard over the years,” Kung said. “He’s been crucial and instrumental in helping us with research and teaching within the department. … He’s just a workaholic. He loves the students. All the students love him. He’s just one of these guys, he just bends over backwards for the program.”
Morris’ predecessor, James Wolfer, who left the university dairy in 1996, also praised Morris’ influence.
“I just think he’s made a pretty heavy contribution to agriculture in the state of Delaware over the years,” he said. “He’s had a very good career there.”
Morris said he sees himself moving back to his father-in-law’s farm. He said he may custom-raise heifers.
Either way, he’ll still work in the industry. For now, his wife, Betsy, is still an Extension agent in New Castle County, and even after he leaves, he’ll still have a connection to the university: His son, Jason, 23 — one of three children, including two daughters, who attended the university — works full time at the university creamery.