BIF President Marty Ropp says genetic improvement absolutely must be a priority for all seedstock producers.

When your passion in genetics and seedstock marketing sparks during your grade school years, you have more time than most to make a mark on the industry. This year’s Beef Improvement Federation (BIF) President Martin “Marty” Ropp has spent his lifetime making a difference in the livestock business and in recent years specifically the beef industry.

Displaying Marty-at-NCBA-Booth.jpgMarty will end his one-year term as president at the 2017 BIF Research Symposium and Convention May 31 to June 3 in Athens, Georgia. (See sidebar about this year’s symposium and convention.)

“Marty has been a visionary leader,” says Jane Parish, BIF executive director. “While on the board he has always looked to the future and considered what we need to be doing as an organization in the next 10 to 20 years to be relevant and successful. He championed our young producers program and has taken an active role in program planning.”

BIF’s mission is to help improve the beef industry by promoting greater acceptance of performance evaluation. Parish says Marty has been a “behind-the-scenes advocate” his entire career promoting the BIF mission.

“Through better and tougher times, genetic improvement priority needs to be constant,” Marty says. “Pregnant, long-lived cows that don’t eat us out of house and home, that have live, fast-growing, healthy calves and a beef product that everyone enjoys to eat are always the genetic goal. It’s not a simple proposition, but is the only way we can promote profit up and down the beef chain.

“We (the beef industry) must keep the hammer down and promote the use of genetic improvement tools. Both tried-and-true profit-building technologies like EPDs (expected progeny differences), selection indexes and crossbreeding, along with the new opportunities brought about by the DNA era, need to be employed to create the benefits they offer.”

Growing up

Originally from Normal, Illinois, Marty grew up involved in the swine seedstock industry. When he was in grade school he started a purebred Chester White business with his family. It continued until 2015.

“In those days everyone with a will and a set of stock racks could be a successful seedstock producer, even a young upstart,” he says. “Times have really changed in the pig breeding business, and now I use those lessons for decision making every day in the beef business. Watching nearly everyone I knew and looked up to go out of business — and in some cases lose everything they worked for — to changes in the swine industry had a profound effect on my life.”

After graduating from high school, he attended Kansas State University where he received his bachelor’s degree in animal sciences and industry (’86) and was a member of the livestock judging team. He then obtained his master’s degree in swine genetics and management from the University of Missouri (MU). While at MU, Marty taught for five years and during that time coached the livestock and meat animal evaluation teams.

Today he continues to judge a few livestock shows throughout the country and has volunteered countless hours in educating youth about opportunities and the potential rewarding futures for them in the livestock industry.

Marty transitioned from teaching to extension in 1994, serving as the MU regional livestock specialist for three years and then as an extension swine specialist in Michigan for two more.

In 1988, Marty joined the staff at the American Simmental Association (ASA). He wore many hats while at ASA. In addition to coordinating ASA’s commercial marketing, seedstock marketing and field staff services, he coordinated and grew the long-running ASA Young Sire Evaluation Program. He built the program into the industry’s largest structured sire test, with hundreds of sires of several breeds being tested through the years.

Much of the credit for his successful tenure in Bozeman he gives to his boss and mentor Dr. Jerry Lipsey. “Jerry has been a pioneer in the beef business and in the field of education at all levels for most of his life. He gave me the opportunity to pursue my passion for genetics and had a huge effect on how I see this business and the world.”

While at ASA, Marty worked diligently to build bridges between all segments of the industry — cow-calf, feedlot, packers and seedstock. An accomplished speaker with a keen sense of humor, he is in great demand at field days, educational programs and seminars throughout the country. His strong communication skills and sound advice have earned him widespread accolades and respect.

While at the ASA, he received the Golden Book award from the World Simmental Federation for distinguished service.

After 12 years with ASA, Marty moved back to Normal, Illinois, and founded Allied Genetic Resources. With more than 80 owners specializing in the production and marketing of SimAngus, Simmental, Angus, Red Angus, Gelbvieh, Balancer and Shorthorn commercial bulls, Allied is one of the largest coordinated seedstock businesses in the United States, marketing nearly 9,000 bulls annually.

Allied currently has five full-time employees and is focused on customer service opportunities for the commercial customer base of its ownership. It is designed as a support business for these independent producers, enabling them to offer value-added options not easily available to them as individual producers. The commercial customer base of the Allied ownership is around 4,500 producers with an estimate of nearly 1 million commercial females.

BIF involvement

Marty attended his first BIF Research Symposium and Convention in 2000 in Wichita, Kansas.

“The BIF convention is among the very best of the beef industry conventions and a gathering of committed participants every year,” Marty says. “Almost all of us involved had our first experience with BIF as a convention participant and, because of the experience there, ultimately became more involved with the larger purpose of the organization.

“BIF is a first-class organization of the best beef genetics professionals in the world. All levels of the industry are represented among the leadership of the organization and it is one of the most altruistic and industry-serving groups I have had the privilege to work with. That is rare these days.”

In 2011, Marty was presented the BIF Continuing Service Award for his significant contribution to the industry and for his efforts toward large-scale genetic information collection and promotion of change.

Marty was elected to the BIF board in 2012, and through the years has served on multiple committees, including the on-going beef cattle research funding project.

“The board has absolutely grown in terms of our activity level since 2012. One thing that I don’t know that everyone realizes is that the BIF board is made up of an elected body of producers that have voting responsibilities and then a very large group of members representing all other facets of the beef genetics research community and business,” he explains.

In 1968 BIF was formed as a means to standardize programs and methodologies, and to create greater awareness, acceptance and usage of performance concepts in beef production. The organization’s three-leaf clover logo would come to represent industry, extension and research, just as the organization’s annual symposium would become the premier forum bringing industry segments together to discuss and evaluate performance topics.

“Research supporting livestock production and, in turn, producers applying technology and supporting research is the model that BIF represents and promotes,” he adds. “That system makes good sense to me, particularly in today’s relatively uncoordinated beef production system in the world.”

Marty will pass the BIF reigns to the next president on Friday, June 2, but there’s no doubt his passion and commitment to BIF’s principles and goals will continue for years to come.