“Burke Healy was a man with unusual ambition, vision and imagination who generously committed extraordinary time and effort to serving agriculture and the beef industry.” Those are the words Larry Cundiff uses to describe the late Burke Healey. Cundiff, who recently retired, is well-known for his work as a research geneticist at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center in Clay Center, NE.

Healey’s dedicated efforts toward initiating research on genetic mapping in cattle, earned him the very fi rst Trailblazer award presented by BEEF magazine in 1994. Many believe Healey’s persistence toward beef improvement was the impetus for the genetic mapping tools available to the beef industry today.

Cundiff recalls that Healey was “quick to adopt and use records of performance for economically important traits, estimated breeding values, and expected progeny differences in his own Hereford herd and to advocate their use in genetic improvement of all breeds of beef cattle.” Because of his knowledge of science and beef industry needs, Healey was repeatedly called upon to review research, education, and extension programs and to advise on goals and approaches for science and education agencies within USDA and land grant universities. Healey also served in leadership roles of many organizations including Oklahoma State University, the Oklahoma Beef Cattle Improvement Association, the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, the American Hereford Association, the Beef Improvement Federation, and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

As an example of Healey’s contributions, he traveled the country extensively in the early 1990’s educating cattlemen’s groups and advocating fi nancial support for genetic mapping projects underway at the time at USDA and Texas A&M University. His efforts were rewarded in 1994, when USDA formally announced its development and release of genetic linkage maps for cattle and swine. With that milestone, gene mapping technology in the beef industry has since expanded extensively.

“Few people have had a greater impact on development and implementation of programs, or on the effectiveness of organizations and institutions to advance the impact of science and technology in the beef industry and American agriculture than Burke Healey,” Cundiff concludes.

Awarded annually in November for exemplary industry efforts, the BEEF 2007 Trailblazer is sponsored by New Holland.

Click to read the November 2006 trailblazer winner, Bob and Nancy Montross