Matsushima to Win Industry Achievement Award at Feeding Quality Forum

“Learn the good things, forget the bad things.” That’s 99-year-old John Matsushima’s advice for living a good life. 

Japanese-American heritage did not always make it easy, but you won’t often hear him talk about it. Instead, he focuses on the people he’s worked with – colleagues, peers and graduate students – as the secret to his success. 

For his immeasurable impact on the industry and the people in it, Matsushima will receive the 2020 Feeding Quality Forum Industry Achievement Award. He’ll be recognized during the virtual event, slated for Aug. 25-26.

It started with curiosity piqued at his father purchasing 10 heifers and one bull at the Denver Union Stockyards: “I always thought, how can cattle eat green grass and then produce red meat?”

The boy enrolled in 4-H and Future Farmers of America and soon won a cattle feeding contest. Two subsequent scholarships paid his way to Colorado State University (Colorado A&M at the time) to receive his bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

While conducting research for his doctorate at the University of Nebraska, Matsushima caught the attention of the Monfort family when he thought up one of the biggest contributions to the feeding industry to date: the steam corn flaker.

“We were having breakfast one morning, and instead of bacon and eggs, we were having cereal,” he recalls. “And it came to my mind, maybe what we ought to do is feed cattle a warm breakfast.”

That revolution lowered costs for the feeder, and in turn, the beef consumer.

“By improving the feed efficiency, you can trace this back to the economy,” Matsushima says. “So today, the consumer can buy their beef almost 10% cheaper than before.”

Steam flaking was the tip of the iceberg for Matsushima.

When he noticed scours tormenting young calves, he tried antibiotics, which practically eliminated the problem. What’s even better, he followed those calves through to the packing plant and discovered they had no abscessed livers.

Matsushima made everything better for feedyard cattle, from curtailing foot rot with extended concrete aprons at bunks to creating a baked “feed grade” urea, and incorporating higher roughage to grain rations.

When cattle feeding started, the consensus called for very long periods on feed to utilize surplus grain. As Matsushima discovered, this added surplus fat to beef carcasses. So the National Western Stock Show (NWSS) Fed Beef Contest was born.

He remained superintendent of the contest for 20 years, just one of many steps the scientist took to improve beef quality in the feeding industry.

With great work done in the States, he also made quite the impression globally.

Matsushima helped develop the first feedyard in Africa and consulted in countries like Germany, Australia and China. But perhaps his biggest international acclaim was in Japan, where he earned the Japanese Emperor award in 2009 at its highest level, the Emperor Citation.

But of all he’s done, Matsushima’s work with students brings him the most satisfaction.

“They would always ask curious questions,” he says. “They helped me a great deal. That was one of the research highlights of my career, in teaching.”

In all, he fostered discovery in more than 10,000 students and 55 graduate students, the latter helping to conduct the NWSS Fed Beef Contest and participating in his research projects.

One of those graduate students was longtime Elanco ruminant nutritionist Scott Laudert, who recalls Matsushima’s work ethic.

“He was always early to get into the office,” Laudert says, noting Matsushima was often the first to the feedyard at 4:30 or five o’clock in the morning.”

“He was just an exceptional teacher in that he’d take someone under his wing and teach them all they needed to know,” he says. “And if they were able to perform, he’d just let them take off on their own.”

Matsushima doesn’t see these awards as recognition for himself, but of the people around him.

“You know, people don’t receive credit for what they’ve done themselves,” he says. “They’ve had other people help them, and that’s true with me. There were good friends and good family – they all supported me. And there’s been a number of good livestock leaders, good teachers, good students. They all helped me.”

That support team included his late wife, Dorothy, two children Bob and Nancy, and four grandchildren.

“What I’m most proud of,” says Matsushima, “is my family. And I’m proud I’m an American citizen.”   

Matsushima will make comments during his virtual award presentation on Aug. 25. Free registration is for the two-day webinar is available by visiting www.feedingqualityforum.com.

 

 

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