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Beef Industry Loses A Legend

The beef industry lost one of its visionary leaders on Sunday, Jan. 20 with the passing of Roy Wallace, long-time sire selection specialist for Select Sires. Wallace began his career with Select Sires in 1967, and he once told me, "It's the only job I've ever had."

It was certainly a job he devoted his entire life to, and that was the good fortune of beef producers as Wallace influenced the genetic advancement of the global beef industry through his sire selection line-up and his very vocal support for AI and synchronization programs. Among the Angus sires Wallace helped bring to the industry included: GAR Sleep Easy, GAR Precision, GAR Grid Maker, Scotch Cap, and Pine Drive Big Sky.

Wallace passed away doing what he loved; he was attending the National Western Stock Show (NWSS) in Denver looking for that next great sire and visiting with the many cattle friends he'd made during his 40-year career. Wallace was 63.

Back in January 2003 at the NWSS in Denver, I had the opportunity to visit with Wallace about his outlook for the beef industry. Though that conversation was five years ago, Wallace's foresight -- and opinionated manner -- are still on par today. Here are some highlights from that conversation

Q: How would you classify most cattle being fed for market today? Are producers utilizing the genetics needed to meet consumer demands? If not, what needs to change from a genetic selection standpoint?

Wallace: We have such a spectrum of people breeding cattle -- from programs with no emphasis to extremes. The data we have available on cattle today is excellent, but as a whole, there are still a ton of producers who buy based on what they like -- and they still love fat.

Years ago, all we had was British cattle, and it was simple. Now, the outcome can be varied, so breeding requires discipline. The genetics are there, producers just need to be disciplined in the applications.

Q: What technologies will play a role in promoting more use of AI among beef herds in the future? Any predictions as to the percentage of beef herds that will use AI in 2025?

Wallace: It's all tied to labor and profitability. The average cattle operation saw a 2% return on investment in the last decade. When you have 800,000 producers selling to feedlots and packers paying for pounds of product, that's what they aim for until they are paid for quality.

Everyone's already concentrated on selling the genetics part of AI, but there are a lot of other benefits to sell: AI is cheaper than using bulls, and if you synchronize you can get a 13 day advantage in age of calf, which is more pounds to sell.

We all agree there are going to be fewer seedstock producers in the near future. Therefore, there will be a need for more AI.

Q: What tools (i.e. genetic markers, new EPDs, ultrasound technology, etc.) would you like to have to assist with selection?

Wallace: Ultrasound data has made it easier, but it makes it harder too.

Our emphasis in the last 10 years has been birth weight more than any other trait because heifers are the majority of beef cattle being bred AI. But, trait-wise they've still got to be a balanced bull.

Wallace also pointed out that Select Sires has a long-standing young sire program. In his selection, Wallace relied on a methodology he developed called the Power Score Index. It entails adding the birth weight, weaning weight, yearling weight and milk EPD together then dividing by 4. To consider carcass traits, a bull's EPD for marbling and percent retail product are added together and divided by 2. Wallace often called this equation his "cowboy math," and said, "The bulls with the lowest numbers win."

Although Wallace himself is no longer with the beef industry, the genetics he selected will influence the beef industry for generations to come -- which is a contribution worth remembering.

Select Sires made the following statement: "Roy dedicated 40 years of service to Select Sires as vice president of the beef department and made a positive impact on millions of lives throughout the beef industry and the world through his work. One of the most telling signs of his remarkable influence was his recognition as one of the 40 most influential people in the beef industry in the last 40 years by BEEF Magazine in 2004. Roy will be missed dearly by his family at home, his family at Select Sires, and countless throughout the entire industry."

A Roy Wallace Memorial has been established at The Ohio State University. Wallace was a graduate of the Department of Animal Science (class of 1967), and member of the Animal Science Hall of Fame. He was an ardent Buckeye and great supporter of the Department's beef programs and beyond.

Contributions in memory of Roy Wallace can be sent to:
The Department of Animal Sciences
c/o Dr. James E. Kinder, Chair
2029 Fyffe Court
Columbus, OH 43210 Checks should be made payable to "The Ohio State University" and in the subject line indicate "Roy Wallace Memorial."