Sunday, August 24, 2008

Passing of Individuals Marks Passing of an Era

Update on 8/28/08: Lee Majeskie's obituary and a slideshow of pictures can be found on our department's website.

I just distributed the following to the virtual community of dairy professionals we call "Dairy-L."

"Dear Friends,

"It is my sad duty to share with you the news that Dr. J. Lee Majeskie died of a heart attack on Friday night, 22 August 2008. He had retired recently and held the rank of Associate Professor Emeritus and Extension Specialist in the Department of Animal & Avian Sciences at the University of Maryland at the time of his death.

"Lee was born and raised on a dairy farm near Pewaukee, WI and he received his BS and MS degrees from the University of Wisconsin. He received his Ph.D. degree in animal genetics from Kansas State University in 1970. Lee served as Director of Program Development for the Brown Swiss Cattle Breeders Association until 1975, when he joined the faculty in the Department of Dairy Science at the University of Maryland. Lee worked with the DHI program statewide, regionally and nationally and aided in a number of youth 4-H programs.

"Accomplishments include coaching the Maryland 4-H dairy cattle judging team for 25 years, placing in the top three nationally 18 times during those 25 years and winning the contest five times. Living in a small state with increasing urbanization, Dr. Majeskie initiated a dairy leasing program that allowed non-farm 4-H youth to lease a dairy animal and participate in dairy projects, including showing. This leasing program celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2008. Dr. Majeskie also taught courses on campus and was the faculty adviser for the Animal Husbandry Club for a number of years. The Club hosts dairy/swine/beef/sheep shows that form the foundation of a college-wide 'county-fair like event' each April that was called Ag Day, allowing dozens of undergraduates to gain meaningful large-animal handling experience annually. Ag Day has evolved into a campus-wide event called Maryland Day, which attracts over 50,000 people to campus each year.

"Dr. Majeskie received two prestigious awards recently. He received the American Dairy Science Ass'n Award of Honor at their annual meeting this summer, and he was inducted to the Maryland Dairy Shrine this spring. He has also received numerous honors and awards over the years from 4-H and various dairy cattle organizations.

"Details of memorial services are not available to me at this time, and interested individuals can contact me privately. Cards of condolences can go to Lee's widow at the address below.

[contact me privately at to get the widow's contact info}

"Sorry to be the bearer of sad tidings this day. Kindest regards to each of you."

I worked with Lee for about 25 years in the Department, and we traveled together in-state often. There was a time when animal/dairy science departments in Land-Grant universities all had tenure-track faculty members who were responsible for and took active participation in 4-H youth programs. While there are a few people left around the US in those positions, most academic departments are not hiring people in tenure-track roles to fill these service roles.

Whether that's right or wrong is a story for another date/time. Let's just say that Lee's death has symbolic significance besides loss for his widow and son.

Hope that helps.


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Posilac sold to Lilly's Elanco Animal Health Unit: Updated 10/08 reports that this sale has been finalized.

The Dow Jones Newswire reports that Monsanto is selling the Posilac product (sometribove) that includes the rights to the product and plant to produce the product to Eli Lilly & Co's Elanco Animal Health unit in a posting today. The Lilly press release is also available today.

Elanco has marketed the product outside of the US for some time, so this change makes some sense. The company's press release indicates that the sales force will be merged into the "Elanco business."

Many of the critics of rbST were focused on the 'Monsanto boogeyman' that included genetically modified organizisms. With this split of rbST being sold by one company and Monsanto continuing to sell genetically modified seeds for crops, it will be interesting to watch the critics and see if having multiple targets makes their attacks less visible in the press.

Recently England's royal buffoon, Prince Charles, said in an interview with the UK's Daily Telegraph that increased use of genetically modified organisms to solve the world's food shortage crisis would lead to environmental disaster. Informed members of Parliment called him a "Luddite".

It should be noted that many critics of genetically modified foods, including Prince Charles, have a financial interest in products that compete with conventionally produced food.

Hope that helps


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Monsanto's Posilac to be sold

The Wall Street Journal MarketWatch and Feedstuffs reports today (6 August 2008) that Monsanto is selling its Posilac product. No additional details were reported, but the press release is available. The Feedstuffs article was very similar to the text in the WSJ MarketWatch article.

The MarketWatch article quotes Carl Casale, Monsanto's Executive Vice-President of Strategy and Operations.The Posilac product was cited as the "... leading dairy animal supplement." Monsanto will focus on its agronomic seed products, like 'Roundup Ready Soybeans'.

The articles and press releases indicate that the plans are to have the buyer for the Posilac product to continue to market the product so "that loyal dairy farmers continue to receive the value of POSILAC in their operations." An authoritative summary concerning the safety of rbST for both humans and cattle is available for those interested.

It's unclear how and even if this is related to the efforts to have a marketing niche for rbST-free milk, which was discussed in a previous blog posting here in the Dairy Farm Adviser's Coffeeshop. The New York Times had an article on 7 August 2008, quoting representatives of various groups essentially claiming victory by forcing Monsanto out of the market. Monsanto released this press release on the same day that they announced their 4th quarter dividend of 24 cents per share. It should also be noted that late in July of 2008, Monsanto was recommended as a "Powerful Buy" stock by Zacks, reputed to be an industry leader in independent research for stock evaluation.

Interesting stuff! Hope that helps.