McDonnell to end R-CALF presidency at Philip Livestock Auction January 10th
During June of 1998, three cattle producers co-founded a fledgling rancher foundation that originated in South Dakota with very strong ties to Philip. The idea, the many interested cattle producers, and regional sales barns were all of western South Dakota. Those three co-founders were Herman Schumacher from Herreid, SD; Kathleen Kelly from Meeker, CO; and Leo McDonnell, Jr. from Columbus, MT.
A year later, Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF USA) began and was quickly gaining national membership. Today, with 19,000 members, it is the fastest growing and largest voluntary cattlemen organization in America.
Now, McDonnell has fulfilled his presidential term limit; two consecutive three-year terms. He will finish where he began – at the Philip Livestock Auction – on Tuesday, January 10. He will speak at 5:00 p.m. MST on that day, prior to a roll-over auction fundraiser.
“I have done my part. I think it is good to move on, to let new blood take over,” said McDonnell. Chuck Kiker from Beaumont, TX, with the prerequisite of being an acting director, will be the next group president.
“The originating idea was first mentioned in Belle Fourche, though one of the early long talks was at Philip,” said McDonnell. “Weeks later, we came back to Philip and four other towns for open discussions. Every site was cram-packed with people. Producers had been frustrated with the direction the other cattle organizations were going,” added McDonnell.
Jerry Roseth, owner of the Philip Livestock Auction, remembered, “Philip had one of the first, if not the first, meetings where Leo talked about what today is R-CALF. Mike Karrels, formerly from the Belvidere area, had Leo come down. I would estimate 125 to 150 people came that first time, and each time afterward there were more and more people. There was more local interest every time.”
McDonnell said, “The whole concept of R-CALF USA was founded right in South Dakota. I am proud of, and appreciative to, the people who got behind and supported it. They deserve a big pat on the back.”
“Philip Livestock Auction has hosted multiple fundraisers and events over the years, and R-CALF can’t thank Jerry and his family enough for their loyal support,” McDonnell said. “We also want to thank cattle producers in the Philip area, the rest of South Dakota, and the nation, who come out and contribute to help us continue our work on the issues important to independent cattle producers everywhere.”
“R-CALF also appreciates those producers who donate their animals that make these rollover auctions such successful events,” McDonnell continued.
Roseth has a big feeder cattle sale scheduled for January 10 – five to six thousand head – at Philip Livestock Auction. Mike and Terry Karrels of Terry, MT, will donate a black Angus steer for the rollover auction, something the couple has done several times in the past.
“Leo is known nationally, and this will be one of his last talks as president,” said Roseth. “Leo is a good speaker.”
Roseth recalled that R-CALF was formed with the idea of staying connected with trade issues and beef imports. It looks out for the cow/calf producer. Today, the organization works on various issues that affect independent U.S. cattle producers, such as country-of-origin labeling, livestock price reporting, animal health concerns, captive supplies and packer ownership of livestock, as well as various trade agreements. R-CALF USA was formed following extensive research into cattle industry behavior, import impact, and legal remedy analysis.
McDonnell has been the director of Region I (Washington, Alaska, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana). McDonnell and his wife Debra own and operate the Midland Bull Test at Columbus, MT. This Bull Test is recognized as one of the largest bull sales in North America and the largest performance genetic evaluative bull test. Bulls have been sold in both hemispheres with several Midland bulls standing in the major U.S. and international A.I. studs.
The McDonnells feed cattle and assist in breeding management programs for several commercial cow-calf operations. They also ranch in both North Dakota and Montana.
McDonnell attended Texas Tech University and the University of Wyoming. He is a past chairman of the Montana Cattle Feeders and past committee chair for the Montana Stockgrowers Association. In the mid 1990s, he was a delegate for the Montana Stockgrowers Association; sitting on the National Cattlemen's Beef Association Research and Education Committee and then later sitting on the International Marketing Committee. McDonnell also has served as a national delegate on behalf of the Montana Angus Association at the annual American Angus Association Conference. The MAA is the largest breed registry in North America.
Roseth and McDonnell invite all area beef producers to come, listen, and be a part of the event.